Secrets to getting the best from your supply teaching
Secrets to getting the best from your supply teaching

Psssst! These are our sacred secrets to getting the best from your supply teaching.

Pre-bookings vs early morning calls – There are two types of work when you’re a supply teacher, pre-booked and non-pre booked. Pre-booked supply work means you’ll be aware of the school you’ll be going to before you go, which gives you time to get up in the morning prepared and get on your way ahead of schedule. Non-pre booked work is what it says on the tin – you’ll essentially be on call to save a school that needs help that day or week! Not up for a call at 7.30am? Make sure you tell your agency what time you want to receive calls from – if you’re not on a pre-booked day but you’ve let your agency know you’re available that day, be prepared to answer the phone early!

Give it your all – This goes without saying but giving it your all on assignment is really important. Turn up on time, turn up looking sharp and turn up with a smile on your face. An enthusiastic supply teacher gets rebooked which in turn gives you consistency in your work. Win-win.

Take work with you – In some cases, your work will be planned for you, in others, it won’t. It’s best to plan for the latter, just in case – let’s be honest, games only get you so far when you’re teaching. Think on your feet if lessons go off task, a great supply teacher is able to complete lessons on time and feedback to the classroom teacher of achievements and objectives hit by their students.

Enter the staff room – Don’t think because you’re a supply teacher that you aren’t part of the staff at a particular school – relief staff play just as important a role in a school as everyone else as they keep students on track. Spending time with the staff is important to building relationships, which makes going back to a school a positive experience and not a daunting one.

Feedback – Feedback might be your worst nightmare, but really it should be your best friend. Feedback allows you to receive praise as well as understanding where you need to improve. Supply teaching gives you the opportunity to gain continuous feedback from different headteachers and school managers, which can put you in great stead to finding more work.

Find the loos! – The best piece of advice for someone going to a new school for a supply day is to find the toilets – don’t get caught short.

Impressions – First date dos and don’ts apply when you go into a school for the first time, look sharp, smile, be friendly – it’s the trifecta of ensuring a successful day at a new school.

Teach beyond your subject – Teaching beyond your subject is a great way to not only expand your knowledge base, it ensures you get more work and shows your experience.

How to be a star supply teacher

How to be a star supply teacher

There are two ways to get supply work, pre-booking with your agency or letting them know you’re available and waiting for a call. Here are our top tips being the best supply teacher you can be so you get the best exposure.

Choosing your agency

If you decide to start supply teaching, don’t register with loads of agencies – it’ll only end up creating more work for yourself submitting timesheets and letting everyone know you’re available for work and dealing with multiple companies calling you each morning.

Do your research, every agency offers different things – we offer loads of perks, from free CPD every month to life support to help you transition into a new role.

The early bird catches the worm

As a supply teacher, if you haven’t pre-booked work for a week, but you’ve let your agency know you’re available for work, it’s best to be up and ready to rock bright and early – just in case. We might call at 7.15 or 8am with a booking that we want you to go to, and the quicker you’re on site getting the class ready the better!

First impressions

When you arrive at a daily supply booking, make sure you introduce yourself to staff – it will make you stick in their minds. You can use these interactions to find out about the class you’re teaching as well as the rules for behaviour in the school and get your timetable.

Request schools you like

If you find yourself really enjoying work at a particular school for a day, request it again! Your agency are on hand to respect what you’re looking for from your work, so if they know you enjoyed it, they’ll try to get you booked in there again.

Be passionate

Passion goes a long way – remember why you do supply. You keep children on track and keep their days consistent so they can keep learning.

Work hard

This goes for pretty much every job you could ever have in any industry, but it’s particularly important for teaching and supply teaching. You’ve got to plan lessons, mark students work, sometimes attend meetings, keep your classrooms clean and tidy and have great communication skills.

Hacking Student Learning: 12 Neuroscience Tips for Teachers

Hacking Student Learning: 12 Neuroscience Tips for Teachers

No matter how different and independently minded each of us is, there’s something we all have in common. That’s the way our brains have evolved and developed. Throughout our evolutionary history, certain thought patterns and responses have developed to ensure we carry out tasks in the most efficient and productive way. These responses keep us safe from harm and ensure we capitalise on opportunities. Neuroscience is the study of such brain patterns.

By understanding the built-in ways our brains respond, we can start to ‘hack’ into the way people learn, develop and improve.

So here are 12 neuroscience principles to back up your work in the classroom.

