Work Life Balance: A SAHM’s guide to getting back into supply teaching

As a mum with two small children, I have spent the past three years wrapped in a bubble. A bubble of innocence and the sweet smell of a sleeping baby. I've nurtured and my little ones are growing. And it's time to let go, just a little bit. It's time to begin to walk that fine line back into the world of work, and jobs, long drives home with the stereo blaring, and cold, early mornings with frost on the windows before the world is fully awake.

How do I prepare for this coming year?

Work life balance teacher SAHM supply teaching1. I plan to be realistic about what I can do, and I will be open and honest about the amount of work I can take on. I don't want to let anyone down. Doing a good job is something I take great pride in. Having an “off” day or being below par is something I can't bring myself to do professionally. Or personally. I owe it to my small people to be the best mum I know how to be.

2. In the past three years, I've learned what it really is to face the unexpected and think on my feet. Everything from hospital stays to running after an escapee toddler at top speed, I have honed and developed so many skills. Not only that: I have spent the last year or two fine-tuning my behaviour and time management! I've had to occupy small children at short notice with few resources at my disposal, and I've learned the words to more nursery rhymes and songs than I would care to mention. I've done a lot of it with very little money and on not enough sleep. My teaching experience has been tremendously valuable to me now I am a mum, and I know that being a parent will unimaginably enrich my professional life.

3. Sometimes spending every day with two small people who don't yet really know how to be gracious is hard. There are days when I want to throw in the towel and start over, but you can't do that when you have a family. You keep on going. You tackle problems and you develop persistence. You learn patience. You discover ways of motivating yourself, and them, even when it has been a really difficult day. And you learn to accept that sometimes, a bad day is just that. A bad day. We all have them, wherever we are, and whatever we are doing. It's good to be able to put that into perspective.

4. And yet, I wouldn't change who I am and what I do. It's a cliché that a stay at home mum is everything, but it's true. I'm chief cook and bottle washer, nurse, engineer, social secretary, teacher, playmate, doctor, friend, entertainer, photographer and director. I can't imagine a life without my children. I love it, and I love them with all of my heart. I enjoy being with them, and I have great pleasure in finding out what makes them tick. I've learned how to interest and engage them, and keep them motivated to complete even the most routine of tasks on even the dullest of days. And I take great pride in that. I have always loved this about teaching, too, and being an early years teacher has meant that I can dive in and engage with whatever the children are doing, and wherever their learning is taking them. I become as enthusiastic as they are when I'm in the classroom. I know that, right now, I don't want to go back long term or full time. I want to enjoy my work, and have enthusiasm for what I do, and I will, as long as I know that I will be able to enjoy life with my own children.

5. Last but not least, I will look after myself. I will make sure I take care of my mental health. Being with small children can be exhausting, whether they belong to you or somebody else. At the end of the day, I'll need to find time to switch off, and leave my work at the door. The life of a working mum is never easy and I'll need to learn to be kind to myself. I'm sure there will be times I will find this juggling act a struggle and feel pulled in two directions at once but I'll learn.

So when September rolls around I'll be there, ready to go back to school.

Are you a SAHM mum thinking about a future back in the classroom? What are your concerns? What are you looking forward to? Tell us below!

By Resident Writer Jenny Smith

 

Show Me Show Me Skills!

I've been fortunate enough to be able to stay at home full time with both of my pre-school age children, and while I'm not quite ready to make the leap back to work, I recognise that what I do day to day doesn't stand in isolation, and that I will be able to transfer the experiences I have developed in my job as a parent to my role in the classroom, and enhance my skills and expertise along the way. It has taken time to believe in myself, and to appreciate that being a stay at home mum has added to, rather than detracted from, my portfolio of skills. When you're not a member of the workforce for any reason, it's easy to forget your professional capabilities, and not see them in yourself. I decided to sit down and write a list of some of the skills I use every day that would prove useful in a classroom environment, and share them with you.

