Monday, April 23, 2012

What makes a good supply TL?

Last week's blog post indicated that I'm going to be out of the building for many upcoming days. I'm lucky to have a retired teacher-librarian covering my classes as my supply teacher. (She was actually the teacher-librarian at one of my practicum placement schools when I was a student-teacher in teachers' college eons ago!) I know that I'm leaving the school library, its program, collection and students in good hands.

What does it take to be a good occasional teacher-librarian? This is a tricky question. At my school this year, we've had some concerns with some of the supply teachers we've had in to run our regular classes. We try to hire from our list of regulars, but some are unavailable because they are doing LTOs (long-term occasional assignments) or they are limited in how many days they can work because that will affect their pensions, or they are so good that other schools book them far in advance. We've had supply teachers come in to teach that have spent class time chatting on their cell phones, sitting at the teacher's desk reading instead of helping the students, and showing up late when they were supposed to pick up a class. (I will refrain from telling the horror stories of the supply teacher that initially covered for me before they booked an LTO for my very first maternity leave - let me just say that it was so bad that my fellow teachers were calling me at the hospital to complain about my replacement!)

What does it take to be a good supply TL? Let's first start with what it takes to be a good supply teacher in general. There are a lot of articles in teacher magazines, union publications and websites that provide detailed suggestions. My list is not meant to be exhaustive, or well-researched. Just off the top of my head, I'd suggest:
  • Try to follow the lesson plans.
  • Be there - physically and mentally.
  • Respect the students, the room, and the routines, as best you can.
Being a supply teacher librarian brings an added set of complications. You've got to handle book exchange, often with a computer program you haven't been trained to use. (Heaven help you if the power shuts off and the system goes down!) You've got a variety of classes to cover so you only have 30 or 40 minutes to learn a few names in the group before they leave and another mob takes their place. Most teacher-librarians don't just "teach library" and so you've got to run around to different rooms (like the computer lab) and do a variety of different subjects that you may or may not be familiar with (such as ICT).

I was a supply teacher before I was hired permanently. It was a great experience and one I'd recommend all teachers experience before receiving their own class. Going in "cold turkey" to a new school and class can teach you a lot about classroom management and organization. In fact, it was because I supply taught in several school libraries that inspired me to take my Librarianship Part 1 Additional Qualification course early in my career. (It was also because the course was located close to my house, but I digress.) I hope that the teacher-librarians I covered for back in the past were pleased with my work. Now that roles are reversed, what would I say to supply teachers coming to cover for me?

1) Experience helps, and if you lack it, find a friendly face on staff to help.

I try to indicate in my lesson plans the names of student library helpers or teachers that know how to check out a book or operate the circulation system software. Kudos if you know how. Be cautious but willing to learn if you don't know which end of a scanner is which or the difference between the ISBN barcode and library barcode.

2) Communicate with me.

I had a supply teacher once write "Great plans. Great day. Thanks" on my plans and then I heard from an EA that classes were out of control and the check-outs were all messed up. Let me know if there were any snags so I can try to rectify them when I return. If a lesson went in a different direction than the original intent, that's okay as long as I know how it went.

3) Tidy the library (unless you have no clue what Dewey means).

This links with the third suggestion for regular occasional teachers. A colleague was dismayed to find spilled paint in her cupboard and sticky glue plastered all over the place after a supply teacher taught art with her students. Pushing in chairs is nice. Shelving books is wonderful - IF they are put in the right spot. (Mis-shelved books are a pain to find and re-do properly. Just put them on the book cart neatly if you don't know how to do it.)

No comments:

Post a Comment