4 Online Services NSW Casual Teachers Should Know About (So You Want To Work in a NSW Public School Part 3)

Many teachers apply directly to schools for casual relief positions, and I gave some suggestions for how to go about this in my earlier post, So You Want To Work in a NSW Public School Part 1.

However, there are also a number of online services and agencies that will help you get a foot in the door.

Casual.Direct  is the NSW Department of Education and Communities’ automated casual teacher staffing system.  While my school doesn’t take advantage of it, a lot of schools across NSW use this service to replace teachers who have called in sick. Schools request casual teachers through Casual. Direct and staffing officers then ring teachers who are registered with them to fill the position.

Class Cover is a private online booking service that is gaining popularity with schools. Unlike Casual.Direct, schools can create their own casual teacher lists using the service, and can search and browse the CVs of teachers who are registered with them. There is a subscription fee for schools and teachers using this service.

JobFeed, from Teach.NSW is where you will find longer term temporary and permanent jobs with NSW DEC advertised. You can subscribe to the JobFeed using the link on the right hand side of their website.

There are a few things you need to do on your first day of casual teaching in the NSW public system to sort out your pay, taxation and superannuation. This page from NSW DEC has all the information you’ll need.

The Casual and Temporary Teachers Handbook from the NSW Teachers Federation is an essential resource for casual teachers. It tells you all about your working conditions, hours of duties, leave entitlements etc. It’s important for you to understand exactly what schools can and cannot ask of you.

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Of course, getting your first casual teaching appointment is just the first step. To get called back, you need to make a good impression. My tips on how to get called back are here.

Applying for permanent work in NSW public schools is a very different ball game. I’ll be posting about that in part 4 of this series.

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Advice for Early Career Teachers – Podcast

If you’ve been following my blog or twitter, you’ll know that a side project of mine is a podcast series, called Teachers Education Review.

In our Early Career Teachers’ Special, we talk to Pre-Service and Early Career Teachers about the challenges they face; we speak with AITSL General Manager, Edmund Misson about Accreditation; We feature the first “Off Campus”, a new segment by Dan Haesler; speak with Matthew Green about imanewteacher.com; and seek advice for early career teachers from educators from all over the place.

For all our podcasts,  check out my podcast page  and don’t forget to visit our website, TERpodcast.com

 

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.

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So you want to work in a NSW public school – Part 1: Applying for Casual Teaching

Last week I had the privilege of speaking with a group of pre-service teachers, many of whom are about to graduate and were eager to find out how they could get work in public schools.  In the time available, I could only provide a very sketchy outline, so I’ve decided to follow up with this post.

In NSW Public Schools you can either be employed as a permanent teacher, or as a casual/temporary teacher. The process involved in securing a position as a permanent teacher couldn’t be more different than the process for securing work as a casual or temporary teacher. In this post, I’ll focus on how to get casual and temporary teaching work as it’s where most new teachers will start.

First some definitions…

Casual teachers are not permanent employees of the Department of Education and Communities. Casual teachers are the people we call in to cover classes for short periods, such as when a teacher is away sick, at a course, or on short term leave.

When teachers take longer periods of leave, such as maternity leave, a non-permanent teacher might be employed to take their place for a year. This teacher is a Temporary teacher. They sign an agreement, and their job is reasonably secure for that period. I say reasonably, because there are always circumstances that could change. For example,  if the teacher they replaced returned from leave early, then the temporary position would come to an end. In this case, employers are required to give notice.

Temporary teachers are also entitled to receive benefits such as sick leave and holiday pay. However, their daily take home pay is less than that of casual teachers because leave loading is added to the casual teachers’ fortnightly pay, rather than paid in the actual school holidays.

Now a reality check…

As much as I hate to say this, it has been quite unusual for new graduates to secure either permanent positions or temporary teaching positions in schools. This is especially the case when looking for work in areas such as the one where I work, which is a high SES suburb close to a major centre and well connected by both road and public transport. Many, many people look for work at my school. When you’re a new graduate you’re competing with not only other new graduates, but also with experienced teachers who have a proven record of successful teaching experience.

However, I have noticed over the past  year or so that new graduates seem to be getting more and more opportunities. In fact, often when I ring new graduates to offer them some casual work, they’ve already accepted work somewhere else. So times seem to be changing.

Requirements

First of all you need to have been approved to teach by the DEC and have been issued a teaching number. In addition, you MUST have a current anaphylaxis and emergency care certificates.

Both these certificates can be completed online at the following links:

Anaphylaxis Training     Emergency Care Training 

There are also new requirements for the Working With Children Check. It is your responsibility to have this done. For more information, go to this website.

The application for casual teaching

Here’s another reality check – the people who read your application are busy. I know, because I’m one of them. Employing casual teachers is just one very small part of my job. My role of assistant principal requires me to supervise a team of 8 teachers and support their classes, mentor new scheme teachers, deliver professional learning programs for my colleagues, coordinate student welfare across the school, manage targets and respond to various situations and crises as they arise. As well as all that, I’m a full time class teacher. In short, I don’t have a lot of time to read your CVs, so please be concise.

Now, what follows is my personal opinion.  I’m quite certain that other people responsible for employing casuals may have different ideas, but this is what I like.

The best applications I see have 3 parts: a good cover letter, a cv and supporting documents.

1. The Cover Letter

Because I’m busy, I always appreciate applications where all the information I need to know is included on cover. This is because when I’m desperate to find a casual teacher quickly, I don’t have to leaf through several pages to find the essential information. If your cover letter tells me everything I need to know, I add you to my casual list immediately. If not, I wait until I have time to read the rest of your application, and if its a busy time, that can take weeks. Reading CVs is rarely to be a priority for me, so I get around to it when I’ve worked through my many other more pressing jobs.