1. Primary and Recency Effects

When we’re given a load of information, it’s far easier for us to recall the first thing and the last thing we see. These start and stop points punctuate our information intake, making it easier for our brain to stick a mental bookmark in these positions. What comes in the middle is not so easy to pick out, as it merges into the whole experience.

For example, in a football league, you’ll certainly be able to remember which teams came first and last but it won’t be as easy to reel off all the positions of the teams in between. When it comes to teaching, you can use primary and recency effects to place the most important take-home information at the start and the end of the lesson. To that effect, we’ve placed one of the most important things we remember at the end of this list.

2. Originality

Ever wondered how it is we can recall all the details of crazy stories that happened years ago but not the everyday things that happened recently? In neuroscience, this is known as salience, where our attention is drawn to what is novel.

The films we find boring are the ones that are predictable. The experiences we love are the ones where we got to try something different and unusual.

The same applies to lessons. Always conform to the same rules and approaches and the ability to remember them will become dampened. Cliche approaches will start to get tuned out because they’ve been seen and heard before and the brain assigns lesser importance to them. However, by striving to always add an original element, you will go down in school history.

3. Simplicity

It’s a very simple truth that the brain prefers to think about things that are easy to think about. This is known as cognitive fluency. As soon as any complexity is added, it’s harder for the brain to process. When faced with multiple objectives, this is distracting and it becomes harder to focus on what’s important.

The average brain is able to store between 5-9 chunks of information within in the short term. This is known as working memory. Too many chunks can cause the loss of focus and impair decision making. It’s called decision fatigue.

To illustrate this point, a taste experiment was done with jam. One tasting group had six flavours to try and another group had sixteen flavours. The group with just six choices went on to buy 33% more jam than the other group who had to decide between many more flavours. This goes to show simplicity and memory recall ease the decision-making process.

On that basis, students can be assisted by ensuring lesson structures never overload their working memory beyond capacity.

4. Contrast

We are naturally primed to spot things that stand out. From an evolutionary perspective, we are drawn to colourful fruits that want to be eaten and warned by colourful animals that really don’t. It’s the contrast of colour against backgrounds that draw our focus and guide our decisions. Of course, the converse is camouflage, where things slip by unnoticed. For example, just imagine how effective road signs would be if they blended into the surroundings. They are specially designed to stand out and be noticed.

Contrast to learning is what the shiny object is to a magpie. That’s why the design and presentation of key information are important. If the main point is to be taken in, it must visually stick out in relation to its surrounding information and be given plenty of space to shine through. That’s space in time as well as physical space. For important points to really sink in, the subconscious mind needs time to digest them before being surpassed with new information.

5. Visual

Associations Our brain makes sense of things through visuals. We don’t dream in text and numbers, we dream in pictures. If you think about it, written language is really just visual pattern recognition anyway.

Much of our memory is associative through visuals. That’s where the power of mental associations exists. It, therefore, stands to reason that if you want to leave people with a lasting impression, provide a visual experience that can easily be recalled.

Many people have discovered the benefits of using ‘Memory Palace’ techniques to associate a prominent visual with each piece of information to remember. The same premise can be used by attaching strong image associations to key topics to be remembered.

6. Relevancy

Our emotional associations can powerfully shape our actions. Personal experiences are more easily recalled than incidents that happened to others. This is known as an availability bias. We remember own actions better than we remember others.

The secret to getting people to care about something is to ensure they are able to frame it in such a way that puts them in the picture and has some sort of implication to their own life. A simple trick to achieve this is to always ask the question, ‘so what?’ So what forces you to dig down and find the reason something personally relates beyond superficial understanding from descriptions or statistics alone.

Learning new information can often be seen as a chore if not by choice. This is because it can feel like filling your head with knowledge without really knowing the reason why. We have no reason to be fond of something when we don’t understand its purpose. This is called an affect heuristic (a mental shortcut), where the degree of attention given is based on whether something is liked or disliked.

If however, we can clearly understand the relevancy of information in terms of why it matters in the real world, it no longer feels like blindly learning but feels more like preparing. Relevancy is the fuel for motivation.

7. Analogy

We deal with almost everything that happens to us by comparing ongoing events with past experiences. We don’t always know we’re doing this as it mostly occurs in our subconscious. When something new comes along, we look for this past reference to make sense of it.

That’s the beauty of analogy. Analogous situations provide a situation that we already recognise. They make the strange familiar. It’s a wonderful shortcut to learning as you just need to associate with already well-established knowledge. Tough topics become far easier to grasp once you can draw parallels with familiar situations.

