If you’re a teacher, you have probably had a sick day before, right – and still had to prepare lesson plans for the whole day/s? If you’re a parent, I am sure you have heard the stories of your child being taught by a sub on a few occasions? If you ever went to school – no doubt you remember those cruisy days when you could breathe a deep sigh of relief when you realised that your own teacher was absent….. Well – that’s me. The supply teacher.
A supply (relief) teacher is a valuable member of every schooling community, right?.... c’mon, agree with me…. Please agree with me!!!! I need a little boost here, tell me you’re on my side.
I work in a few schools here in Hong Kong. If I have been supplying at a school for a while, I walk to school with the usual spring in my step, excited for the day and the learning that will be achieved. Heck, I might even get to run into a few friends in the staff room and have a nice chat over lunch. I know where the classrooms are, the gym and the library – I feel confident composed.
If it’s a new school….. well, that’s another story altogether. The supply teacher in the staff room. *Danger, Danger!!* Don’t speak to the supply teacher! Heaven forbid she might have sat at the wrong table…. And *gasp* is that Brian’s cup she’s drinking from!? And doesn’t she know you can’t wear sandals to school! No one comments on my cute shoes, matching accessories or the extra curls in my hair on those days.
But it’s the “new class” time that creates a small rock in my stomach. I start to doubt myself – “do I know what I am doing?” “What’s the plan for the day – will there be a plan?” “Will there be many behavioural challenges?” Sweat starts to roll down my back (although that could be the humidity!) as the time nears for the students to arrive. I look over the day planner (pulse is beating extremely quickly and very loudly in my ears…), check the roll, read the notes from the teacher, read the school guidelines, procedures, rules…… and then….. the students begin to arrive….
A head peeks around the corner, eyes widen, the head disappears… “IT’S A SUB!!!” excitement ensues. Students come wandering in, trying to look casual… trying to get a look at the new breed of teacher that has arrived in place of their regular teacher…. “Who is she?” “Will she be strict/nice/smart/fun/mean…?” “Where is Mr/Mrs Normal Teacher?” “Do we still have to hand up our homework?” So many questions!?
And then. The bell goes. The day begins. I feel faint. I stand up, clear my throat…….. begin…..
It all comes flooding back – I introduce myself (no more feeling faint), talk about where their regular teacher is (sweat stops rolling), talk about the expectations for the day (can’t hear my pulse in my ears anymore), and discuss the plan for the busy day ahead (pulse speed returns to normal resting rate).
As the day inevitably rolls on, I feel my confidence returning. These students know me now. They know that I will be firm but fair. They know that they are expected to complete their work to an acceptable standard, they know that they are expected to comply with the usual standards of acceptable behaviour, and that if all goes well – we may just finish the day with a game.
The next time I teach this class – hopefully I won’t have all the nasty side effects of starting with a new class… we can just get right down to learning.
My role as a supply teacher is full of challenges. I aim to give the students some sort of continuity and consistency if their teacher is away. I do not give them an “easy day”, or watch endless DVD’s. Every school day is precious and I intend to achieve what has been prepared. I also intend to leave detailed notes for the teacher, mark the work that we have completed and thank them for the pleasure of teaching their little darlings.
And sometimes, just sometimes – I feel like I have had a little positive impact on someone’s day…. and I realise that I love doing what I do.
‘til next time - say hi to me in the staffroom!