Interview with... Katie, an NQT on supply

Interview with... Katie, an NQT on supplyKatie talks to us about being an NQT working as a supply teacher, and juggling multiple agencies!

How and why did you get into supply teaching?

Having completed my final placement at the start of December, I did not want to be away from the classroom from then to September. Supply teaching seemed the best solution to providing me with teaching experience and developing my behaviour management strategies.

How did you choose which agencies to register with?

A teacher at my placement school recommended a few agencies and then I asked around my NQT friends to see who they had been with previously. I also searched online for the top results, then applied through the websites once I had an up-to-date CV. I contacted quite a few agencies as I was not sure what to expect and whether many would take me as I don't yet officially have QTS (I graduate in July). Three agencies got in touch and I've worked for them all over the past few months. Some seem much busier than others and being with three agencies has provided the best chance of being able to work on my free days.

What have you learned from working with your teaching agencies?

The importance of keeping my availability diary up-to-date and remembering to submit my expenses, particularly with juggling three agencies. I've also learnt that I should check what cut of my pay the agency takes as for one agency in particular my final pay was quite a shock when I received my first pay slip.

How do you ensure you'll be called back to work at a school?

Simply by putting as much effort into teaching that class as I would my own, including the marking! Each time I supply I aim to stick to the children's usual routine as much as possible and I make sure that I speak to any staff I encounter, but don't sit in the staff room chatting. If I have a TA I make sure they understand how much I value their expertise and at the end of every day I provide full written feedback for the teacher and verbal feedback to the staff in the office. Basically, I do everything that I would want somebody covering my class would do.

How do you feel working as a supply teacher is preparing you for your NQT year?

Behaviour management has been a big development point for me! On placement I've often thought that the children might not listen to me until they've gotten to know me. With day-to-day supply that isn't an option. I have to maintain control from the second I enter that room. Additionally, it's the first time I've properly had a class to myself for a full day, without a class teacher to fall back on or direct parents to at the end of the day. I now have a much greater confidence in my own abilities and a bank of ideas for teaching, displays and classroom management ready for September. I believe that all of these shall contribute to me 'hitting the ground running' for my NQT year.

Have you any advice for trainee teachers thinking of doing supply teaching before their NQT year starts?

DO IT! By far the best thing I could have done. It has boosted my confidence so much for September and I have been able to get so many ideas for displays, planning, classroom organisation and behaviour management, along with a few ideas to avoid. I honestly don't think I would have got my full time job for September so soon had I not done supply, as it gave me so much self-confidence of being able to manage a full class by myself and know that I was in control. My advice: just keep it to two days a week as dissertation, other assignments and job hunting must take priority. Stick to the children's usual routine as much as possible and if something doesn't work or you don't enjoy a school just treat it as a learning curve. You don't have to go back again the next day!

How could the lives of NQTs starting out on supply be improved?

Luckily the teachers at my first supply schools had left work which meant I could focus on tackling my behaviour management strategies. I think it would help if agencies ensured NQT's were given preferential bookings of schools where planning has been left in order to support this. Also, as great as my teaching experiences may have been on placements they are restricted to certain year groups and it takes time to build up a bank of lesson ideas. On many bookings the school have seemed surprised that I am still completing my degree. I feel it would help if agencies made the school aware that you are an NQT so that they can provide more support as it takes time to get used to quickly stepping into someone else's shoes. Knowing where to turn for good advice and support would be a great help too.

Did your university course cover supply teaching?

No, not really. They only mentioned it as a backup option if we failed to get full time jobs by September. They held a careers event at the end of April for students to meet representatives from various agencies but I was already working by this time.

Who would be the ultimate supply teacher?

Of course - Mary Poppins!

And finally, what is your favourite supply teacher resource?

My quick thinking initiative! I have a "supply bag" ready to pick up and go any morning. My Supply Toolkit: Sat Nav! Stickers, Flat Stanley (so many wider curriculum opportunities), a KS2 book, a USB pen full of worksheets, lesson powerpoints and other resources, hand sanitizer, various coloured pens (all schools use different for marking) and of course my CRB and supply paperwork.


You can find Katie on Twitter @TheMissW, and read her blog here:

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