I’d had enough. I wanted a change from the tiny piece of Australia I lived in. I was 23 and had just completed my first year of teaching. I wanted to work AND travel, and more importantly have fun! Within months I was on a plane with a buddy of mine and left the Australian summer for the English winter – not the only thing I had to adapt to during my time in London.

First day and my nerves were flying; shirt still creased bought from the Primark shop the night before, not knowing at all what to expect. I walked in promptly at 8.30 and saw the classroom which was smaller than I was expecting. It quickly filled up with a stream of children and two TAs. That was when reality sunk in. I was the teacher and I was in charge.

I taught in London for over a year, working predominately as a supply teacher, and experienced many different schools and environments. Occasionally, the students’ behaviour was a bit chaotic but these instances were few and far between. The good behaviour definitely outweighed the bad. It was always exciting going to a new school everyday with no idea what the day would bring – I loved it!

If I could give some advice to new supply teachers embarking on their journey to London I would say:

• Be assertive – don’t let the student in the front row keep talking and set your expectations early
• Be flexible and open-minded – always have work in mind in case none is set and be ready to change your lesson plan if things aren’t working well
• Have a sense of humour – enjoy having a laugh with the kids but set boundaries too
• Respect – show it to them and they’ll show it back
• Have confidence – kids might try and play-up for a supply teacher so show your confidence and authority
• Praise students for good work/behaviour

With supply teaching I think it is important to realise that you are most likely to only be in that class for one day. Do your best to work with what you’ve got and don’t let any hiccups put you off.

I only ever needed one agency and that was SMART, working with my consultant Ben was great; from the directions he gave in the mornings when I got lost trying to find a school, to the support he offered in my first few months of adjusting to life in London. I also enjoyed getting stuck into him about how bad his Tottenham team are!

I learnt more in my year supply teaching in London than I think I could have in five years teaching in Australia. For me, it was a fantastic experience. I not only learned more about becoming a better teacher but I also learned more about myself.

Matthew Said.
Supply teacher 2011 – 2012.
Smart London