Parenting Skills transferred to supply teaching1. Facilitation

My children have many and varied interests…from space to sticker books to singing. They love to make, create and imagine. And one of my most important roles is to help them do that. I encourage their passions, and help ignite their enthusiasms and bring them to life. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I'm fairly confident this is something I'd be able to utilise in the classroom!

2. Problem solving

In our house, we spend a lot of time talking about being “problem solvers”. I encourage my three year old to look for solutions and try to think of creative ways of arriving at them. It enables her to think for herself and to value her own contribution. I hope this will help her to develop a growth mindset, and allow her to see herself as a resilient learner. This is also something that we want for the children we teach.

3. Teamwork

My husband and I believe parenting is something we do as a team. We each have equal responsibility for our children, and we each have equal input into how we choose to raise them. And we believe it is healthy for our children to be involved in our family decisions. Teamwork means sharing responsibility, creating a dynamic where everyone is valued and where all contributions are recognised. It's just as important to the family as in the work environment.

4. Organisation

Mums have to be organised. Getting from A to B on a wing and a prayer is not only difficult with two young children to cater for, it's also absolute chaos! Being ready to go out first thing in the morning, and being prepared to spend the whole day outside, plan for changes in the weather, anticipating hunger and thirst, and even toileting accidents, are all part and parcel of the job. Keeping my children as engaged and entertained as possible, and looking after their belongings, are all valuable attributes in the class teacher.

5. Prioritising

Making things happen when you need them to happen. Knowing what the most important thing on the never ending to do list of motherhood is, and ensuring it gets done. The small things that oil the wheels of family life, and keep it running smoothly. Something every good teacher needs to be able to do effectively.

6. Communication

Communication is a two way process. Learning to listen as a parent is just as important as what we say. In our house, we encourage our children to engage with us, and hope they see themselves as having an active role within our family dynamic. We want them to feel valued and invested, and I hope that this is something that would translate well to the teaching world.

7. Compromise

As parents, we all soon learn that our children may not have exactly the same idea for the outcome to any given situation that we do. We learn to be flexible with our approach, and we develop any number of ways of saying the same thing. We try one thing, and if that doesn't work, we try something else. Sound familiar? It should.

8. Discipline

My job as a parent is to give my children the tools to help them to grow into successful and capable adults. They don't need me to do things for them. They need me to teach them to do things for themselves. They need someone they can trust to help them to develop their own moral compass. This is something that has direct correlation in the classroom. Students need teachers who believe in them, and are committed to helping them to become self motivated learners.

There you go. Eight skills I have honed outside the classroom. What are yours? Let us know below!

By Resident Writer Jenny Smith

How to get more supply teaching work – my top tips

Top Ten Tips: A handy little guide to getting more supply teaching work

Getting more supply teaching work1. Contact schools in your area, that you’d like to work in: ask them if they’d be interested in seeing your CV. They may jump at the chance, and employ you directly, or they might tell you which agency they tend to call for supply and suggest you register with them. If they’re interested in seeing your CV, hand-deliver it for a golden opportunity to make a great first impression.

2. Call the agency they mentioned. If a school, or number of schools in your area, work with a different agency to the one you’re with, then join that one! It’s ok, and usual, to be with more than one agency.

3. If you want to register with more agencies, there are lots of places you can look to find them. I have a database of agencies here, a quick Google of ‘supply teacher recruitment agency in [your town]’ will bring back lots of results, or ask around.

4. Want recommendations? Although you can ask for them in the Supply Teacher Network, take them with a pinch of salt. That’s not to say don’t trust the members, but that we are all unique individuals with a different set of skills, requirements and experiences. One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

5. Before you make your final choice of agency, take a look at their Twitter feed, their Facebook page, their website, see if they’ve done a Takeover Thursday and have a review file in the Supply Teacher Network upload section, and you could even ask for a preliminary meeting. Lots of agencies will want to register you at your very first meeting, but you may want to visit a few, as you would do a school, get a feel for the staff, the office (is it convenient for you if you needed to pop in?) the general atmosphere and ask to take away some documentation. They could be your representatives on the phone etc. to the schools, you want to be confident that they will work for you as you wish them to.

