Author Archives: Sharon Wood

About Sharon Wood

Sharon Wood, aka NuttySupplier, launched the forum at SupplyBag.co.uk in 2005 whilst on supply. Having worked as a primary teacher for too many years, I chose supply teaching as a career, in order to achieve a good work / life balance.

Spring Flowers and Literacy – or how to use the same image in 6 different lessons on supply

When on supply, sometimes you get the lovely little post-it notes that simply say ‘Do what you want!’  It shouldn’t happen, and it doesn’t happen as often as you might think / worry about, but sometimes it does.
I used to look forward to those days, days when I could go off with the children wherever the lessons took us.  It’s a great idea to have a laminated image in your supply bag for days like these.  Take this tulip for instance… Given just a couple of minutes, I bet you could think of two Literacy ideas based on it, a numeracy idea, a science lesson and an art lesson or two… And there you have it, a day’s work already!

Where next? There’s a great quick read here on valentines day activities. Check out our resources area here too.

Technology, Textiles, DT, whatever it’s called where you’re supply teaching, we’ve got your back!

‘We usually do DT in the afternoons, do what you like.’ Oh, the fear this will provoke in some supply teachers! Some of us went on supply to avoid the practical subjects 😂
Never fear, Corrin Coates, a local legend when it comes to teaching textiles, has got your back. She has written this download especially for you. Simple, straightforward but fun and oh, so achievable activities for any age group, you never need dread that Post-It again.

£1.50 – Upon completion of payment, please click on ‘Return to Merchant’, which will redirect you to the PDF to save to your device.


Get Creative on Supply with Textiles Activities

The creative subjects often get forgotten when setting work for supply teaching, it can either be non-existent or just a generic ‘arty’ worksheet. If you’re a creative supply teacher that prefers engaging and fun activities to deliver when on supply, then here are some textiles based ideas for you that are easily accessible, require minimal planning and only uses resources that would be available in any classroom.

 

Flag Design

In the small market town where I live there is a ‘flag fortnight’ every summer where all shops and businesses in the town hang a bright and colourful flag reflecting their type of premises. The school I worked in got involved and the students designed large banners to display outside school during the fortnight of the festival. The banners had simple graphic symbols to represent subjects within the school and the school logo. They were simple yet, due to the use of bold colours, were very effective.

 

Designing a flag or even bunting can translate into so many themes within teaching and can be accessible across all key stages and subject areas. You can also take inspiration from seasonal or national events, sport, music, books or even local issues. The flags can be designed and made using just paper or card initially, however, as an extension these could be made very simply from any fabric available or even recycled fabrics, no sewing required! Simple textiles techniques like stencilling, block printing or fabric pen can be used to decorate the flags. Children could cut their own simple stencil from card or make a block to print using string glued onto cardboard. Regular classroom paint and felt tips will work well on fabric rather than expensive fabric ones, however, the end result just wouldn’t be washable. 

 

Den Design

Designing fabric shelters is always a fun activity for children of all ages. Who doesn’t love a den! Taking inspiration from childhood memories of a bed sheet draped across my mum’s clothes drying rack, I created a den designing lesson with a year 7 class. This can easily be adapted for ks2. The only rule was their design had to use fabric as the main material. We began with discussion about fabric properties and what fabrics would need to be if the shelter was inside compared to outside, along with identifying problems they’d need to solve such as entrances, fastenings and supporting the structure. Children can then get as imaginative and creative as possible to generate ideas to solve this problem. All you need initially is paper and a pencil, however, the activity has endless possibilities in terms of creating models of the dens, discussing 3D shapes, or even social issues such as homelessness. A recent fashion graduate designed a jacket for refugees and homeless people that transforms into a shelter, bringing social issues into design is a great way to inspire children and link to British values and Citizenship teaching.

This task also lends itself to working in teams which could also include designing a team logo or why not use it as a class competition. Again, a quick design activity with endless possibilities to extend further.

Get our new Technology and Textiles on Supply PDF here.

 

Where next? There’s a great quick read here on Top tips for technology. Check out our resources area here too.

