Nathan Human, a PK supply teacher with over 10 years’ experience and a passion for working with SEN and ASD pupils, explains how he approaches working at a new school and all that it brings.
Knowing Me, Knowing School
At the end of last term, I was giving advice to Year 6 pupils about starting at a new school and I realised the same advice could be useful for supply teachers. Before you even consider the lessons that you’ll be teaching, I want to outline two key areas I believe are helpful when teaching at a new school – geography and staff.
As a supply teacher your day can be varied, and the schedule can change before you’ve even signed in; like the cover supervisor who wasn’t told about a trip to the museum and another teacher has rung in sick, so you are now the human teaching plaster to cover all the grazes these absences have inflicted. This is when knowing your way around becomes crucial, especially in schools where navigation is like a challenge in the Crystal Maze and making your way from Year 6 to the hall can turn into a Bear Grylls expedition.
Take a map of the new school
Highlight your room, mark key areas, and check whether you will need a key or a fob. I also recommend photocopying your map because you will lose it and most likely when you need it most. Also, in larger schools, try and remember at least one key location in each building so when you stop a rushing teacher in the corridor you can at least ask, “Is that near the library?” Hopefully you’ll know the librarian as you’ll have introduced yourself to support staff.
Meet the school support staff
We often prioritise getting to know other teachers when teaching at a new school and whilst this is undoubtedly helpful, we don’t often get to interact with them as much as we do with the premises officer who we need to clear up the spilt paint before our reading lesson. In most schools the support staff outstay teachers so not only are they incredibly important in terms of the everyday running of the school, they often have a greater knowledge of the school and the students.
Rather than sheltering in the staffroom for the duration of break I’ve found taking a travel mug of rejuvenating tea with me on a lap of the school is a quick and easy way to get to meet most staff. It also has the added benefit of helping with your orientation and making you a visible presence to students you might end up unexpectedly teaching later that day.
What makes a cup of tea even better? … A biscuit
If you’ve stocked your new lunchbox with a pack of biscuits, it never hurts to leave them in the office at the end of the day as a thank you too. I guarantee it will be remembered, and so will you be when they need another teaching plaster.