Occasional teaching is great...except when it isn't.

As a supply teacher, I get to go into a lot of different schools and cover a lot of different classes. In turn, I encounter many different people, lots of new ideas and strategies, and get to push the boundaries of my comfort zone. I've supplied in all three elementary divisions, congregated special education classes, and covered for SERTs and core French teachers. I've often been pleasantly surprised by teaching assignments I initially had reservations about. I think it makes me a better teacher to have such a wide variety of experiences and I have learned so many things from supply teaching that I never would have had an opportunity to learn in a more permanent role.

Of course another advantage is that I can go home at the end of the day and not bring work home with me. I don't have to do any marking or report cards, communicate with parents, attend staff meetings, and if I have a particularly stressful day, I know that I will be somewhere else tomorrow. Each day is a new day with a whole new set of challenges and opportunities.

But that can be hard. I often don't know when or where I am working until the night before or morning of. The phone can go off at the crack of dawn or while I'm spending time with family and friends in the evening. Missing a phone call could mean missing out on a whole day's pay. I'm completely tied to my phone. I'm driving all over the region, a new school everyday, 25 new names to learn, and totally different routines. I often don't know where I stand, what the teacher is expecting, or how administration will support me.

Occasional teaching can also be very isolating. I don't have a staffroom to relax in, colleagues to socialize with, a principal to provice feedback and support, a school community to feel apart of. Most schools are very welcoming and supportive of OTs, but sometimes you can feel left out, even when it is not intended. On rare occasions, you can even feel like a second class teacher. I may have the same qualifications as the classroom teacher, but I'm just a supply teacher. The perception seems to be that supply work doesn't count for much. I feel for those teachers that have made a career of supply teaching.

I love my job, but a bad day can leave a very bad taste in one's mouth. Luckily, these experiences are few and far between and the majority of schools treat us very well. Thank you to all of the teachers, administrators, and members of the public that support what we do!

Laura Kathleen
10/28/2011 5:48pm

Jessica - I think you make some very valid points! I also think a lot of time the way people treat you can be based on how you present yourself. Whenever I'm at a school, I sit at the main staff table (I find usually there is a big table and then a couch area) and for some reason the other supply teachers usually sit on the couches, secluded from everyone else. I chat with the other teachers as if I'm a permanent teacher there, and as a result, usually make great connections! While I find occasional teaching to be challenging some days, I ultimately LIKE that I'm constantly having to be flexible and think on my feet, since those two characteristics are critical to being an effective teacher - contract or occasional. Nice post!

Jessica Mavin
10/28/2011 11:21pm

Thanks for your comment Laura! I certainly agree that our experience in a school is shaped by how we present ourselves. However, despite making connections with staff members on a day to day basis, I think feelings of isolation can still creep in because we lack a deeper connection with colleagues. We don't have the camraderie of being part of a staff team.

11/23/2011 12:29pm

Jessica, I just found this blog now...I love it! Thank you for the comments speaking to this. It's so true that certain schools can make you feel so isolated! I work at one school most of the time, and it's there I feel the most welcomed and a part of the school community. I even had one student say to me on day: "Miss, you're a supply teacher? But you are here like everyday!" haha..it was funny.


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