Top tips for a day of supply teaching

Paul Boyd

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

If you’re new to supply teaching, it can at first feel quite intimidating (yes; an understatement I know).

You are the fish out of water; in unfamiliar territory, responding to a situation that may well be chaotic and disorganised, interacting with new people, whilst at the same time trying to deliver a high standard of professionalism and quality teaching – it’s no mean feat!

Like any challenge, it’s all do with your attitude and how you view the situation, along with a good helping of preparation!

teacher thinking-1

Here are some ideas to consider as a new supply teacher – as usual, they come with my ‘common sense’ caveat; you will certainly have thought of these things before, but may appreciate a gentle reminder!

Logistics first

Where is the school? How will you get there? What will you do for lunch? Does your natural dress code fit the school? These should be your first checks before leaving the house for a day of supply teaching. Prepare the things you know you need to start off on the right foot.

Take care of the ‘knowable’

What do you know about the school before you get there and what can you find out to help you? Who is the student demographic? Who are the main members of staff? What is the daily schedule in that particular school? A quick browse of most school websites on your journey there will give you a rough outline of that particular community, and this can be an asset to help you quickly assimilate into your temporary home.

Blackbaord with rocket

Tricks up your sleeve

The school you are supporting will hopefully have work for you to deliver that is appropriate for the students – but what if they don’t? It’s worth having a few skeleton lessons on a USB or stored in the cloud that are stand-alone and can be taught if need be.

E.g. A poetry lesson for a GCSE English class, or lesson about describing the weather in Spanish or a famous scientists lesson for Science.

See yourself as part of the team

For that one day you are a member of that community. What if you were a visiting lecturer or a consultant? How would you expect to be treated and how you present yourself? You are a qualified teacher. You have trained, often in more than one discipline and have a range of skills and expertise that is valuable.

It’s important to maintain a mindset of confidence in the face of uncertainty – you may not know the children, but you know your subject. You can gently assert your presence as a professional, whilst at the same time respecting the fact that you are a visitor to the school. Lean on the children and staff for insider knowledge – no one is expecting you to know everything and pretending that you do will only make your day harder.

Ask questions, be polite and show a genuine interest in the work you are doing.

Good luck!


About our Community Expert


Paul BPaul Boyd
Community Expert

Paul is an actor and English teacher from Northern Ireland. Alongside his acting career working in theatre, film and television across the UK, he also teaches in primary and secondary schools throughout London.

Paul provides performance coaching to both individual clients and businesses.


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