Supply teaching has its benefits for sure. I know. I did my share. Although the job is unpredictable, the experience is valuable. What is a day like? The phone rings and you answer. It’s 6:00 a.m. so you know that other than a family emergency, the person on the other side of the line is…Yes! You got it. It’s the school secretary asking if you are available.
What you do after this point will depend on your supplying experience – but my advice is to stay cool as a cucumber. If you are available, say yes.
First Things First
Ask if there is a lesson plan. Don’t count on it every time. If there is no plan, don’t sweat it. You have several choices:
Option 1 – You have followed your TESL training and have accumulated a whole set of activities for every level (yeah…right…), which you pick up on your way to your assignment. Wow! I’m impressed (A+ perhaps?).
Option 2 – You begin to plan ad hoc for what to do. Don’t panic. Re-think your strategy. Your students know more than you think, and you know more than you think.
Low Prep Lessons
You could expand on a previous lesson by having students role-play a previous dialogue in their textbook, or if they don’t have a textbook, on a previous topic. My best ad hoc strategy is picking up a bunch of METRO newspapers on my way to my assignment. For beginners, I ask students to circle nouns or other parts of speech. They can then organize them in alphabetical order, draw pictures to identify the words, or write their meanings. They could also search for synonyms and antonyms. For more advanced levels, I’ve asked students to choose a headline from the newspaper and, without reading the article, make up a news story that could fit the headline. I’ve found that gamifying the task reduces anxiety for everyone. The best part is the spontaneity – the idea that we can improvise content that is meaningful while making it fun.
Some General Strategies:
1. Introduce yourself.
2. Ask students to introduce themselves.
3. Write your name on the board, and make sure you know when and how long their break time is.
4. If a lesson plan is available, follow it to the best of your ability.
5. Make sure to note what was completed, what needs reviewing, and what was not covered.
6. Speak slowly. Students will need time to adjust to listening to someone other than their regular teacher.
7. Record attendance.
8. Write a note to the home teacher. Let the teacher know how much you enjoyed teaching the group, and leave your phone number or e-mail just in case the regular teacher has questions.
What’s the best part of supplying? Well, it’s like being a grandparent. You can enjoy the experience and have lots of fun, knowing the students will be going back to their regular teacher.
Do you have a supply teaching tip to share? I would love to hear it!