A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life of a Supply Teacher

a supply teacher waking up
6 am

The phone rings, startling you from a deep sleep.  I'm not a morning person, so this is not appreciated.  The automated system goes through the robotic routine of asking you to enter your pin and password, but of course, you are half asleep, so you mess it up a couple of times.  And if you mess it up too many times, they hang up on you.  I'm pretty sure that if you can't get your pin right, they assume, you are not capable of teaching today.  BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME!

Fortunately, I do get it right, BUT, NO, OK, I have less than an hour to wake the kids up, get them dressed, feed them breakfast, make lunches, eat my breakfast, get myself dressed, my hair is horrendous, so a shower is a necessity, and run out the door.  All I can think is, GO GO GO!  I'm a total drill sergeant; not my best moment.

7 am

Phew, the kids are at the sitters, I'm driving my hour drive to work, it's quiet, I have a fun song playing, I'm singing, having a great time, all is good.  Then, the inevitable happens.  Slow traffic on windy roads; definitely can't pass them.  There could be the dreaded km after km of construction; no passing for this girl.  Yet, somehow, I always make it on time.  Good thing I like to be early.

8 am - 3 pm

Things you might encounter as a supply teacher include:
  • "You're not my teacher, you can't tell me what to do!"  The correct response to this is: "I am your teacher today."  This seems to work every time.  They can't really argue with that.
  • No Day Plan (this has only happened to me once in 10 years)!  WHAT!  I'm pretty sure I can't plan an entire day in 30 minutes.   Don't worry.  It's not as bad as it seems.  Just talk to the principal/other teachers/educational assistant/students.  Someone will know what is going on.  You can get the schedule and subjects that are being taught for that day at the office.  Look around the class, you will often find things that students are in the middle of working on.  When all else fails, start your day with silent reading and a reading response.  This will give you a bit of time to find a reliable student to fill you in on what they've been working on and their routines.  Most importantly, have some extra work with you at all times.  You will want to have it for when students finish their work early anyways.  
  • Speaking of free time.  What happens when you don't have extra stuff for the students to do when they are done their work?  You don't want to know.  It can be complete chaos.  The most challenging class I ever had, decided they would be zombies at the end of the day and run around the classroom trying to eat each other.  I've heard of other supply teachers having their shoe laces tied together and then tripping in front of the entire class.  The worst story I ever heard was of a supply teacher whose students opened the window and jumped out of the classroom.  I'm so glad that has never happened to me.  There were days in my first year of supply teaching where I would go home crying.  WHAT WAS I THINKING WANTING TO BE A TEACHER?  If it makes you feel better, after your first year, you get the hang of it.  You figure out what classroom management techniques work the best for you and you go with it.  For me, I am pretty strict right off the bat.  There's no silly business in my classroom.  But, once the students know the expectations, I reward them.  I let them sit with their friends as long as they are on their best behaviour, we play games, we have great, engaging conversations, and I almost always have a great day!  No more crying.

Things you can do with extra time:
  • Play Silent Speed Ball (I always have a squishy ball with me)
  • Fun Art Activities - My students love the Make a Monster Activity (have older students draw their own from the examples or trace them; have younger students cut and paste the monster parts) 
  • Bring Mazes - I like to use a Maze Generator so I can decide how challenging it will be
  • Bring a Crossword Puzzle or Word Search
  • Just Dance - Sometimes we go to YouTube and find a Just Dance episode to put up on the Smart Board.  The kids love it and it's great exercise.  There are also Just Dance Kids episodes
  • Drawing - I have quite a few students who love to draw.  This is a great motivator for students who are reluctant to complete their work
  • Write a story - I'm impressed with the amount of students who love to just write a story on their own time in a personal booklet
Everyday things that students can do when they are done their work:
  • Complete other assignments
  • Silent reading
  • Reading response
  • Read quietly with a peer
  • Play at math centers

3 pm - 4 pm

The quiet car ride home is my time to wind down.  As a supply teacher, you are always ON.  Students are always testing the waters to see what they can get away with.  You need to be sure of what you allow and what you don't allow and stick to it.  If you don't follow through on what you say or change your mind when students challenge you, you will pay for it.  They will often say things like, "Our teacher lets us do this."  If you said, "No," then the answer is, "I'm your teacher today and I do not allow that."

I find it hard to transition from teacher to mom.  When I get home, my kids are tired and I'm tired.  They whine and argue just like any other kid and it's really hard to keep my cool.  At school, you keep a calm facade through all of this because it's your job, but when you get home, you just want to put your feet up and relax for a moment.  I'm still figuring out the balancing act between school me and home me, but I know I will get there one day.

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