Top Tips for Technology

If you’ve found yourself on supply standing in front of a class and you’re filled with dread as they chant ‘we usually do DT today’ then this article is for you. Teaching a Design Technology lesson can be daunting for a non-specialist, even more so for when teaching on supply! This article is designed to give you a range of ideas for fun and easily accessible lessons linked to the DT curriculum that require minimal planning and only uses resources that would be available in any classroom.

 

STEM Spinning Tops

The children love this one. Firstly, work with them to mark out and draw a circle on card, then find and mark the centre. Cut it out and decorate the whole circle with a pattern. Encourage the children to plan the pattern, measure and draw accurately. Bright and contrasting colours work the best when decorating. Finally poke a pencil through the centre and spin! You could also use a coin instead of a pencil for a slightly different spinning effect. Throw in a bit of maths with radius/circumference/diameter, timing each other’s spinning tops, recording results in a graph. Or get all scientific and discuss forces, speed, distance and time.

Templates and further information available to download in the pdf which can be found here

 

Design A Board Game

All you need is paper, pencil and a ruler. Children can draw a start and finish point on their page and then create a path in between to play along. From a basic template children can then use their imagination to create a fun and exciting game to play. They can choose a theme such as favourite characters and stories or the themes can link to topics they are currently studying. Once the board is designed, they can make the characters to move around the board out of card, challenge them to solve the problem of how the character would stand up. If you need a jump start, there are templates available in the downloadable pdf which can be found here

 

Sustainable House Design

I find that most children are very aware of environmental issues in world today and how they can make little differences to create a positive impact. Whether it’s recycling, switching off lights or the use of solar and wind power, get the children thinking about how to solve environmental issues by designing a sustainable house. This can be a fantasy design using their imagination and creativity to come up with all sorts of weird and wacky ideas. This idea can also be extended into using cereal boxes to make a model of their house. This could incorporate science for example making wind propelled devices and testing them. If you need some inspiration templates and visuals are available to download as a pdf here.

 

Where next? There’s a great quick read here on supply with textile activities Check out our resources area here too.

Top Supply Teaching Tips:  Surviving The Day

Many supply teachers are perfectly comfortable with an early morning call and the chaos of ‘winging it’ when they get to school. Others (including experienced teachers) prefer to be pre-booked which can limit the amount you can earn when work is slow.  Here are some top tips for making the most of your day and ensuring it goes as smoothly as possible.

  1. Starter activities. Have a range of starter/holding activities ready to go. This will give you time to deal with any issues as the children come in, discuss the day with any TA or familiarise yourself with the classroom layout. A few favourites are:

    • Write the name of the school on the whiteboard and challenge the class to make as many words as possible using each letter once.

    • Countdown words – write random letters on the board and children make as many words as possible.

    • Countdown numbers – write a selection of numbers on the board and a target number. Children use each number once to try and make the target number.

    • Write a number on the board and ask what is the question (e.g. 27 9*3=27 or 26+1 etc) 

 

  1. Have work ready. Even when the school have left plans it’s always worth having a selection of lessons ready to use should work not be set or the class complete the work quicker than anticipated. Schools also appreciate the supply teacher who is prepared to deliver their own material rather than ask for work to be given to them.

 

  1. Literacy. Use a selection of pictures as inspiration for writing. This can be as simple as writing sentences using adjectives or using the images as part of a scene for story writing.

 

  1. Maths. Use playing cards as number cards (four or five packs in your aupply bag would be great). One pack can provide four sets of cards with a picture card representing zero or 10. Working in pairs the children can use these to generate their own calculations.  This can easily be differentiated for different abilities or age groups by using 1, 2 or 3 digit numbers.

 

  1. Art.  Produce portraits using an outline of a head (there is a printable one on TES). Start by showing the children portraits of pictures of famous people in different art styles. For older children you could have a discussion on why the artist has used that particular style etc. Using an enlarged outline of a head model how to draw the eyes, nose and mouth in proportion and the right place before children produce their own portraits.Top tips for supply teaching

 

  1. Have an argument. This only really works well in upper KS2 but helps develop a number of skills including communication and teamwork.  Have a selection of topics ready for discussion and put the class into mixed ability groups (based on observations from the morning of who works well with others etc). Give each group a topic that they then discuss and prepare a small presentation on to ‘argue’ their point. Class then votes on whether they agree or disagree with the group. If the school have Ipads or similar available you could ask to video the presentations for the class teacher.  As an added bonus there is no marking!