Perhaps remembering a historical figure could be easier once likened to the actions of a modern celebrity? Maybe maths problems can make more sense when numbers are restated as physical objects in the real world situation? Analogies can be found by asking ‘what does this situation remind me of?’. You’ll begin to find ways of helping students relate the topic to a more familiar context to them.

8. Fun and Games

When we perform synchronised activities such as singing songs, playing games or even a simple act such as walking together, we feel more connected to the people we’re performing these activities with.

This means we begin to look out for each other more and care about each other’s achievements. That’s why playful activities in the classroom are not merely just fun but instrumental in generating a culture of positive success.

9. Repetition

We often decide the relative importance of issues by how easily they are retrieved from memory. More frequently mentioned topics persist in our memory and bubble up to the surface much more readily. This is known as the familiarity principle. It causes us to feel more positively about things we are more frequently or consistently exposed to. Ever had a song that you didn’t like at first but has since ‘grown on you’? That’s the reason. It’s a very simple principle to bring into the classroom; the more vital something is to remember, the more often you should bring it up in lessons.

10. Involvement

If you’ve ever built your own flat-pack furniture, you’ll know the effort it takes to cobble it together then the reward you feel when it’s stood in pride of place. This is called the Ikea effect. The more effort we put into an activity, the more we value it.

When it comes to the classroom, this is the power of involvement. Passive learning is less effective than when someone has a chance to experience it for themselves and take pride in the outcome. This is where project-based learning really comes into its own. Even small-scale activities can boost this sense of achievement and create a stronger connection with the lesson.

11. Positivity

Almost a third of our brain is dedicated to scanning for negatives. In evolutionary terms, this is our safety net to avoid dangerous situations. It means negative emotions and bad feedback have a stronger impact and are processed more thoroughly than good emotions and feedback. The result is we are driven more to avoid losses than achieve gains. We won’t stick our necks out if we fear disapproval or negative repercussions.

With that in mind, you can appreciate the need to place more emphasis on a positive environment. A positive environment is one where we feel freer to experiment and enjoy learning in a variety of different ways. Positivity puts us in a better frame of mind. It’s called a mood heuristic, whereby a better mood increases our enjoyment and satisfaction level. The more we enjoy learning, the more we want to learn.

12. Storytelling

Ever seen a child uninterested in a toy until another child starts playing with it? Then all of a sudden they are desperate to have it. This is called mimetic desire, which simply means, we want what others have. We are more likely to do something when we see someone else do it first.

That is the real secret of storytelling to influence behaviour. We see an action taking place and we want to put ourselves in the picture. Instead of dry information, a story narrative pulls us in an enables us to identify the situation. The stronger the story, the more importance we attach to the subject. We also become more confident when the story comes easily to mind. All that adds up to a powerful learning experience.

Now over to you. How you currently weaving these principles into your lessons? Where else could you tap into the ways students think and further influence their learning?

10 tips to being a star teacher


10 tips to being a star teacher!


Work-life balance tips

Work-life Balance tips

As a day of teaching ends, the preparation for the next begins. It’s the circle of teaching.

With all this prep, marking, reporting and planning to do, it’s important to maintain a work-life balance – but what does that mean exactly? Teacher burnout is a commonly used phrase in the education world which doesn’t really have a proper definition, it’s subjective from person to person. One person may be exhausted physically, another may feel unmotivated. While it’s great to love your job, it’s important to realise that you need to give as much as you take.

Here are a few ways to prevent teacher burnout:


Identify what matters to you the most; family, work, friends, health, interests and hobbies. This is a great exercise to look at the bigger picture about what you’re focusing your time on. Do you want to make sure you have a healthy dinner tonight and prepare a decent lunch for tomorrow? The solution is simple: head home on time and get cooking! If you’ve been feeling lethargic during the day, why not set your alarm earlier and head to the gym or for an early morning run? Are you missing your friends because you’re ‘always busy’? Set a date for dinner and stick to it!

‘Me’ time

‘Me time’ is so important – this is the time you can really zone out, forget what’s going on at work or in your social life and focus on yourself. Take a long bath, read a book, meditate, watch your favourite movie. You’ve got to give back to yourself for giving so much each day to your students!

Identify stress

Understanding your body and mind’s’ reaction to stress is one of the key factors to minimising it. Do you sweat when you’re stressed? Do you tend to give up when you’re stressed? Do you take it out on your colleagues, friends or family? Identify, decide, action and maintain – what is in your control and what’s not? If you’re really feeling it, tackle your work in digestible bits.

Be positive

Being positive can be tough when you’re stressed, but by taking small steps to allow yourself more of a work-life balance, you’ll start to understand how important it is. Having a positive attitude is half the battle! If you look on the bright side, have a ‘glass half full’ mentality towards your problems, you’ll be much more open to solving them.

