Unsure of what you’re unsure of? Here @SupplyTeach101. discusses the top supply teacher questions to help you feel prepared for your new role.
SupplyTeaching101 is a twitter page which provides a space for supply staff to communicate and network. It was created after I had a particularly difficult day on supply, and I realised supply staff need a community, somewhere to return to at the end of the day, and discuss the good, the bad and the funny!
How it began
I began supply teaching in 2016, which I’ve merged with different part time positions, both teaching and non-teaching, along with further study. I would recommend supply work to any aspiring schoolteacher or support staff, along with those looking for their next step after permanent teaching.
Supply wellbeing is an area I am passionate about, having studied a Postgraduate Degree in Health and Wellbeing, followed by my current PhD research in Teacher Wellbeing, I believe in the importance of promoting staff wellbeing.
Hit the ground running
To ensure supply staff hit the ground running, SupplyWell communicate early with schools to provide supply with ‘need to know’ policies and information prior to the start of a new role.
It can be difficult to fully understand the context and culture of a school from text alone, which is why it’s important to ask questions to understand how your new school operates in practice.
SupplyWell have an article for schools filled with advice on how to help supply staff hit the ground running that you can read here.
Thrive in your role
The questions in this article will help you, as a supply member of staff, to become quickly embedded in the school culture and thrive in your new role! The questions are to be used alongside the schools’ written policies, which SupplyWell will always endeavour to provide.
What to ask: How is your behaviour management policy implemented?
‘Make sure you have access to the behaviour management policy, and then aim to explore beyond that.’
Why ask: Behaviour management is one of the top challenges when working on supply and finding out how the schools behaviour policy is implemented can help.
On paper, many schools operate similar systems, but each school culture promotes different strategies for behaviour management. If you aren’t aware of these ‘hidden’ strategies, pupils may feel unfairly treated and not respond to the behaviour policy. Strategies might include:
- Restorative conversations prior to formal warnings/behaviour points
- Having a buddy classroom to remove a pupil to
- Department detentions
Who to ask: A teacher or a teaching assistant.
SupplyWell’s teacher partner Dylan Williams has worked in Liverpool schools for over 33 years as a teacher and SLT. Recently retired Dylan has joined SupplyWell and imparts his years of expertise and experience to supply staff. Check out his blog on classroom management here.
What to ask: How can I contact the safeguarding lead?
‘Knowing the safeguarding leads name is not enough when it comes to reporting a concern’.
Safeguarding is an important part of supply teaching, and it’s vital to be prepared for reporting a safeguarding issue. A name for a safeguarding lead is a helpful starting point but it’s often not enough; find out where the safeguarding leads office is, their contact information and the best way to report a concern.
SupplyWell already ensure their teaching staff receive this information in advance, and it would be great to see other agencies encouraging this proactive approach.
Who to ask:
The supply lead at the school.
What to ask: What are the key classroom routines I should be upholding?
‘Consistent classroom routines are imperative for promoting a positive learning environment’
Studies suggest that pupils respond well to routines, they promote positive behaviour, increase progression, and create a safe environment. As a supply teacher, keeping routines consistent will be beneficial for both you and the pupils. Find out how a class normally enters, what their seating plan is, which starter activities they use, and identify school specific language, such as ‘do it now’ activities, ‘green pen’ for feedback, or ‘silent starters.’
Who to ask:
In a secondary school, ask another member of the department; in primary, a teaching assistant or neighbouring class teacher will be able to help!
SupplyWell have an article on getting your lesson started promptly as a supply teacher, which further goes into some routines you can endeavour to uphold in the classroom, you can read it here.
What to ask: Where are your facilities and how can I access them?
‘Every supply teacher should have easy access to clean water, a bathroom and a rest space at lunch’
Schools may provide you with a map, which is fantastic, but even if you can easily locate the facilities, some schools have a key or fob entry system, making it difficult to access them. Arrive early to ask how you can get into the toilets or staff room, and where you can make a cup of coffee and heat up your lunch if needed!
This information can help with your wellbeing, reduce anxiety, and make sure you feel your best throughout the day. If your school has their facilities behind locked doors and does not provide you with the means to access these areas, bring this up with your agency.
Supply teachers should not have to ask to be admitted to facilities, this is especially important for those who may suffer with chronic conditions or disabilities and need quick entry.
Who to ask:
Supply lead at the school or reception staff.
What to ask: Who can I contact if my logins/computer/smart board aren’t working?
‘Computer access should always be available for supply teachers; it is an essential tool in the classroom.’
Issues with logins, cover work access and smart boards are common, and these problems can completely derail your lesson. Finding out who to contact in case of a technology emergency can be imperative for the smooth running of your day.
Who to ask:
The supply lead at the school.
‘Each question will only provide you with a small amount of information, but when added together, the positive impact on your day will be clear.’
We hope you found this article on questions to ask before starting a new role helpful. Be sure to follow @Supply_Well and @SupplyTeach101 on Twitter and let us know what questions you recommend asking. Let us know!
Akar, H. (2020) The effect of smart board use on academic achievement: A meta-analytical and thematic study. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, 8(3), pp.261-273.
Burton, S. (2013) Toilets unblocked: A literature review of school toilets.
Jellis, C., Williamson, J. and Suto, I. (2021) How Well Do We Understand Wellbeing? Teachers’ Experiences in an Extraordinary Educational Era. Research Matters.
Myers, D., Freeman, J., Simonsen, B. and Sugai, G. (2017) Classroom management with exceptional learners. Teaching Exceptional Children, 49(4), pp.223-230.