 

  1. Marking.  Where possible mark as you go to save time. For some subjects such as maths or spellings, you could get the children to mark their own work or each others. For literacy you could use peer assessment. For other literacy work etc print off a selection of ‘what went well’ and ‘what could be better’ slips for the class to fill in when assessing each other’s work. When the children have finished their work get them to leave their books open at the right page to save time.

 

  1. Stories. Have a selection of age appropriate story books for the end of the day (or an anthology of short stories for ks2). It’s also worth having a record of which school you’ve read which book to.

 

  1. Talk to other staff. It is always worth spending a few minutes in the staff room even if it is just to make a hot drink or get a glass of water. This helps the school get to know you as a person rather than just a name sent by an agency.  When they know you they are more likely to ask for you by name rather than just asking the agency to send a supply teacher.

 

  1. Be kind to yourself. Most days on supply will be fine. However, every once in a while you’ll have a nightmare day. The children will not listen, the TA won’t help, the photocopier is broken… the list goes on. The important thing to remember though that this happens to most people at some point. Everyone has those days! Be kind to yourself and ensure you do something you enjoy to take your mind off of it. It’s also worth remembering that if the school is a complete nightmare then, as a supply teacher, you don’t have to go back unless you want to!

Where next? There's a great quick read here on Early Morning Calls.
Check out our resources area here too.

Top Supply Teacher Tips: Active Professional Development

As a supply teacher it can be very difficult to access CPD.

Most training courses cost more than a supply teacher can afford or, even when they are free, there is a day’s loss of work to consider.  Staying up to date on the latest trends in education however, is important, particularly if you want a permanent or long term job. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to stay up to date in your teaching knowledge. 

  1. Contact your union.  Being in a Teaching Union is essential for many reasons, not least of which is that, as well as support and guidance, they also offer training and CPD events. Some of these are specifically for supply teachers. Most are either free, or at a reduced cost for members.  Courses range from twilight sessions to a half or full days training. Some courses occur over a weekend, reducing the need to miss a day’s work. Keep an eye out for any literature your union send you and also sign up for any email newsletters they send out. If these newsletters prove to be of no use you can always unsubscribe at a later date.

 

  1. Use online learning. The rise of online learning is a big thing in education at the moment as it offers a low cost way of reaching a very wide audience.  There are a whole host of training providers out there who offer everything from compulsory requirements such as safeguarding to knowledge boosters and improving your teaching practice.  For example ‘Future Learn’ (a collaboration of universities including The Open University) offer a wide range of totally free courses with most offering a paid for certification upon completion.

 

  1. Read. It is important to keep up to date on educational issues. One of the best ways to do that is to read a wide range of sources. Most news organisations have an education section including The Guardian, BBC and dedicated magazines such as Teach Primary or Teach Secondary. With newspaper and online news sources it is important to remember they all have a particular political bias and therefore it is better to read as wide range as possible.

 

  1. Magpie ideas and experiences.   One distinct advantage of being a supply teacher is that you get to go into a lot of schools each with their own way of doing things and their own set of skills and experiences you can learn from.  If you’re given an unusual lesson to cover ask if you can take a copy of the plans and/or resources.  It is also worth making an effort to go into the staffroom to talk to other teachers. Not only does this create a good impression (which could lead to more work) but it also gives you the opportunity to talk to other education professionals and find out what issues are currently affecting the school.  All of this is something which could be very useful in an interview situation.CPD for Supply Teachers

 

  1. Supplybag.co.uk. Yes this very website has a wealth of information for supply teachers.   This includes guides to supply teaching and lesson ideas.  Details can be found here

 

Finally, it is worth remembering that while accessing CPD can be tricky, many supply teachers will have the opportunity to gain a wider set of experiences than the average class based teacher. Most class teachers remain in the same class, or key stage, for the majority of their teaching career. Supply teachers can, if brave enough to do it, work in any key stage from EYFS upwards. This range of experience can make for a more rounded set of skills and experiences and should be reflected in any job application that you complete.

 

Where next? There's a great quick read here on CPD for supply teaching!
Check out our resources area here too.