Talk to people

Remember – you’re not alone! Friends and relatives are a phone call away, join teacher support groups on Facebook, read forums. It’ll become apparent that you’re not the only one feeling stressed. Speak to the management in your school, or your peers. Sometimes, the best remedy is a good old moan!


Essential teacher life skills

Essential teacher life skills

Life skills are something which carry through to every aspect of your life. When you teach, there are a few obvious life skills you need in order to do it well; time management, problem solving, presentation skills and conflict resolution. But have you considered the other types of life skills that might also be pertinent in a teaching role?

Integration and friendship

It’s important to integrate yourself in any new situation well, whether you’re an international teacher whose relocated to England to teach, or if you’ve just taken the plunge and found a job in a new school. Making friends is the key to ensuring a happy and successful time in a job, after all, you spend a lot of your time at work! It’s also important to make sure you have a support network outside of work, too.

Being empathetic

Empathy is an important part of teaching. You need to be able to read people and react accordingly and understand that pupils are human. For example, if one of your students isn’t working very hard one day, maybe look past this and find out why. Recognising that someone is upset or down is a good way to show them you care and it shows them that they can trust you.


Did you know there are 37 types of special educational needs which you should at a minimum be aware of? Recognising and identifying behaviours associated with a special educational needs is vital when dealing with your students. You may experience students with EBD, BESD, ASD, HI/VI, PMLD and SEMH and these should all be dealt with differently. For example, children with Autism generally respond better to schedules and consistency. Children with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties could respond better to humour or “planned ignoring”. There are lots of resources on the internet to help, or you can take advantage of our free SEN courses. You should also take into consideration children’s learning styles when teaching, too. With 7 types of learning styles, it’s always important to note that some children may react differently to topics or activities. One pupil may not enjoy or actively take part in a kinesthetic activity because they learn in a more visual way.


Finally, being flexible in your role is key! You need to be able to adapt yourself to each situation, whether that be child meltdowns, troubles with peers or changes in approach. Fearing change can hinder you both short and long-term, it’s inevitable.


Secrets of teaching: The personal relationship between you and each pupil

What they don’t tell you when you are training is the personal relationship between you and each pupil.

You could be the most knowledgeable teacher in the world but it doesn’t matter a jot if you don’t earn the attention of your classes.

The fundamentals of teaching a class are just like the psychology of communication when it comes to human to human interaction, the number of people you are interacting with or indeed their age does not matter as humans learn and need the same things to switch them onto the person interacting with them.

Here are some tips to enrich your engagement:

Eye Safety

When we are born the first thing a baby does is look for faces, it is one of our pre-programmed innate intelligences and the phrase ‘the eyes are a window to the soul’ is very true. The way it works is simple, our emotions and feelings are built around our eyes, not just our pupils but the eyebrows and our laughter lines are great storytellers. Whether we mean this or not it is hard to hide so tip one is to always be aware of how you feel and what you are conveying to your pupils as it can make or break your lessons.

Nonverbal communication

It is not just our eyes, 70% of how we communicate is nonverbal. You know when you go on a date or have a meeting and your friend asks ‘How was it?’
You reply ‘It was good but there is just something not quite right so I won’t pursue it’
We are instinctive creatures and have a lot of depth to our instincts for a very good reason, our instincts keep us safe and they also sniff out opportunity, weakness and danger. You want your classes to not just feel safe but also to feel engaged, watched and aware of your presence. To accomplish this you need to have awareness of your body language, to stand with open arms, to invite people in to contribute not push them away or make them fear responding to you.

Your Voice

Our tone of voice tells the truth even when our word do not. Being aware of how you say things is just as important as what you have to say. 50% of the world, like me, will be affected more by the tone you speak in than the words you say and 50% will take onboard the words you say more than how you say it. In the middle is the energy of your classroom, be aware of your tone and consider what makes you, you. As an example for me my tone tends to be friendly, helpful and assured and when I need to make a point or am frustrated then it will become more direct. The tip here is not to think you have to be super friendly and OTT positive all the time it’s more about being aware of your general tone and making sure your voice is not pulling down the quality of a great potential lesson.

Psychology teaches us all sorts of life skills, true life skills. One of the keys to succeeding as a teacher is how you take your pupils along the journey of learning which starts and ends with how much they are bought into you a as a guide.

We help all our teachers – and those considering becoming one – with life planning, professional planning and making sure they aren’t the cause of holding themselves back!