Relief Teaching: A Substitute Career in Education

relief teachingRemember those sought after days in elementary school when your regular teacher was absent and a relief teacher instead supervised you? A relief teacher rarely knew the lesson plan and often arrived with a television and movie station, or books to quickly pass the time until the last bell rang. Relief teachers, as I remember, rarely knew the standard lesson plan, and were often forced to use extreme tactics while ensuring that our safety (and her own) weren’t compromised. Constant sufferers of spitballs, class disruption, and schoolyard taunting, relief teachers often feel the brunt of the pain when a regular teacher is absent.

Known in some parts of the world as substitute teachers or guest teachers, the relief teacher’s duty extends far beyond the basics of reading and arithmetic. These brave souls continually play the role of disciplinarian and entertainer, and are often overlooked as very important members of society. If you are seeking a career as a relief teacher, or are embarking on your first job wrangling another teacher’s students, check out Classroom Management Essentials so that you can better handle your new and unfamiliar classroom and its (sometimes unruly) occupants.

Benefits of a Career in Relief Teaching

A career in relief teaching can offer many of the benefits of full-time teaching, while also providing the relief teacher with more free time to pursue outside interests or another career. Relief teachers also require less advanced education than regular full-time teachers, and often only need a college degree and some additional certification depending on the location. While a master’s degree in education is required (at least in the United States) to become a full time teacher in the public school system, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for those seeking a career in relief teaching. As a relief teacher, you can also pursue a career teaching online while simultaneously managing your relief teaching duties.

For information on how to become a successful online instructor, look into Dr. Wing Lam, Dr. Mamata Bhandar, and Dr. Amy Wong’s Faculty Guide to Online Teaching, and let them help you decide if teaching online is right for you. Besides teaching online, relief teaching can allow you more time to pursue your other hobbies and interests, and can also provide you with the opportunity to work with a number of different students from a variety of backgrounds.

A Short Guide to Relief Teaching

As a relief teacher, you’ll often be called on very short notice to replace a sick faculty member for a few days or less. Other temporary teaching assignments may last longer depending on the availability of the full time teacher that you’re replacing, and may require a higher degree in education. Nevertheless, relief teaching can be fun and exciting, and with these few simple tips and tricks, you’ll be well on your way to expanding the minds of younger generations for years to come.

1. Plan Ahead

Relief teachers are often called early in the morning of the day needed and are asked to be on-call regularly. If you know what district or what group of schools you might be asked to assist, make sure you know where they’re located and how to get to them on time. Arrive to your location early and try to be ready and in your classroom before your students arrive.

2. Be Upfront

Write your name on the chalkboard and take attendance when your students arrive. Make sure they understand your rules and the classroom rules, and make an effort to learn their names if you can. Anthony Metivier’s How to Memorize Names and Faces can help you to quickly learn your new students names and faces using a variety of methods including the classic method, the magnetic memory method, and the weakest method. Learning your students’ names is important not only to help them feel important and noticed (It feels good when someone calls you by name, doesn’t it?) it can also serve as an excellent tool when reporting the day’s activities to their regular teacher.

3. Be Prepared

Like a good student, a teacher should arrive to class prepared. Don’t expect to have a lesson plan or notes from the classroom’s regular teacher. Relief teaching requires an awful lot of ingenuity and creativity when it comes to keeping students occupied. Depending on the age group you’re working with, a quick search online can offer lots of short projects and activities to get you through the day with this new group of kids. It also doesn’t hurt to bring a bag of books to read to your students if you’re at a complete loss; everyone loves hearing their favorite stories aloud. Allow your students to draw quietly at their desk while you impart the adventures of Robinson Crusoe, or the story of the Little Princess.

4. Bag of Tricks

It’s good to keep a few tricks in your back pocket, especially if the teacher you’re replacing for the day didn’t leave you any notes. Check out Steve Reifman’s The Ultimate Mystery Writing Course for Kids (for kids ages 8-12) and share some of the author’s tips for creating a great mystery story. Have your students work through the process of story writing, and let them come up with illustrations for their story too. If you’re more technologically inclined, and in a school district with computer access, check out John Bura’s Kids Coding Beginner HTML course. While you may work in multiple classrooms each week, you never know what might spark a child’s interest, and it helps to have lots of activities on hand to keep their minds moving.

5. Relax

Not knowing what the day may bring is common for relief teachers. Make sure to relax before you start your day and try to keep an even countenance throughout the day. You aren’t there to harshly discipline or solve all of the world’s problems; you’re just there to teach your students something new and keep them from harming themselves and others.

Relief teachers are often asked to go above and beyond the job of a regular full time teacher. They often face behaviorally challenged students, and absentee lesson plans. A position in relief teaching can enable you to pursue other interests, can free up your summertime months, and increase your exposure to many different kinds of people and learning environments. Relief teachers are the ones who step up to the plate when a classroom’s regular teacher has fallen ill. A relief teacher is frequently prepared to step into uncharted water; they are brave and always ready to face the day with a positive attitude and outlook. If you’re looking into starting your career as a relief teacher, and are currently applying to undergraduate or teaching programs, look in to Gene Ramos’ College Admission Success.

If you’d like to learn more about teaching courses online, look into Brian McCabe’s How to Find College/University Online Teaching Jobs. Whatever route you take, remember that the impact you have on a child’s life is potentially huge. Relief teaching is just as important as teaching in a full time position as it can encourage creativity, can teach new things, and it offers an excellent opportunity to relax and unwind during the warmer months of the year.