Wellbeing and Being a Supply Teacher

Wellbeing is possibly one of the most important subjects us humans can focus on. Being well, looking after yourself, making sure that you are ok. It isn’t a huge task, a stand-alone thing, but the result of essential things that you can do each day. It needs to be embedded in our daily lives so that is it barely noticeable.

Supply teaching? Take your favourite pencil with you! It's all part of embedding wellbeing into our daily lives.If you don’t feel that your wellbeing is a priority then there are some things that you need to do until it is part of your day to day life. Being part of a gang, finding your tribe is one of the excellent ways that make us content. Many people find this tribe both in and out of work, and this is where having the job of a supply teacher might mean your tribe doesn’t sit every day at work.

Going from place to place without having a dedicated work place means your focus on wellbeing needs to be even sharper. The nerves of new places, new people, different rules can play games with resilience and, in turn, wellbeing, so you need to ensure you are smart about finding your people and your links.

The good news is there is never just you, you might be the only supply teacher in school but there are many of you in many schools. Reach out to each other, share your stories, tales, shock and hilarity. Linking with other humans is an essential part of wellbeing, being kind to others, doing things for others always improves our own wellbeing. When was the last time you felt rubbish making someone else happy? Connect with others, create a positive sense of wellbeing with others, and boost yourself at the same time. See friends, talk, spend time with good humans and your wellbeing will thrive.

Being mindful in the moment is also a great way to focus on wellbeing. Doing something or doing nothing, it really doesn’t matter, but being focussed and thoughtful of your place, feelings and surroundings, how you feel, how you are, means that you can really be in the moment, not racing ahead or worrying about something that has already been. The often chopping and changing nature of supply teaching feels like we are running to catch up and remind ourselves of where we are and our next place. Simple mindful techniques to pull us to the moment ensure that our focus is firm and our wellbeing is at the forefront of our day. The breeze on our face. The smell of the air, the sun on our skin. What can you take into the new places to centre yourself? Your favourite mug for a cup of tea, the tastiest coffee, a good pen, just a moment of joyful satisfaction for your wellbeing and to draw you to a moment.

Think back to a day or an hour, or even just a moment when you felt great, when you thought, Good grief, I really enjoyed that, that made me feel better, happy, content, relaxed. What was it you did that polished your wellbeing well? It’s rarely a huge event, more a series of moments. Can you grab that again? Do it more often? In the world where things cost and everyone wants more, simple acts of positive wellbeing are priceless, and within everyone’s grasp!

By Resident Writer Helen Bradford

Where next? There's a great quick read here on supply teaching with a young family.
Check out our resources area here too.

 

The Family Way – Supply Teaching

So here we are, husband and wife, two point four children and a dog later. Before we had children, I was a supply teacher. I worked all and any days I was asked to, and I would do whatever was needed to get the job done, even if it meant giving up my own time, or providing my own resources. Supply or not, I was always committed to giving the community of children and parents in my care that little bit extra. The very best I could, and it was never too much trouble. I enjoyed being committed, and it was part of the reason why I was asked back to different schools, and had word of mouth recommendations for long term assignments. I prided myself on doing a good job.

And yet. There was a part of me, even then, who wondered how things would change when I had children. How would I balance things? How I would go from being teacher me to teacher me with two children and a dog at home me? I never wanted to be the mummy whose children told her she loved her class more than them. Unthinkable!

So how does one make sure that doesn’t happen?

1. The truth is, you can’t always. Sometimes work, even as a supply teacher, has to take priority and your own children take a metaphorical back seat for a few hours. Back when I had no children, though, I remember a weekend before an Ofsted visit where I worked entirely for free. I was told I would be paid overtime, but of course I never was! My in-laws were visiting, and I spent hardly any time with them at all. These days, I would ensure I got paid. I no longer worry about offending people now I have children of my own (ringing the doctor to push for an emergency appointment has taught me a lot!) and I value my time more. Work sometimes intrudes – that can’t be helped – but don’t do it for free.

