Overcoming Key Challenges to Being a Supply Teacher


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Supply teaching offers a unique and rewarding experience for educators, allowing us to gain diverse classroom exposure and flexibility. However, like any profession, it comes with its own set of challenges. In Australia, supply teachers face specific obstacles that can test their adaptability and resilience. This article will explore the top five challenges of being a supply teacher in Australia and provide insights on how to overcome them.

01 | Limited familiarity with students and schools

One of the primary challenges for supply teachers is stepping into unfamiliar classrooms with little knowledge of the students’ abilities, needs, and behavioural patterns. Each new assignment brings a unique group dynamic and learning environment, making it essential for supply teachers to quickly establish rapport and understand the student’s individual requirements.

Tips to overcome this challenge:
  • Arrive early to familiarise yourself with the classroom setup, resources, and any specific instructions left by the regular teacher.
  • Be proactive in introducing yourself to students and show genuine interest in their learning and well-being.
  • Communicate with the regular teacher or school staff to gain insights into students’ needs, behaviour management strategies, and curriculum expectations.

02 | Adapting to different teaching styles and expectations

As a supply teacher, you will encounter a range of teaching styles, lesson plans, and school policies. Adapting quickly to these varying expectations can be demanding, especially when faced with limited time for preparation.

Tips to overcome this challenge:
  • Develop a repertoire of adaptable teaching strategies that can be applied across different subjects and grade levels.
  • Focus on fundamental teaching principles, such as creating a positive classroom environment, engaging students in active learning, and providing clear instructions.
  • Communicate with the regular teacher, if possible, to understand their preferred teaching methods and incorporate them while maintaining your own style.

03 | Managing classroom behaviour

Managing student behaviour is a common challenge for all teachers, and supply teachers face the additional hurdle of limited familiarity with individual students and their behavioural patterns. Adjusting to new expectations and establishing classroom discipline can be a daunting task.

Tips to overcome this challenge:
  • Set clear expectations and classroom rules from the beginning of the assignment.
  • Implement positive behaviour management strategies, such as praise and rewards, to motivate students.
  • Seek support from school staff or administrators when dealing with challenging behaviour or disciplinary issues.
For more information on managing classroom behaviour check out some of our specific resource sheets here.

04 | Limited access to resources

Supply teachers often encounter situations where they have limited access to classroom resources or may need to adapt to unfamiliar teaching materials. This can pose challenges in delivering effective lessons that cater to the diverse needs of students.

Tips to overcome this challenge:
  • Carry a “teaching toolkit” with essential resources, such as lesson plans, activities, and materials, that can be adapted to various grade levels and subjects.
  • Utilise technology and online resources to enhance teaching and provide engaging activities when physical resources are scarce. (If you haven’t already, check out reliefteaching.com for a huge library of free and affordably priced teaching resources designed specifically for supply teachers).
  • Communicate with the regular teacher or school staff to ensure you have access to necessary resources in advance.

05 | Establishing a professional network

Unlike regular teachers who build relationships with students, parents, and colleagues over an extended period, supply teachers have limited opportunities to establish a professional network. This can make it challenging to access support, professional development opportunities, and future job prospects.

Tips to overcome this challenge
  • Attend professional development workshops, conferences, or networking events specifically designed for supply teachers.
  • Seek opportunities to collaborate with other supply teachers or join online communities to share experiences and resources.
  • Develop positive relationships with school staff, administrators, and teaching agencies, as they can serve as references and provide future job opportunities.
Being a supply teacher in Queensland presents unique challenges, including limited familiarity with students and schools, adapting to different teaching styles, managing classroom behaviour, accessing resources, and establishing a professional network.
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