Casual Teaching – How to get asked back (Part 2 of So You Want to Work in a NSW Public School)

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.


6 thoughts on “Casual Teaching – How to get asked back (Part 2 of So You Want to Work in a NSW Public School)

  1. greg maybury says:

    Hello Corrine,

    I thought your comments were interesting regarding advising how relief/casual teachers can get called back and the sorts of ‘dos’ and ‘donts’ for them to consider. There is however another side of the coin, one which I have found that schools themselves need to reflect on if they are genuinely trying to attract the right casuals to begin with, and have them stay loyal and committed to your school. This is regardless of whether there is an oversupply or not. In any event it is simply good risk management.

    In my experience working in both NSW and WA and in both primary and secondary, far too many schools treat their relief/casual staff indifferently at best and frequently appallingly, and it is not surprising that these same schools are often the ones that complain the most about how difficult it is to attract the right folk when and where they need them.

    Sadly though it seems that whenever there is a teacher surplus, schools take even less care when it comes to treating their relief/casual staff right. Read into that what you may, but as a case in point you mentioned something about not being “rude”. This applies both ways! The interpersonal communications skills of many FTE school staff (teaching and non-teaching) leave a lot to be desired, and I’ve experienced more than my share of abject rudeness from principals on down.

    As for ‘dos’ and ‘donts’ when it comes to the deployment and treatment of relief/casuals, I compiled some years back a list of these ostensibly for WA primary and secondary schools (although they could well apply for all schools in other states). What was interesting was that few schools took up any of the suggestions. Indeed, in the time since I compiled them, the manner in which schools generally see fit to treat their relief staff has deteriorated. No doubt that since our supply/demand situation now appears little different from that of NSW, schools see even less imperative to enact some simple guidelines in order to maximise the engagement of casual staff to the benefit of all stakeholders.

    Rightly or wrongly I say this: there is a greater onus upon schools to ensure that most if not all conditions for satisfactory casual engagement are in place than there is for the individual reliever. The reason for this should be obvious if only because the school in question is more aware of the conditions under which they are expecting folk to adapt to at short notice and therefore has a greater measure of control over these conditions. And in any event there are OHS issues which come into play, for which the school is responsible for first and foremost.

    FYI, I have attached the two links to these documents for your perusal. I will be publishing these on my own website in the NY with additional commentary regarding specific HR/IR considerations, but you are welcome to publish them on your own, and distribute as you see fit.


    *Greg Maybury * *Dip. Sec. Ed.; Grad. Cert. Bus.* *Education Reform Advocate* *editor/publisher: the ozedreform forum*

    *t: @ozedreform*

    *e: * *e:* ** *w: * *m: 0407 201 225*


    ============end email===========

    • Hi Greg,

      Great comments, and I agree, there is a whole other side to this coin which deserves a separate post, I think. Dan Haesler actually raised similar issues in his “Off Campus” segment for our most recent podcast:

      I don’t agree that schools don’t care because there is an over supply of teachers, and therefore they can treat their teachers as if they are some how disposable. It may happen, but its certainly not my experience. We prefer to have casual teachers who become regular workers at our school. It is much easier to look after and hang on to existing teachers rather than constantly having to find and induct new teachers. Of course, I’m only speaking from my own experience. I’m not naive enough to think that it isn’t happening in some work places.

      I agree in principal that schools should be supplying as much information as possible to their casual staff too, about routines, children with special needs etc. We certainly try to do this. However, it isn’t always achievable.

      There have been days when I have had 8 teachers call in sick in one morning and had to ring over 30 teachers before I have been able to cover classes. On days like that I have to also deal with very complex timetables to ensure all duties are covered. This is all between the hours of 6:30am when the phone starts ringing and 9:30am when I go on class. And of course, I’m also trying to get myself ready for work and travel in myself.

      On days like that it is highly unlikely that I would be able to provide the kind of support that you describe in your documentation. For planned absences, it is of course a different matter.

      However, our casual teachers take it in their stride, and when they do manage in difficult circumstances without complaint, they impress me, and I call them back.

  2. Georgie says:

    Great tips re. Casual teachers. Thought it might be worth also mentioning that casual teachers should never assume that a plan for the day will be left for them. They should always come prepared with some ideas and some resources and enough time before the students arrive to prepare a lesson in case nothing has been left for them. Cheers.

  3. Raj Chadha says:

    Hello Corinne,
    Good Morning
    I am a casual school teacher with ten years of teaching experience. I have taught in various schools in Sydney in a variety of settings. I would like to put forth my name for your pool of teachers. How can I do so?
    With kind regards

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