2. Think carefully about what works for you and your family before accepting work. Is that long term down the motorway such a great idea? It’s a failing school. Ofsted are looming large, but so is Christmas. A long term now might mean a holiday in the summer, but it might also mean expensive child care, little or no quality time with your family, early starts and late finishes. Only you can decide if it’s worth accepting. The greatest advantage supply offers is its flexibility. For those with young families, it can be a godsend. Staying at home with a sick child, home educating, being able to attend school plays and sports days, these are the perks. Always consider your options with care, and say yes when it’s right and no when it isn’t.

3. It is worth remembering that your children will grow. Sometimes it feels as though I will have under fives forever, but the truth is that they are changing every day and that where once there was a toddler and a baby, now there are children. Growing ones. Scary! As your children grow, your supply availability and teaching profile will change and mature. Where once perhaps you had no experience or interest in nursery, it may look very different through the eyes of a parent with a two or three year old. This is a good way to challenge yourself and provide your own professional development opportunities!

4. School will always be there. Your children won’t be small forever. They won’t need you to to parent them so intensely once they become tweens and teens. They won’t have so many firsts. Babies and toddlers have so many milestones to meet, in swift succession. Enjoy them. Celebrate with them wherever you can. Embrace the freedom that supply offers in that regard, and enjoy it. If you are working on day to day supply, appreciate the extra times that gives you with your children, particularly on the days you are feeling the pinch or wondering if you should look for something more permanent.

5. Be honest. Tell your agency how you are feeling and what your expectations are. If you want to be available for your children during the evenings and weekends, then maybe that long term isn’t for you. Maybe you need another year of short term or day to day contracts. Or maybe you don’t. Only you can know.

And whatever you decide or however you feel, make the right decision for you and your family.

By Resident Writer Jenny Smith
Want more from Jenny? Try this: Work Life Balance: A SAHM’s guide to getting back into supply teaching
Or this: Show Me Show Me Skills!

Top Supply Teaching Tips: Being Professional

As teachers and supply teachers, we are all aware of the Professional Standards in education which set out how we should behave within school. However, being professional is more than that. It is a sad fact that teachers, and those who work in education, are held to higher standards than other occupations. It is very easy for our personal lives to cross over into our teaching career with, sometimes, career ending results. There are, however, a few things we can do to protect ourselves both in and out of school.

Being professional in school

Top Tip 1: Don’t gossip

This might seem obvious but you never know who you are talking to in a school. That friendly face could be a TA, teacher or parent volunteer. Anything said could easily be misunderstood and reported back to your agency, making life very difficult for everyone. Because of misunderstandings, potentially, you might find that you don’t get to work in a professional capacity in that school again. Further advice on working with adults can be found here.

Top Tip 2: Marking work

How much time spent on marking is always a matter of debate. However, in my opinion, it is always a good idea to mark all the work you’ve done and follow the schools marking scheme as much as possible. Not only does this give the class teacher a good idea of how the lesson went but it also helps create a really good impression with the school. This in turn can lead to more work in the future.

Top tip 3: Have work prepared

In most cases work will be left. If not, there is usually someone else you can ask. However, it is always a good idea to have a range of potential lessons or backups available just in case. Not only does this create a good impression with the school but it also reduces the stress of going into a school unprepared. There is a range of emergency lesson plans available here.

Top tip 4: Respect your agency

If you work for an agency it is important to remember they are your employer and not the school. Any issues within the school should be reported to them. Equally, you should not criticise the agency to the school or work direct for a school if you have been sent there by an agency. This article give top tips on developing an effective relationship with your agency.

Being professional outside of school

Top tip 5: Careful use of social media

Supply teachers: top tips for being professionalIt goes without saying that we should all have high security settings on Facebook etc. But did you know that your profile picture is almost always viewable even with high privacy settings? That picture of you on holiday set as a profile picture 3 years ago will be public even when you subsequently change the picture to a more acceptable one.

What about your friends? Anything your friends post will also, potentially, be seen by parents of any school you work in. Ask your friends to also have their privacy settings as high as possible or, better yet, not post pictures of you in the first place.

The golden rule of social media is if you don’t want someone to know it, then don’t post it!

Top tip 6: Nights out

Firstly no one is saying that teachers have to never go out. But it is worth considering whether a wild night on the town is worth the potential for embarrassment, or worse, at school the next day. Consider carefully where you go with your friends. If you know of a particular pub or club which is frequented by parents then probably best to avoid that place and chose somewhere else. If you do find yourself in a situation where there are parents then it is probably safer to keep your distance and not start accepting drinks etc.

