Saturday, 7 March 2015

Being a casual teacher

It's a hard gig being the casual/relief teacher - probably the toughest teaching job going!! You're expected to turn up to a school (if you're lucky you're familiar with it, the staff and students) and take over a class of students for a day. Sometimes instructions, management tips, class and school rules as well as programming and lesson plans have been organised and left for you to follow - but more often than not, you walk into school, are shown what room you'll be in and... that's about it. You're left to sink or swim! 

I've been fairly lucky in my teaching career to pick up contracts for a year at a time - but in between having my boys I have done my fair share of casual work and temp blocks, and in some pretty tough schools and neighbourhoods. Being part of a Facebook group for Casual and Relief teachers has prompted me to write this blog that provides some of my tips, tricks and essentials for surviving the life of a casual teacher:

Pre-packed wheelie-box and teacher bag
Those early morning calls can catch you off guard, and the last thing you want to be doing is running around trying to collect resources for the class you've been allocated. Generally I have my wheelie-box in the boot of my car loaded up with the following:
  • Teacher's bag - You can read more about my "Thirty One Utility Organising Tote" or Teacher's bag here - this is the best bag I have ever come across! Trust me, you'll want one! 
  • Casual Teachers Daily Diary - this will be your best friend. You can write your own plans in there, write in what you did during the day, note down student names, issues you had, resources you used etc. etc. etc. Sometimes I photocopy  my daily plan and leave it on the teachers desk.
  • Variety of casual teacher activity books - have a number of books that have a variety of activities that can accommodate a variety of ages (including pre-school and up to year 7/8). Sometimes you just need to make up a booklet of activities that can be used when kids are restless or finished their set work.
  • Bank of games -if you're only on a class for a day, you don't want to go in with just worksheets (you won't get many calls back no matter how desperate the school is) and the kids will revolt! A bank of indoor and outdoor games will provide movement breaks and a chance for the kids to prove themselves, behaviour wise.
  • Supply of Stationary - ensure you have a set of different coloured Whiteboard markers and an eraser, pens, lead pencils, rubbers and sharpeners, coloured textas, crayons and pencils, sticky tape, stapler, hole punch etc. You will be surprised at how many classrooms you'll turn up to where you can't find any stationary (or none has been left for you). 
  • Toiletries bag - stock up on the essentials to ensure you have everything you need handy - in mine you'll find hand sanitiser, tissues, deodorant (no one wants to be "that smelly teacher"), hair ties and bobby-pins, perfume, hand cream, lip gloss, suncream or a tinted moisturiser (I like Natio's 50+), tampons and pads (no one wants to get caught out when AF shows up unannounced) and probably the most important thing - Panadol! (No explanation needed). Some other things I include in my bag are mascara, powder and a nasal spray/inhaler and cough lollies in winter.
***NOTE: Just be careful with deodorant and perfume if you're going into a Special Education setting, as even the slightest scent can be detected by these children and trigger sensory issues. Same goes for hand creams, lip gloss, hair sprays etc.
  • Rewards - I usually have a variety with me including raffle tickets, marbles, small prizes and lollies. Some schools discourage lollies/junk food as a reward so always have something else up your sleeve. And remember, discuss your expectations, rules, rewards and consequences at the start of the day as this will set the tone with the kids.
  • Name labels - this is more for your own sanity, especially if you've got 3 Chloe's, or 2 Jack's in your class! You can use sticky labels which come in a roll, or get some old business cards and get the kids to decorate them then pin them or stick them to their shirt or desk.
  • A Hat - It doesn't have to be fancy or in style, but it should be comfortable and provide some cover from the rays - you will almost always have a duty, or you may well have to cover for the PE teacher, or get called in to help out at a carnival. It's also good to set the example - if the kids are expected to wear a hat, then so should we.
  • A water bottle - It is very important, especially in an Australian summer, to sip throughout the day to maintain moisture - not only for your general health but also your voice! 
Createl's CRT Weekly Planner

A variety of activity books to cover all ages and all interests.
Some other things that I've learnt over the years:
  • Have a bank of 'teacher appropriate outfits' ready to go. Secondary teachers can often wear nice skirts, tops and shoes but as a casual Primary teacher you're best off going safe with a nice pair of flats, nice pants or shorts and a nice top - when you get that call in the morning you aren't informed if your class will have PE, music, art, swimming etc. so play it safe and go with something smart, comfortable and versatile. If you're working in a Special Education setting you'll need shoes and an outfit that you can run in, as you will be chasing after children, even if it's only in the form of play. For more information on appropriate attire, check out this post which provides links to the DEC's employee dress code.
  • Be prepared to travel. I drove an hour each way for a job one year. While it may seem tough and costly, you will have work and the opportunity to learn and be part of a staff is invaluable.
  • Invest in relevant and useful literature and resources. Some of my favourite books are often found on my bedside table and in my teacher bags. The following books are my go-to texts and ones that are well-used. I can highly recommend these texts.
    • Behaviour Solutions for the Inclusive Classroom - Beth Aune, Beth Burt & Peter Gennaro
    • Classroom Management: A Survival Guide - Deslea Konza, Jessica Grainger & Keith Bradshaw
    • Teaching Children with Reading Difficulties - Deslea Konza

I hope you have found this post helpful. If there is anything that has helped you as a casual teacher, please share in the comments below.


  1. Great tips!!! I wrote a post with my tips for casual teaching too (if you're interested in checking it out)

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge :)

    1. Thanks for stopping by Karrine! Your post was great! Thanks for sharing! Maybe we can get together one time and do a guest post for each other?

  2. What a fantastic blog. I have posted it on my "Surviving Casual Teaching" facebook group. You may like to come over and join, we would love to have your participation in the group. It is great for so many young parents trying to juggle work and home, to know someone else understands. You may also like to check out my website, I make resources for Relief Teachers if you wanted to pop over and have a look.

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  4. Great Blog for Casual Teachers! If you use ClassCover and are tired of living by the phone this is for you!

  5. This blog is really helpful regarding all educational knowledge I earned. It covered a great area of subject which can assist a lot of needy people. Everything mentioned here is clear and very useful.

  6. Thank you for taking the time support relief teachers. Like you said it can be tough balancing casual teaching as a young parent. It's nice to not feel alone when you don't get much of a chance to meet with others in this role. I will be keeping one eye on your blog from now - fantastic advice!

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