One of the most important things that a new supply teacher must do when out on assignment is to immediately strike up a connection with students so that their learning experience is not affected in any way. But building relationships in a completely new environment does come with its challenges for a substitute teacher who has to fill the shoes of the person that the pupils have already built rapport with. In our latest blog, we look at some of the ways in which supply teachers can ingratiate themselves with their students as well as some of the key soft skills that are required to become a successful supply teacher.
Building rapport in the classroom
The first pivotal step is to get to know the students. What do we actually mean by this? After learning everyone’s name (which can take a little time given class sizes), to build real rapport, supply teachers need to gauge the interests of the class and seek to discover more about the individual’s circumstances and backgrounds. The other key point as well is to find out about preferred learning styles. Armed with this information, a substitute teacher can then adapt lesson plans to incorporate some of the discoveries as part of the day-to-day curriculum.
As well as focusing on classroom management and behaviours to ensure that everyone feels safe and supported, creating a positive learning environment is a central objective. There are a number of things to consider here, including seating plans, reading corners and the positioning of equipment. Visual displays will also stimulate and facilitate learning, so colourful imagery will help students assimilate what they’re being taught faster, helping with reading or basic maths. Incorporating games will also break things up and make the teaching experience more fun. If there are supplies in the classroom to accommodate any of these teaching methods, it’s likely the pupils are accustomed to them being used, so adapting to use what’s in the classroom will help build a strong connection with students.
But building rapport isn’t just limited to students. From day one at a new school, Trust or academy, supply teachers should introduce themselves (and be introduced) to other staff. The teaching assistants they will be working alongside will know the students very well and can provide a lot of information that will prove beneficial. Similarly, they need to get to know other non-teaching members of staff, all of which will help to create a positive first impression, which will not only help in the classroom but will also boost their chances of being invited back and form a strong foundation for success moving forward.
People relationships key for supply teachers
Let’s consider some of the key interpersonal skills that will help to build rapport and cement those important relationships. Perhaps one of the most important of all attributes is patience, the ability to listen and demonstrate understanding, especially in dealing with pupils who might be struggling with their learning. Inevitably, patience will be tested at some point which is why implementing the right strategies to control the classroom is so important. Even when students might be disruptive, the teacher must always model the right behaviours and stay composed but assertive at the same time.
To be successful in any supply teaching job, professionals must also be organised. This includes arriving at the school early to meet everyone and find out everything they need to know. For example, are there specific requirements or behaviour systems for the class? Do they have to follow certain lesson plans or rely on some pre-prepared ones if this is not the case? They also need to make sure that they leave time for marking and any admin that needs to be done, so time management is important too.
Being able to communicate well with students will also be key to building rapport. A critical skill in any walk of life and job role, it’s particularly relevant in a learning environment when dealing with children and young adults. Delivering engaging lessons comes from the way you speak, the tone you adopt and the calmness or enthusiasm in your voice. This will make you come across as more friendly and relatable, which in turn will help the students feel at ease and want to speak up more, thereby strengthening the teacher-pupil rapport. Communication will also help to transmit your passion for the job, which is another requirement.
Building relationships and rapport with both students and colleagues from the very start will have a huge impact on your success as a supply teacher. It will not only make you stand out as someone that people enjoy working with but the learning experience of the students will also be vastly enhanced.
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