And finally…

It can be difficult for teachers who have children to avoid social situations with other parents. Many children go to so many clubs and after school activities that it is almost inevitable that some of your children’s friends will be in a school you work in. This can prove to be a dilemma as you wouldn’t want to be ‘stand offish’ but at the same time you don’t want to risk being too familiar and unprofessional. Really there is no clear answer to this other than to attempt to keep your home life and professional life separate. For example introduce a ‘no work talk’ rule when at parties etc. If parents try to talk about school issues then they need to see you during the normal school day.

None of the advice above should be taken as an instruction to cut yourself off from friends and family. You are still entitled to a life! However, it is worth reducing the risk of embarrassment or accusations of ‘unprofessionalism’ as much as possible.

By Resident Writer Colin

 

Where next? There's a great quick read here on active professional develment!
Check out our resources area here too.

Part time teacher, full time parent

 

Since becoming a part time teacher, full time parent, I, every now and then, take a look at myself in the mirror and remember the person that I used to be. The person I was before I had children of my own. The person who, on a regular basis, slept more than a few hours a night, and went shopping for her own clothes, rather than small ones, and the person who had time to straighten her hair on a regular basis before dashing out of the door.

I miss some of being that person. An occasional lie in would feel amazing, and it would be nice to go out for the evening without worrying about whether or not the children will wake up while I’m not there. I’d love to get my guitar out and twiddle unhindered, without a small audience, or indeed, sit on the sofa and read my very own book. And yet. Yet. I couldn’t go back. Ultimately, she could, and did have to, put other children before her own. And, while some professionals manage to do that very well, and I have a great deal of respect for them for exactly that reason, I am not in that place. Not yet, and perhaps not ever.

Part time teacher, full time parentPart time, or rather supply teaching appeals to a lot of mothers of toddlers and young children. It allows them to exercise their professional skills and still be there for their children, and that appeals to me immensely. Here’s why.

 

Benefits of being a part time teacher, full time parent:

1. Teaching can be all-consuming. I remember a colleague telling me the story of how her son used to say “You love your children at school more than me,” and I used to promise myself that I wouldn’t be that mother. I want to be the mother who is present while my children are small enough to appreciate me. There is time enough as they grow up to change my mind.

2. And…children grow up so fast! Blink and you miss those first few milestones. I have been fortunate enough to be able to see both my children take their first steps, and hear them say their first words, and develop an amazingly close relationship that makes my heart happy. My husband, on the other hand, has often been at work, because that has been the practical arrangement in our household. I remember the times he has, he thought, spotted something new, and it’s actually not. His face says it all. I’m so glad that I have had that opportunity. Many parents do not.

3. I’m sure it’s not in any doubt, but once you have children of your own, they have to become your priority. I think one of the hardest things to deal with as both a parent and a teacher is guilt. That we’re either letting our families down, or we’re letting our class down. Sometimes both. They are all children, and they all do, and all should, matter. I think as a parent with a young family, it is easier to give of yourself in small bursts, preserving much of yourself, and your time and energy for your own children. It’s difficult to balance and weigh up what is important, but supply teaching provides the space to do just that.

4. One of the things that we have had to do as parents is to prioritise what our needs as a family are. We’ve thought long and hard about things we can live without (my husband’s annual travel pass has bitten the dust, and he now commutes by bike). Holidays are few and far between, but less expensive experiences with us as a family are abundant. We make savings where we can, but of course, we are also in tune with the ever changing needs of our family. Once again, supply teaching has advantages for us at the moment for this reason.

5. There are days when, as a parent of young children, you just aren’t at your best. Illness, tantrums, sleepless nights, all take their toll. There are days when you’re glad of an opportunity not to have to dress for the day ahead and put your best foot forward.

Not, of course, that you can just go back to bed and hide under the covers when there’s no call.

By Resident Writer Jenny Smith
Want more from Jenny? Try this: Work Life Balance: A SAHM’s guide to getting back into supply teaching
Or this: Show Me Show Me Skills!

Where next? There’s a great quick read here on PD activities for supply teachers. Check out our resources area here too.