Dealing with adults in a school can be a challenge for the most experienced of supply teachers. It can be even more of a nightmare for an NQT or those new to supply. Many teachers can feel totally in control of a class of 30 children but awkward when talking to adults. There are a few top tips that that can make life easier when talking to a parent, teaching assistants or any other adult.
The teacher is usually the first point of contact in a school. If a parent has a complaint or issue they are more likely to mention it to the class teacher first.
Parent Tip 1: Avoid making empty promises or promises which may turn out false. If a parent does talk you about an issue make it clear that you will make note of everything that is said and pass on to someone else within the school.
Parent Tip 2: Report it! As soon as possible find a senior member of staff and inform them of the conversation. Tell them everything that was said and try not to miss any details out, no matter how small it may seem at the time. If no senior member of staff is available write it down and leave it in a secure place for them to find. Not the staff room table!
Parent Tip 3: Remain calm. This might seem obvious but education can be an emotive issue and it’s quite possible that the parent will be angry or frustrated with the school. It is not personal though, it’s just unfortunate that you happen to be in the classroom the day the emotions came out.
Parent Tip 4: If things get ‘heated’ signal another member of staff to join the conversation. If this isn’t possible offer to walk with the parent around to the school office to discuss the issue.
Parent Tip 5: In extreme cases you may need to just walk away. If you do make sure you find a member of the SLT immediate and brief them on the situation.
Depending on the circumstances it would be a good idea to inform your agency of any conversation that gets heated or could lead to an accusation from a parent. It is important to cover ourselves at all times.
Most teaching assistants are great. Occasionally however they can make life difficult e.g. by trying to take over or disappearing with no explanation. But a good working relationship is important especially if they are a permanent member of staff and you are there on a supply contract.
TA Tip 1: Acknowledge their experience and knowledge of the class/school. Ask about the school routine including things you need to know about the children or special events that day etc. Even if you know the school quite well things change so the TA is best place to help update your knowledge.
TA Tip 2: Explain your rules to the TA. Every class teacher has slightly different expectations of how they would like the children to work. At the start of the day explain to the TA, and the class, what your expectations are.
TA Tip 3: Give clear instructions. It can be difficult, especially if the TA is more experienced than you , but try to give clear instructions on how you would like them to support the children. If possible go through the lesson plans prior to the lesson so the TA has a good understanding of what you are trying to achieve.
TA Tip 4: Unless the TA is allocated to a particular child (e.g. SEN support) its useful to move the TA to a different group. For example: you support the middle ability in the first lesson while the TA supports the lower ability and you swap in lesson 2 etc. Not only does this give you good understanding of all the children in the class but it also shows the TA that you value their subject knowledge.
TA Tip 5: Thank them. Even if they have disappeared or been unhelpful thank them anyway. Always end of a positive note!
Remember the TA is the one who the school will probably listen go to should the agency ask for feedback on your performance!
There are many adults working in, or visiting a school. As a supply teacher it would be impossible for you to know them all or know who was a member of staff, the head, or a visitor for the day.
Other Adults Tip 1: Be friendly. Smile and talk to everyone. This might seem silly but a positive outlook will create a good impression. This isn’t the same as making jokes all the time or being a comedian just try to look like you are enjoying the time in their school and that you want to be there.
Other Adults Tip 2: Go to the staffroom. Even if it's only for a few minutes, it's always worth getting to know other members of staff in the school. This will help build a good relationship with the school and, possibly, mean you get specifically requested for future bookings.
Working with adults can be very difficult. Hopefully these tips will help relieve some of the tension and make the world of supply more enjoyable experience.
Have you any other top tips for other supply teachers? How do you ensure that communication is effective, and productive, with other adults in a school? Let us know below!