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On dilemmas and predicaments about supply teaching, Pete O’Brien.

Peter - Jobs Doctor

Pete has worked for over twenty years in primary schools and has been a Head Teacher for over nine years. He has led his schools through successful Ofsted inspections and has been described in his most recent inspection as an ‘inspirational and innovative leader’. Pete also has valuable experience of many different vocational training schemes, including the Apprentice to Work scheme, Raise the Youth community work and The Princes Trust.  Pete O’Brien, Dip. Ed, B.A Hons, PGCE, NPQH.

Successful behaviour management on supply

I’ve just signed up as a supply teacher and I’m excited about the prospect of working in different schools. Until now, I’ve taught the same class day-in, day-out which meant I got to know and understand the pupils well and build relationships with them. What’s the best way to approach new classes of unfamiliar faces and manage behaviour successfully?

Supply Teachers often worry about how they’re going to manage behaviour in class. Going into a school you don’t know can be nerve-wracking so as well as having well-prepared lesson plans, think about the following:  

  • Before you start work, ask for a copy of the school’s Behaviour Management Policy. By reading through this document, you’ll have a better understanding of what is expected of the pupils and how behaviour is dealt with. In turn, you can ensure your actions are in line with it, retaining a sense of consistency and letting the pupils know you know what they should and shouldn’t be doing. Start your day by referring to one of the rewards schemes, rather than a sanction.  Remember: a supply teacher is the ‘acid test’ for the effectiveness of the school’s Behaviour Policy.
  • When pupils meet a supply teacher for the first time, they often see it as an opportunity to act up. Before reprimanding them, put yourself in the pupils’ shoes. They may be worried or nervous about working with a new teacher and perhaps even feel vulnerable. Others may be thinking ‘Why should I care if a total stranger is unhappy with me?’ Be upfront and address these issues immediately. Start your day by pointing out the behaviour you're looking for and make sure they recognise that you’re approachable. Setting your expectations and demonstrating you respond to positive behaviour will help defuse potential issues from the start.
  • Use pupils' names whenever possible. This shows you want to know them and recognise them as individuals.
  • If you are working at a school for a short period, perhaps a week or even a day, create a tally chart to record the names of the children who behave well. Explain how this chart will be left for their usual teacher and that you’ve heard they’re looking forward to seeing who’s been behaved well and helped out in their absence.
  • Mention key members of staff by name. Being seen to be knowledgeable about the school’s structure can help reinforce appropriate behaviour.
  • Moving around the classroom rather than standing at the front helps maintain good behaviour as the pupils are not only more aware of being watched, they will see it as a sign of you getting to know them and taking an interest in the work they are doing.  
  • Don’t worry about asking for help from other staff members. All teachers appreciate support from colleagues so feel free to ask for top tips about dealing with your new class. Thank them and they’ll appreciate that you value their advice. If you’re covering for a permanent teacher, ask the Headteacher if there’s anything they normally do that is successful in helping them manage their class. 

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