Strategies for classroom management as a supply teacher


There are a myriad of reasons for embarking on a career as a supply teacher, not least the fact that industry demand is particularly high at present. With the amount UK schools spend on supply teacher agencies increasing by 18.5% in the past four years and the expected addition of 13,800 new teachers required by 2020/21, it’s clear that the need for skilled, qualified supply teachers is more urgent than ever.

Whether you’re just launching your career as a supply teacher or you are a seasoned professional, you’ll likely need more tools and techniques up your sleeve to meet the growing demand for supply teacher services. With supply teachers working across different schools, age levels and subjects, it’s important to be able to hit the ground running in every new teaching situation.

Here are a few of our favourite strategies to help you excel in your next supply teacher job:

Set the tone from the beginning of the lesson

When you’re starting a new supply teacher assignment, it pays to arrive at your new school – and classroom – early, for many reasons. The first is to familiarise yourself with school procedures, such as behaviour policies and health and safety regulations. If your new classroom has a seating plan, run through it and practice the pronunciation of student names. Examine lesson plans and notes left by previous teachers, setting up the whiteboard and other teaching resources according to your preferences. There may be behavioural management strategies in place or other important information about students, along with disciplinary action plans that apply to the whole classroom. Learn these and adhere to them – the regular teacher will likely have gone to great lengths to implement such policies, and you’ll help to assert yourself sooner if you stick to the same rules.

Set the tone with your new pupils from the moment they enter the room by greeting them with confidence – and a smile. You’ll want to assert your authority while also coming across as approachable. Be firm but fair, and be prepared to ‘wing it’ as required – students can sense weakness or fear in supply teachers, so you’ll need to appear calm and composed at all times.

Have a contingency strategy if there are no lesson plans

In an ideal world, supply teachers will always be met with up-to-date notes on student behaviour and progress, along with detailed lesson plans. However, there will be times when unexpected or unplanned teacher absences leave you without guidelines on how to run your lesson. In these situations, it’s vital you’re prepared with your own resources to lead the classroom. Activity books, extra stationery, curriculum guides and games are all important to have in your supply teacher kit – and if you can read up in advance to stay fresh on curriculum expectations for your year level and subject, you’ll feel even more prepared walking into the classroom.

If there’s a teaching assistant in your class, ask them to help guide you on lesson plans and where the classroom is at. Always have time-filler activities in the back of your mind to help transition from quiet periods. Spelling games, group story-telling, news discussions and mathematics games like Around the World can all help to liven up a classroom running out of things to do.

Explain your expectations and don’t budge on them

Discipline can be particularly challenging as a supply teacher, where students can feel tempted to act up and see how much they get away with. Set your expectations for the classroom from the get-go, and deal with every problem as it arises. If students see you letting them get away with behaviour they would normally be pulled up on, you can quickly lose control of the classroom. Instead, be diligent with discipline, even if it’s as simple as addressing someone when they are being disruptive by reminding them that it’s another student’s time to talk.

Enjoy it!

Supply teaching can be challenging, but so rewarding. You’ll encounter many students who you can help in different ways, leaving your mark on classrooms and schools alike. And don’t forget to communicate your feedback to teachers and your supply agency! 

At Tradewind Recruitment, we thrive on finding the right education employment opportunities for teachers and support staff across the UK. For your next opportunity, click here to view our latest jobs.