Supply teaching isn’t just a back up option, it can genuinely benefit your career – here’s how:
1 – It can significantly broaden your experience
Experience lots of different settings by doing a stint of supply work and become a more rounded professional.
Many trainee teachers are offered jobs in one of their placement schools, and this is often where they will end up for the first few years of their career. After that, they may move on to another school periodically, but I’ve known some teachers who stay put until the day they retire! While that’s great for job security and feeling settled in your role, it can be detrimental in terms of offering a broad experience to both challenge and develop your practice.
This is where supply work can offer you some real benefit. While I understand that it can be unsettling to be in a new school every day/month/term, supply contracts can certainly keep you on your toes! You’ll often have the chance to work in a range of different schools, with different age groups and with different socio-economic cohorts. By offering you a broad range of experience, supply teaching can deepen your understanding of how to effectively cater for students of all ages and backgrounds. When you add special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) into the mix, this can be even more impactful. Teachers (and indeed members of school support staff) who have the opportunity to work in schools for a range of different needs can gain some really meaningful professional development as a result.
2 – It can help you to find your niche in the profession
It took me a long time to understand that teaching isn’t a “one size fits all” profession. Every child is different, and so is every school. By working in a range of settings while doing supply work, you can gain a fantastic insight into what suits your teaching style, personality and personal fulfilment model most effectively. In fact, I wish I had done this myself. I was offered a role in my second PGCE placement school, didn’t enjoy it and after 2 years, made the difficult decision to leave the profession. Had I taken the time to do some supply work and investigate alternatives more carefully, I may have stuck with teaching. Certainly something worth considering if you’re thinking about leaving the profession yourself…
3 – It can be great for cross-fertilisation of ideas
Meet award winning staff and share great ideas while doing supply work.
Imagine this scenario – you’re working in a school and you see a brilliant behaviour management idea, or a new way of delivering maths to students with autism, and you think – “Wow – what a great idea, I’m going to use that!” It happens all the time. Many teachers have brilliant ideas which work fantastically well, but many are so busy that they don’t have time to share this good practise with other settings. By working on supply in a range of different schools, you’ll have the chance to effectively pinch ideas that work well to add to your own toolkit. This can stand you in excellent stead for your future in the profession. You’ll need to be diligent though, and keep a notebook handy for all of these ideas (if you’re anything like me, that is and have a memory like a sieve!)
4 – It can give you a more rounded understanding of the curriculum and assessment
By working in a number of different schools, you’ll be dipping in and out of the curriculum, covering different subjects, age ranges and levels of SEND need. In this way, you’ll be constantly exposed to the curriculum in different ways. You’ll also be using assessment methods which vary from school to school. Again, this can be a really useful experience for developing your understanding of the curriculum and how it all fits together, as well as how to effectively assess how well your students are picking it up.
5 – Your confidence will grow
One of the greatest things about supply work is that it will help your confidence to grow enormously. You’ll have been thrown in the deep end so many times that something new or challenging just won’t spike your anxiety levels the way it used to. This in itself can be a good enough reason to undertake a stint of supply work (in my opinion!) Instead of looking up to that unflappable teacher, you’ll have others looking up to you for your ability to take it all in your stride – and who wouldn’t want that?
It’s also worth remembering that all of these reasons are excellent interview fodder. If you find yourself being grilled by a panel of school leaders for a job you are desperate to get, remember to explain to them why you’d be a brilliant addition to their team by using these five reasons, coupled with some case studies or specific examples from the schools you’ve been working in.
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