Getting the foot in a door at a school for casual teaching is difficult. A recent report in the Sydney Morning Herald revealed there are 40 000 teachers in NSW waiting for permanent employment, and the over-supply of primary school teachers is expected to last until the end of the decade.
Many of those unemployed teachers who remain in the system are all out looking for casual work. But it’s not just unemployed teachers who seek casual work. Teachers who are on leave for various reasons may also seek casual work, as do retired teachers.
I wrote about how to apply for casual teaching work in part one of this series.
That post attracted a lot of questions from early career teachers, including this one from a reader called Anita:
“What makes a teacher more successful in being called into a school more often than other casual teachers? How do they stand out? And what would make a teacher unsuccessful in being called back by a school?”
Those are great questions which I’ll attempt to answer here, starting with what not to do, as I’d prefer to finish on a positive note.
What would make a teacher unsuccessful in being called back by a school?
Some times I make a deliberate choice not to call a teacher again, but other times they don’t get called back because they’ve made so little impression that I just don’t remember them. It’s always a good idea to make yourself known to the person calling casuals, and then to check in again before you leave. Be friendly in the staffroom. If you are remembered in a positive way, then you’ll be more likely to be called back than someone who slips in and out quietly.
I’ve also made deliberate choices not to call casuals back. Here are some things not to do:
- Don’t be late either to school or to class. The first time you are late, I might cut you some slack, especially if you are new to the school, however when it becomes a pattern, I stop calling.
- Don’t leave the room in a mess. If you leave the classroom in a mess it creates additional work for the teacher you are replacing and for the school cleaning staff. Again, I might cut you some slack the first time, but I won’t if it continues.
- Don’t yell at the class. If you are having trouble managing student behaviour, try to stay calm and get some help from a colleague.
- Don’t be rude to the office staff.
- Don’t be dishonest on your resume. If you tell me you are a sports specialist, but then when I give you a sport to take, you back away, telling me you’re not very good with sport, you lose all credibility. And yes, this has happened more than once.
- Don’t be negative and critical of the teachers you are replacing. This has happened more than once at my school, when a casual teacher has had to take a more challenging class. When they’ve given me feedback on the students, they’ve blamed the classroom teacher for the poor behaviour or standard of work. I don’t tend to ask people who make those snap judgments back. Not only is it extremely arrogant of them, I also want to protect my colleagues from people who would judge them so harshly.
- Don’t give unsolicited constructive criticism on your first day. You might think another school organises assemblies, timetables or playground duties better than the one you are working at but there’s no need to share that, even if you think you’re being helpful. Wait until you’re asked, or are well established at a school.
- Don’t refuse to take on different roles, or appear inflexible or ‘put upon’ if your expected routine suddenly changes.
What makes a teacher more successful in being called into a school more often than other casual teachers? How do they stand out?
Standing out is important. Here, in no particular order, are some of the qualities of the teachers who have stood out to me:
- Enthusiasm. Teachers who show enthusiasm stand out. It feels good to be around people who are excited about their work and happy to be called into school.
- Flexibility Plans often change at the last minute. Casual teachers who take this in their stride always impress.
- Willingness to take on challenges. We have various specialist teachers who need to be replaced from time to time. These include our librarian, our science teacher and various support teachers. Casual teachers who take on those roles for the first time, with confidence and willingness to have a go stand out.
- Professionalism. This includes all those qualities like turning up in plenty of time for work, being on time for duty and for class, marking all they day’s work, leaving classroom spaces tidy and leaving notes letting the teacher know what you did with the class all day. It also includes dressing professionally (see my post on what teachers should wear to work)
- Positive and effective classroom management. If the class was well managed, and the students were happy you leave a great impression.
Well, those are my thoughts. If you employ the casual teachers for your school, what are your do’s and don’ts? If you work as a casual teacher in schools, what advice would you give? And finally, if you are looking for casual work, what questions do you have? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
For more advice for new teachers, check out my New Teachers page.
- Teaching: 40,000 queue for jobs (smh.com.au)
- So you want to work in a NSW public school part 1: Applying for Casual Teaching