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Supplies Supplies

We all remember (ok maybe only those of us over 40!) the dating show where contestants hid behind a screen answering questions in order to secure a luxury date with the individual on the other side of said screen. Liverpudlian host? Our Graham and his quick reminder? 

Because it was a “blind” date the “picker” couldn’t see if the “long blonde hair” was bleached yellow or was thinning on top! They couldn’t confirm if the “sparkling blue eyes” were permanently crossed or if the “good sense of humour” was destined to become immensely irritating after the first hour. 

It was a game largely based on chance and surprises.

A bit like supply teaching. 

Cate Supply

These days I am cynical. I always do a quick Google search before agreeing to an assignment (modern-day perks!). But even that quick glimpse is often not the full picture. 

The website shows happy, smiling children and relaxed staff in pristine school grounds. They talk of friendly, welcoming communities and high expectations.

As a teacher of 20 years, I can promote the profession with the best of them. I know which kid should stand at the front in the choir because they know the words. I know who I should send to the high school as a music ambassador and who I can trust with visitors. I know which drums should appear in any press photos and swiftly hide the ones held together with gaffa tape and elastic bands! 

So I NEVER take a school at face value. Instead, as a supply teacher, I give every school a chance. 

But what am I really hoping/looking for?

Here are my Supply Dating questions:

Q1. It’s our first date and we’ve just met. I’m stressed because I couldn’t find a parking space and I’ve never been here before. How do you greet me and how would you make me feel welcomed, wanted and relaxed? 

Q2. We’ve been spending time together for an hour or so but my drink is empty and I’m beginning to flag energy-wise. What can you offer me as a way of perking me up and catering to my needs? 

Q3. It’s your turn to plan the date. I’m all for spontaneity but I ask for some vital information before we set off. Did you provide that for me and how much of a heads up will you give me? 

Q4. At some point on our date, it is clear I’m not really enjoying/managing the activities. How would you support/encourage me? 

Q5. It’s the end of our date and I’m feeling a little mixed about whether I’d like a second outing. How do you convince me to give you another shot?


  • Is everyone welcoming and helpful? Does reception know I’m coming and where I’m meant to be? Is there someone to show me around? 

  • Where do I get a drink? Go to the loo? What’s the plan for my downtime? Have you thought about whether I have duties or marking loads that might go over my contracted hours?

  • Is the planning and resourcing adequate and is it clearly explained? Do I have EVERYTHING I need for the lesson? Am I aware of all the needs of the class and different requirements? Have you given me this information in a timely and organised manner? Are any support staff briefed about what their role is? If I have to tell them have you given me the details? 
  • Have you been HONEST about the difficulties and challenges of the class or topics? Don’t throw me to the wolves! I need support. I’m not just human cannon fodder for your trickiest class! Tell me what I’m facing and offer me solutions, help or even just sympathy!
  • I got through the day. I enabled your school to function. I enabled other teachers to teach and I kept the class safe and productive. I fulfilled my end of the deal. If you are satisfied please tell me. If there is an issue please TELL ME. How you end the contracted day plays a BIG part in my lasting impression of the school. If I’m dismissed without a “thank you” or “hopefully we’ll see you again” or even a “Next time it’d be great to see X, Y, Z if that’s ok but thanks for your time and efforts today!”. I have sat in schools marking until the caretaker kicked me out and NOT ONE STAFF MEMBER has checked on me, said goodbye or said thank you. 

We do not know, as supply teachers, what is behind the screen! It could be the love of our lives. It could be our worst nightmare. 

When we accept an assignment we place our faith and goodwill in the hands of our agent and, ultimately, the school.  It is a terrifying, anxiety-inducing process. It requires bravery, tenacity, versatility, performance skills, endless energy, learning capacity and a hide like a rhino! 

Remember: that chirpy, positive supply teacher is out of their comfort zone 100% of the time! Be kind! 

Make sure there are no dud dates, no blind panic and no nasty surprises!

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The author

Cate has been a teacher for 20 years. She has worked internationally and across all key stages in the UK. Her secondary specialism is Performing Arts with a keen interest in PSHE/RSE. Cate is recently married with two cats who keep her busy and an allotment that requires more time than she can give it!

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