Stepping into a classroom to fill a fellow teacher’s shoes can be hard work, especially if you’re an NQT or you’re new to supply teaching. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are PK Education’s top tips to help keep control of your new class as a supply teacher:
- Be prepared – Have a plan B. If the projector isn’t working, then use the board. If you realise that you’re teaching the class something they’ve already done, then whip out one of your fantastic spare lesson plans, arranged for such an emergency! Supply teaching is known for its curve balls. Initiative and on-the-spot thinking go a long way in supply teaching.
- Controlled entrance – When welcoming the pupils to your class, if at all possible, control the entrance to the learning environment. This is a good opportunity to find out your pupils’ names too, in a brief one-to-one situation.
- Establish your terms – Be consistent. By outlining your expectations at the very beginning of the lesson you are giving yourself a system to fall back on if pupils don’t comply. If you have a punishment/ reward system you implement, explain it first. And of course, always make sure that your system works with the school’s own rules.
- Call and response – It has to be catchy. When you establish your terms, an easy attention grabber is a call and response. You say something that the pupils know requires a certain response. For example, “1, 2, 3, eyes on me” with the response “1, 2, eyes on you”. These can be tailored to suit different age groups by using lines from films, songs, nursery rhymes, etc. Whatever you and the class are comfortable with, that the pupils will understand and find engaging.
- Three strikes – Punishment or reward. If you implement a system along the lines of three strikes and you’re out, a useful way of avoiding knowing names is to give each student three sticky notes or tokens at the beginning of the lesson, or having them on the desk ready when the students arrive. Without knowing names or calling anybody out, you can simply remove a token from the desk whenever behaviour is not as expected, or when somebody goes above and beyond. This way you can monitor the class and make it known that you’ve noticed behaviours, without having to write names on the board etc. By taking away the tokens and not adding them, you avoid the situation where pupils conveniently “lose” them.
- Know your tech – There is an abundance of apps available now for teachers. Know which suit you and your teaching style. Class Dojo and Too Noisy are often favourites. Again though, make sure that what you do is in line with the school’s rules and expectations.
- Be strong – Children can smell fear! Staying in control is imperative. Pupils can be excellent at taking advantage of any perceived weakness, so make it clear that you fully deserve their respect and in return, they will receive the same from you. It’s all about self-belief. You can do it!
- Finally – Consider shoeless learning! A study by Professor Stephen Heppell at Bournemouth University found that pupils wearing slippers in the classroom, rather than shoes, were better behaved. Keep an eye on new studies in the sector – you never know when your next top tip could be developed.