Waiting for the phone call: observations of a relieving teacher

April 2016


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TINA MULLER shares the joys and frustrations of being on call to schools for relief teaching.

waiting for the callI have a growth mindset – I know: I completed the Growth Mindset online test on Professor Carol Dweck’s webpage. Every weekday morning I start afresh with a belief that the phone will ring. During the afternoon and evening this feeling persists... the phone will ring.

I am a relieving teacher attached to my mobile and landline. The landline is upside down, flat against my mobile, and makes for easier carrying
– a small bundle to hold on to.

From the moment I wake I am waiting for a phone call. At breakfast the mobile is charging. No vacuuming can take place until after 10am as I won’t hear the phone and after some consideration a walk is out of the question, too far to return home and prepare for the day… just in case!

Advertising myself I have attached a flier and emailed it to all my local schools. I am a competent teacher; I expect and plan for student self-reflection on their learning, which can be challenging when only in a class for the day. I look at ‘closure’ tips that may help with this.

I study Frangenheim, Ryan and Bloom’s thinking skills and decide where best to use them during the day’s plan. I peruse Sladkey’s engagement wheel and include this in the day’s plan.

No phone call during breakfast and ablutions leaves me with strong emotions. This is the challenging side of relieving – the inconsistency of available work. Socially, relievers are not considered as part of a school and are left out of celebrations or social get-togethers, and as such, develop strong resilience. It is a great principal who recognises a reliever’s worth and thanks them.

I plan for energisers between lessons and use fast factual sweeps of compliments to those students who are ready to learn hoping that this encourages those off-task students to return to expected norms. Through an online relievers’ group I still read articles about education.

Both rewarding and challenging can be the fact that I am in a room of students who do not know me, or vice-versa and who may never meet me again. Teacher aides are truly a blessing in these situations.

Also rewarding are the teachers who have strong classroom routines that students follow.

A school that hands out a folder with classroom information, school bell times and photos of the students is one that cares.

Technology can be integrated into all classroom work yet a further challenge is that few schools will have a laptop for me to work from and so incorporate the internet into the classroom.

Lastly, I remember to keep some evidence to add to my portfolio as proof that I have in fact been teaching. Through dedication to teaching I remind myself I have ‘yet’ to hear the phone ring!


How schools can help relief teachers

  • Have strong classroom routines.
  • Provide classroom and school information.
  • Provide named photos of students.
  • Provide laptop so ICT can be incorporated.
  • Include relievers in school social functions.
  • Show relievers recognition; say thank you!

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