Nikki Tester on casual teaching, her book, and pearls of wisdom!

Nikki Tester on Casual TeachingI fell into casual teaching after my partner and I relocated to Coffs Harbour. Prior to the move I was working in an Independent school near Lismore, and there was no avenue for me to transfer to Coffs Harbour.  Casual teachers can work through Agencies, although I never have. I have worked basically in my local schools, where I have been booked by the person in charge of casuals (Usually one of the Assistant Principals). You then get paid by the Department of Education in NSW

To ensure that you get called back to *that* lovely school, behaviour management and having a class full of engaged students is always something that stands out to a principal and other teachers at the school. I would always volunteer to do a duty if I was in fact rostered off, and as my "lovely" school was just up the road , I would also do some volunteer work as well. It was a small school so that there was not always availability. I was lucky to have a few temporary contracts, and so I was a 'familiar face' around the place. When Smart boards were first introduced into schools, I made sure that I shared any great sites that I had found as I had more time on my hands than permanent teachers to explore the internet.

My book, A Survival Kit for the Casual Teacher, was born when we moved, and before I actually began casual teaching. I had a book with websites, and post it notes stuck all the way through it!! And as I discovered more, I realised that I had to make a better system that would work for me and one that I had at my fingertips when the phone rang early. I knew I always had an easy reference at my fingertips. I have used all of the activities on occasion, and these are the ones that I have found work well with classes.

My advice for those going into casual teaching: Be organised!! The reality of supply teaching is that you can have very little time on your hands in the morning. You may get to school and find you have a morning duty. By the time you get into your classroom, you need to see if work has been left, familiarise yourself with the class, sign into internet, read any notices which will let you know if there are any events on the day. Be familiar with behaviour policy of the school, procedure for sending kids to sick bay, procedure for collecting money , photocopying and the all important bell times (yes I have accidentally let kids out early, or had kids miss the bus, ooops!) Very important to be kind to the office ladies!!! Find the timetable for your class.

You need to be flexible and ready to adapt to any situation, if there is a time tabled release break on the class you are on, be prepared for the principal to ask you to take over another class instead. Dress code is important and first impressions count. Be very mindful of your choice of language with children especially when they push your buttons. It is a tough job at times, you can't always follow up on behaviour issues etc,. Make sure you drink lots of water.

My favourite supply teacher resource is the internet itself. I don't have a favourite site, but I just love using IWB in the classroom. They are the most amazing tool.  I love having a laugh, so I would have loved to have Robin Williams as a supply teacher.  

You can read about Nikki's gem of a find for any supply teacher, A Survival Kit for the Casual Teacher, here.

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