I once promised a friend that I’d write this post, and it is written for those who have never experienced what it is like to teach ‘on the road’.
I have been relief (substitute) teaching for four and half years, far longer than most, and to be fair it certainly has had its ups and downs. Waking up every morning waiting for the phone to ring (or not, as the case has been this year), being subject to the whims of often tired, stressed relief coordinators who just need to fill the day’s vacancies, turning up to a school not sure if you have a day’s schedule or not … it is not an easy road.
In the past, I have been criticised, and sometimes openly attacked, because I’m a relief teacher.
The idea, once quite openly expressed on Twitter, was that there must be something wrong with me, or that I couldn’t possibly be interested in working full-time – “The jobs are there if you wanted one” … The truth is that they are wrong, on both counts.
While those people are thankfully few and far between, I have some news for them … I was a relief teacher by choice. Despite the stress and the complexity, I was free to teach, learn, and grow. Unlike some new teachers I know, I came through the hell of my first few years with my teaching spirit intact, and I know I am a better teacher for it.
Tomorrow, I will be visiting a new school.
This time; however, I will be there for a different reason. I have finally found a school which shares and values my vision for teaching and learning with the world through ICT. I knew it existed, but I’m still a little shocked as to where I found it. I don’t mind that its a temporary part-time position, the very fact that I’ve won it is a personal vindication. It is the next step in my teaching journey, and as I hope to start my Masters degree next year, I’m quite happy with how I’m travelling. Everything happens for a reason, even if I don’t know what that reason is just yet!
Most teachers appreciate the work that relief teachers do.
Indeed, the best relief coordinators and Deputy Principals are those who have done relief teaching themselves in the past. But for those who dare to judge us without walking a mile in our shoes, assuming that we are lesser teachers, please re-consider. Our job is far from easy, and every relief teacher has a story. Just remember, … a welcoming smile, a friendly word of advice or teaching tips, a detailed daily work pad, directions to the staffroom … are appreciated far more than you will ever know.
Relief teachers talk to each-other. Schools where the teachers and admin are friendly and supportive are more likely to keep their experienced relief contacts. Those that show they don’t care, through their words and actions, are avoided – and others are warned to stay away.
We repay your kindness and care through our words and actions, and your students, and your school, stand to benefit. After all, we are all in this together.