Interview with... Hazel Mills

Interview with... Hazel MillsHazel, supply teacher with Top Class Education, has already retired once, but missed the classroom... 

How did you go about finding and choosing your agency?

I didn't actually find Top Class Education, they found me. I had been considering doing some supply work for a while but had done nothing about it then one evening while I was on Facebook, up popped a message from Kate at Top Class asking if I was interested in doing a bit of supply; it was serendipity!

Why and how did you get into supply teaching?

I had taken early retirement in 2011 as I had suffered some ill health and my husband was recovering from cancer. Nearly three years on, surgery had improved my health and my husband was well enough to make me a golf widow again so I thought it would be nice to do a bit of supply as I was missing being in the classroom.

What do you take with you on assignment?

Plenty of pens! I also take my DBS, lunch, a mug and a drink as schools vary so much in what they provide. Some take cash, others need your thumb print! And I never want to go down the route of using the wrong mug!

How do you ensure you'll be called back to work at *that* lovely school by Top Class Education?

I do longer term assignments. I try very hard to make sure I fit in and become part of the school. I arrive in good time and I'm happy to stop for a chat and coffee at the end of the day if others are around. When my contract was finished at a particular school that I really enjoyed Kate from Top Class was very quick to ensure that I was called back by keeping up a dialogue with the head teacher of the school negotiating my return.

The day-to-day life of a supply teacher... How do you find it? Do you prefer long-term placements, morning only bookings? Pre-booked work only?

I prefer long-term placements as I particularly enjoy building relationships with both the students and my colleagues. I am a very loyal sort of person, working 26 happy years in the same school prior to my retirement. I like the fact that I had good relationships with more than one generation of families. Doing long term placements allows me to go some way towards building the same feeling of belonging. As someone who is semi-retired I like the flexibility I can have with supply work. I can choose the days I work. I have lots of other things I do too so supply fits in nicely. I normally only do pre-booked work as Top Class provides me with all I need with my long-term contracts. If I do extra days it is usually in the school where I am on a long-term contract.

Do you have any advice for those thinking of going into supply teaching?

Arrive in good time so that you can get organised and find out what the behaviour and reward policies of the school are and use them. This knowledge is powerful. To use names; many schools now provide photos of the children in your groups, try to use them. Be prepared with something up your sleeve if there is no work set. In an ideal world you will have a wonderful lesson plan given to you but there will be days when your won't; you need to be prepared. Leave a quick note to the teacher about how far you got with the work, they will really appreciated it. Always be friendly to the all the other staff and, I repeat, take your own mug until you know you don't need to!

What would you think if Ofsted were to suggest paying you as an undercover inspector for them, as you go about supply teaching?

I think it would be a dreadful idea. Teaching is a tough profession whether you are a permanent member of staff or a supply teacher and the relationships that develop between staff are usually one of the strengths of a school. Putting in a supply teacher who might be a spy in the ranks could only be divisive in my mind. Teachers need to be able to trust each other and I cannot see how any supply teacher would be trusted if there is the remotest possibility that he or she is an Ofsted mole!

Who would be the ultimate supply teacher and why?
Stephen Fry. He can keep unruly guests under control on QI so I'm sure behaviour would not be a problem! His sense of humour and knowledge would be invaluable and I'd really like to be in his lessons!

And finally, what is your favourite supply teacher resource? 

YouTube! If the lesson you are having to take is rather lacking, you can always find a video to liven it up! I'm not sure how I ever managed to teach before whiteboards attached to the Internet!

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