6. Want a longer-term position? My Twitter feed is full of jobs, my LinkedIn feed is full of jobs, all agencies that I know are recruiting constantly! Again, take a look at social media, it’s probably the cheapest and easiest way for agencies to publish jobs. I often retweet from my list of agencies, so follow me too! There’s a promotions section in my LinkedIn group. Look at national jobs boards. It’s going to have a redesign soon, but I have a little jobs board here. Agencies often have a jobs feed on their own websites.

7. Email me! I get lots of messages from people asking about getting started with supply work, or getting more work, and can often put them in touch with someone I think they would like to work with. Please note, I do not get referral bonuses: often promised, never materialised!

8. With your agency, keep yourself front-of-mind with your consultants. Read my article on making the most of your education recruitment consultant. Your personal consultant is also personal consultant to many other supply teachers! Have conversations with them, if you can sing, let them know! If you can juggle, let them know! If next week you’re free on a day when you usually wouldn’t be, tell them, and tell them it’d be great to have it prebooked!

9. Treat every day on supply as an opportunity to shine. Let that school know that you’re fantastic, that you’ve had a great day, that you’d love to return. Show them that you’re a team player, a grafter, a sponge… Make sure that when they next want a supply teacher, they call for you!

10. Be yourself. Honestly, if you’re not yourself, you’ll fear that you’ll be ‘found out’, and probably will be. Teachers are natural actors, the more they can inspire and enthuse the children, the better the day will be, but don’t try and be something you’re not. If you want to be something else, i.e. better at behaviour management or more confident, then work on it. Be a reflective practitioner, identify your weaknesses, formulate an action plan, ask for help. Do not be afraid to ask your agency for help either. They will help arrange CPD for you: you are their ‘product’, and the better the product, the more sales they’ll get!

Taking Turns – Supply Teaching Tip

Younger children can find it difficult taking turns. At home some may be allowed to go first each time. It was youngest to oldest in my house for some time and my brother got to go first! Other children may not have experienced turn taking at all. For example, if they are an only child or if they don’t play such games with their parents. It’s a difficult thing to do when your whole body is telling you to go first, be first, and have more than one go at a time. This is especially true when you’re having fun or feeling competitive!

Quoits - a great way to help children learn about taking turnsClassroom teachers often have their own methods of helping the children to ‘take turns nicely’.  For whole group discussions, it is a great idea to let the children know the rules of engagement before they start. Some teachers may go for a particular order, reverse alphabetically, or the way they are naturally sat. Others have ways to randomise, such as throwing a teddy to the next person to show them that it is their turn.  I thought this quoits set might be quite a fun way to do it. You pass a ring round and the children can take their turn if they hook it. [Image contains an affiliate link.] A tighter circle, or a mat to stand on to have your go is recommended for the younger ones. Of course, now I have given you the dilemma of how to organise taking turns with the ring!

Taking Turns – Your top tips

This quite kinaesthetic idea might make some supply teachers recoil in horror. Getting the children to sit quietly and listen to each other is hard enough for some. Consider this however: give them an inch, and they may just be grateful for it, rather than playing you and taking the mile? What do you think? How do you organise the little ones and help them to learn about taking turns? Let us know!

 

National Supply Teacher Week activities

A teachable event?  Why, yes!

Here are some of the aims of #NSTW:

  • To highlight the importance of supply teachers in a child’s education
  • To increase respect for supply teacher
  • To help schools work with supply teachers more effectively

How often do the children get a peek behind the scenes at other schools?  Let the children interview you about your role, what it’s like working in different schools, what it is like in different schools etc.
Ask the children to design a job advertisement for a supply teacher.  Where would they display it?  What are the main points they want to get across?
Ask the children to write a job description for a supply teacher. What characteristics are they looking for? What skills?
Ask the children to design a welcome pack for teachers visiting their school.  Remember to include important information such as fire exits, a map, list of staff names, timetable and what to expect when they walk in.

