Over her six years of teaching, Laura Alice a.k.a ‘The Touring Teacher’ has worked in both supply and full-time teaching roles in London schools (read more about her here). Both options come with pros and cons, and in some situations your ideal role may just come down to finding the right match of school.
If you are planning on teaching in London, are currently doing day-to-day supply or are considering a full-time opportunity and feel unsure about which path to take; never fear! Many teachers have to make the same decision! Laura shares her thoughts to help clarify which could work for you!
If you feel like looking at some roles at Vibe in the meantime check them out here!
Before I moved to London, I was adamant that I would only do supply. There were so many benefits, but I came to find that there were also frustrations.
No staff meetings
This was a biggie! At the end of the day, when all the full-time teachers were walking to the staff room, hastily grabbing a coffee for a zap of energy, I was able to walk out the front door and head home (once my marking was done of course).
Leave everything at work
On supply, you may not be returning to the same class the next day. This means that before you leave at the end of the day, all you need is to have your affairs wrapped up. Make sure the classroom is in order, there aren’t any surprises left behind, and that you have written a note to explain what happened during the day. Then, you are all done.
Normally you would have some extra planning to get done, or need to get something ready for the next day. But in this case, you may leave all that behind and get on with your afternoon. Winning!
Work in different schools
I was able to see many different schools in London, each with their own charm and their own way of doing things. It felt great to be able to see what worked for me and what didn’t. I saw many different behaviour systems and found which ones the students responded to and that I enjoyed working as a part of. I met many children from all different backgrounds, and I learnt what made them tick.
It was very interesting to find out the history behind some of the schools. I taught in one school that opened originally in 1709, and the current building has shelters that were used in WW2! Coming from NZ, I absolutely loved learning about the history.
The ‘M’ word
Marking will always be a part of teaching, no matter what position you take. With supply teaching, I found that I would get a large amount of marking to do, and less time to do it. Sometimes I would take a few different classes in the day, meaning that I had a city of book piles to mark in the afternoon.
But, as long as I followed the marking schedule of the different schools, I was able to get the books marked. Even if I did get a hand cramp…
Lack of ownership & routine
I am a teacher who loves to set up routines in the classroom and have jobs for the students. This is tricky when you are doing supply. I wouldn’t recommend heading into a class and trying to change all the systems that a teacher already has in place for a single day.
It’s important to learn and prepare for how the class operates, and then use your own methods as well if they fit with the existing system. As I was not able to set up my own routines, this made managing the behaviour difficult at times, not impossible, just difficult.
Missing teacher pals
For some teachers this isn’t an issue, but I did miss my teacher pals. We all have them, the ones who have your back, the ones who you share your planning with, and who you chat with over a coffee.
While I was going to different schools, the teaching staff were friendly, and supportive, but for me it didn’t compare to having a solid staff group that you work with day-in-day-out or a community to touch base with at the end of a day.
Full Time Teaching
After a month of doing supply, I had an idea of what suited me as a teacher in London. I found a wonderful school, landed a full-time role and ended up staying for two years. The perks of full-time certainly helped me enjoy my London teaching and travelling experience.
Your own class
It felt fantastic to have a class of my own again. I was able to set the room up in the way that worked for myself and the kids. I was able to establish the rules and routines that we would have, and I had a place to keep all my things. It felt like moving in to a new home.
Of course, like with any class it took time to set up the routines and to establish the relationship with the students, but once I got there, the classroom ran smoothly (for the most part). What I loved the most was having a group of students that I saw every week day, I got to know who they were, what their quirks were, and see them grow and achieve.
As much as I enjoyed seeing different schools, it felt great to be going to the same place each day. I could mindlessly walk to the same station and catch the same train to work. I could walk through the doors, say hello to everyone and chat about our weekends or make plans to catch up for drinks. I would know exactly how I had left my classroom, and where I had left off the day before. I knew where the students were and what we needed to go over again.
It felt very comforting to go to the same school, to the same room, with the same students. It was like the opening theme song to ‘Cheers’… “where everybody knows your name…”
Supply seems great for flexibility, but generally during the first few weeks of the school year schools don’t have a great need for supply teachers and the last weeks of term can be the same. It’s great to be able to have the occasional day off, however I found that not being able to budget easily made it difficult for me to plan and save for travel.
Coming from New Zealand I also came to realise that in London you usually get paid more for full-time roles than for day-to-day supply, which most teachers hold as a huge factor in taking a full-time role.
Opportunities & career progression
When you have your own classroom, you have more opportunities to do different things. You can go on the class trips, take assemblies or have more creativity with the lessons. I enjoy performing arts and as a full-time teacher, I was able to write and direct the plays and productions that we did as a school. I love teaching dance and drama and was getting paid to do it! The chances to work on tasks that you have ownership of and really enjoy are more likely to happen when you are full time teaching.
In a full-time role you also have the opportunity to take on leadership responsibilities. It’s great to build you CV and get a great reference from a headteacher.
With great power, comes great responsibility. Any teacher has great responsibility, but even more so when you go full-time. You head back to those staff meetings, you will be talking at parents’ evenings, you may have paperwork to complete and you will be taking on many tasks throughout your day.
It is a lot of work and as with any job it can drain you at times, but it is all worth it to see the difference you can make in a student’s life!
In trying both supply and full-time teaching I’ve had good and tricky experiences with both. These experiences have helped me grow as a teacher and prepared me for the next steps in my career. Each teacher has their own preferences and holds different things in priority. Whichever path you do take, make sure you find an agency who will find you a good match of school, a role that will help you progress your career as you need it to and a supportive community of teacher pals to help you along the way.
Laura works to Inspire Better Education with lesson videos and resources as ‘The Touring Teacher’. See her website here.
Feeling like a full-time gig? Get some interview tips here.