Supply Teachers: Embrace Your Gut!

Supply teachers can sometimes find themselves in tricky situations, where they feel obliged to make big, yet snap, decisions, without having all the information necessary, or the time to reflect on the implications. 

Imagine you're at the zoo watching the tigers prowl at a safe distance when the zookeeper approaches and tells you to get in the enclosure, it's quite safe, they've been fed. I would imagine that the majority of you would decline the offer, sensing an uncomfortable feeling in your gut, an inner discomfort that it might not end well, and choose not to believe the zookeeper and her proclamation of safety.

Supply teaching: be more tiger, don't get in with one!But what about less obvious scenarios, when you are in a situation where someone asks you to do something and your inner discomfort is alarmed, your gut feeling churns and you push that feeling as deep down as you can whilst you nod your head in agreement at the request? You walk away with concerns but you have already agreed.

The gut is often referred to as the second brain, you feel delight, excitement, anxiety, worry, indeed endless emotions deep in the pit of your enteric nervous system, and yet these complex and marvellous feelings are often ignored, pushed away as not real and not quantifiable. Increasing evidence suggests that we should listen and act on our gut feelings.

Imagine you get asked to lower your daily rate to ensure more work, or do five trails in schools for free; your gut churns and you feel uncomfortable, but you've bills to pay and debts mounting, surely something is better than nothing? Free work might equal opportunities, but it still doesn't feel right at all. What can you do?

Time isn't always of the essence

Perhaps the most important thing you can give yourself is a bit of time. Don't say yes, (but even if you do, you are allowed to change your mind!) take some time, reflect on the request and think about what you don't like about it. What were your expectations of the situation? Why is the other party not giving you this? Is there a game of negotiation being played and the agent / head / school are hoping you'll feel too uncomfortable to shake your dice?

Ask for it in writing

Having things written in black and white often helps. Send an email, reflecting on what has been requested of you and be honest about why you are not happy to agree. If it has been suggested more work will come your way ask for percentages, proper confirmation. It's better to feel uncomfortable because you've chanced your arm than because you've aimed low to fit in with someone else's expectations and wants.

Understand your instincts

Go with your feelings but own them. Tell the other party that you feel disappointed in their request, that you feel undervalued and you had expected more, deserve better. Be honest and rational, lay those feelings out and bullet point them if you have to so you can get a decent response. Happily own your gut and share it! I'm sure that businesses love to depart from corporate speak to consider the feelings of those they make money from, so highlight your self awareness and emotional intelligence in the pursuit of answers and resolution.

A problem shared…

Supply teaching can be quite isolating, and you might feel like you are not part of a team, who do you run your feelings of discomfort by to say "This just happened and I'm uncomfortable"? Your online community is massive, they are your gut-sharing, emotion-confirmation team mates, so share! Even if you feel embarrassed doing it. It's far better to share and get what you want than feel uncomfortable for months because you ignored your gut.  Embrace your gut!

Have you embraced your gut? What feelings were you left with? Share with us below!

By Resident Writer Helen Bradford

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About Sharon Wood

Sharon Wood, aka NuttySupplier, launched the forum at in 2005 whilst on supply. Having worked as a primary teacher for too many years, I chose supply teaching as a career, in order to achieve a good work / life balance.