Held in the 3rd week of June annually, National Supply Teacher Week lends itself to a whole host of activities!  Are you prepared to put yourself in the hot seat?  Take it in turns with the children to be in the spotlight with this crown… Be the King or Queen for 5 minutes!  Three questions are allowed to be asked, and the poser of your favourite question gets to be crowned next!  Other activities can include the children designing a Wanted poster for a supply teacher, highlighting characteristics that they must possess;  writing a job advert and really selling their school to a potential supply teacher; or writing a story in which a supply teacher comes in and wows the classes a la Help! My Supply Teacher is Magic!

Starting Out at School – Supply Teacher Activities

I often think it is more about you starting the new term rather than the children.  The children are just going back to school same friends, same games at break time, different teacher and classroom, but let’s face it, it’s the friends and break times that really matter to the children!  A lot of effort is put into ‘getting to know you’ activities, but the children do this every year, and with the same peers!  This was really brought home to me in my parents’ evening when I told the parents of Boy that he’d settled into class really well, and Dad told me with a curious look on his face that he’d only moved to the room next door, then asked how I was fitting in with this class that had already been together for over 6 years? Yes, I was the outsider!

I found these cute little bags on Amazon, (30p, 12 designs) sold as lunch bags.  I think if I were supply teaching now, I’d be ordering half a dozen!  One for raffle prizes, one for foam lolly sticks with ‘What to do when you’ve finished’ ideas on them, one for my lunch, one for my second lunch (on the way home in the car, I couldn’t eat breakfast back then, but still fitted in my 3 meals a day!) one as a pencil case including stapler, hole punch etc., and a final one as a Magic Bag with a surprise in it for the children.

Top Tips – A handy guide to getting more supply work

Top Ten - Tips for supply teachersHere’s a free download for supply teachers on getting more supply teaching work.  There is growing demand for supply teachers, as the number of children continues to rise, the number of NQTs seemingly falls, and the amount of CPD and PPA time teachers get increases. Stress levels amongst contracted teachers, and general illness (probably due to stress in a lot of cases) are also rising.

Yet some cannot manage financially on the amount of supply work they get.  The ten top tips in this free download aren’t conclusive, not every tip will be applicable, or work, for every supply teacher, but it’s just a little read which may inspire you to do something different, leading to more work…

Top Ten Tips – A handy guide to getting more supply work

A work in progress!

 

CPD Idea, Opportunities and Log for Supply Teachers

Link

CPD for Supply Teachers - log and ideasCPD must be 3 things: continuous, professional, and it must develop you and your skills!

This download outlines the types of CPD you should be doing, many of which you probably are without even realising it! It also includes a handy log for you to record your CPD efforts: http://www.supplybag.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/CPD-Log.pdf

Do you use this CPD log?  Do you find it useful?  Let me know in the comments below! (Issues mentioned there are now resolved!)

A few Mondays a year, in the Supply Teacher Network, we hold an informal CPD session.  Why not join us?  We take suggestions for CPD from the floor… e.g. the first session, on interactive whiteboards, came about through a discussion between supply teacher members, how one knew everything about SMART boards, but had never used a Promethean board, and another supply teacher had the opposite experience.  We decided then that we probably knew enough between us all (over 1,100 members at the time) to hold our own CPD session on it, learning from each other!

Don't forget to bring your CPD log along with you when you join us on those Monday evenings, be ready to take notes either using pen and pencil, or by copying and pasting the relevant threads!  From time to time we welcome visitors to our CPD sessions who can give us more information on our chosen subjects.  If you are interested in taking part as a visitor in our CPD session, please contact me.