Here is the information I consider essential in a cover letter:

  • Your name
  • Your phone number
  • Your availability (5 days or just particular days each week)
  • Confirmation that  you have your anaphylaxis and e-care certificates as well as a current approval to teach.

It can also help if you mention specific skills and expertise that you bring to the role.

Every now and then I read a cover letter that stands out from the crowd. Most recently it was from a teacher who had been working for around 6 months. He hadn’t been able to secure as much work as he’d like in the area he was working in, so was looking to find opportunities further afield. How do I know this? He wrote it in his cover letter. Somehow, that personal story humanised him and helped him to stand out. I liked his proactive approach to finding work, and have rung him several times since to offer him work. It seems his cover letter impressed some other people as well, because so far, he has been booked at other schools whenever I’ve rung.

But it’s best not to provide too much personal information. I once received  a cover letter  from a woman who had recently left a very unhappy marriage and was trying to rebuild her life but was finding it almost impossible to break into the world of teaching – to the point where she was quite angry and resentful towards the people who were knocking her back. How do I know this? She wrote it in her cover letter. The amount of personal information she provided made her seem a little, well… unhinged. So keep the information that you share in your cover letter professional.

The CV

Along with your cover letter, attach a CV with your relevant work experience and achievements. To be completely honest with you, I rarely read the CVs. The one page cover letter should provide all the information I need to employ you for day to day casual teaching. However, while I don’t often read them as they come in, I do keep all the CVs on file. If a teacher is going on leave for an extended period (such as a month, a term or even longer) and we have no one available to take their class, this is when I turn to the CVs. When looking through the CVs I look for a number of qualities. Experience working in schools will always give you an edge, and you’ll gain this experience through the day-to-day casual work that you’ll do once you finish university. Additionally I’ll be looking for skills that might be relevant to the particular teacher you are replacing. For example, if the teacher on leave runs some of our sports programs it’s always helpful to find someone with those skills. There are loads of templates online to help you write a cv. Try to include as much information about what you bring to the role as possible.

Supporting Documents

Your supporting documents are all the documents that you are legally required to provide, such as your teaching approval, anaphylaxis and e-care certificates.

Getting a foot in the door 

Applications for casual teaching arrive at my school several times each week, and most of them are very similar. So how do you go from being just another name on the list, to someone we actually call?

Usually, I call people who are known to my school and have proven themselves to be good workers. Teaching is a huge responsibility and we like to ensure that our children are in good hands, so schools do tend to stick to people they know. However, I also like to add new people to our group of regular casuals throughout the year. Often our regular casuals will get permanent or temporary work elsewhere, and I need to have a pool of reliable people. At particular points in the year , usually at times when I’m less busy, I deliberately start calling some new names. I quite like to call new graduates as there is more chance they are available. If the new grad impresses me, I’ll call them often because I don’t want some other school snapping them up.

There’s also a lot of luck involved. Some days, I might have received an application on the same day as a job came up. If I’ve no one specifically in mind for that job, l ring that applicant. In fact, I quite like doing that because if the application has only just come in, there’s a good chance the person will be available.

If your cover letter has piqued my interest for some reason then I’ll try to call you before one of the other unknown names on my list.

Networking helps a lot too. If you are known to me, or another staff member, I’m more likely to give you a shot. Again, this knowledge humanises you, so take opportunities to form your professional networks. Networking won’t guarantee you ongoing work, but it will help you get your foot in the door. 

There is so much more I could tell you about casual teaching, like the sorts of things you can do that will help you get called back to a school, and also things that might stop you being called back. But I’ll leave those for another post.

I’d love to hear from you. What questions do you have about teaching in NSW schools, or, if you are responsible for employing casual teachers, what advice would you give?

Please use the comments section – this is a great topic for a forum.

 

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Lesson Preparation: It Gets Easier

Tonight on #Teacherwellbeingchat we were talking about planning.

When I think about my early years of teaching, there was so much planning. Every single lesson I taught for the first year was being taught for the first time, and every teaching situation was being encountered for the first time. I had no repertoire and  no experience to fall back on. It was hard. I had to not only learn the content, but figure out how to teach it. A I was new, I didn’t trust my choices and I spent a lot of time second guessing myself, trying to figure the best way to teach a concept. I would spend most evenings staying up late, planning my lessons and creating resources for the next day. It took as long to plan the lessons as to teach them, if not longer.

If you’re in your early years of teaching, you’re possibly experiencing a similar sort of stress. You feel like you’re a constant slave to the job and you can’t slow down, because if you do, your students will suffer, or your class will be out of  control, or you just might not be asked back to teach again next year.

Well it gets easier – much, much easier.

As you build your experience a few things happen:

  • You learn to trust your judgment. When you stop second guessing yourself, planning becomes a lot quicker and easier.
  • You stop being such a perfectionist. After experiencing more than a few lessons that don’t go the way you planned, you start to realise that its not a disaster, and you start to work out how to plan lessons that might not be perfect, but are good enough to get the job done.
  • You build a repertoire. Every time you teach a successful lesson, you store it away – both the content and the strategies, so next time you teach that subject, you have it up your sleeve ready to go.
  • You know your content – you do eventually become familiar with all your content. So there’s less time spent on researching and understanding it.

There are also some fabulous resources out there to help you like this:

Do you have any tips to help with the planning process? Share them in the comments below.

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Making a Difference

Sometimes the demands of school life can become so great that it becomes easy to lose sight of the reason we are there.

We aren’t at work to please our colleagues, our boss, the parent community. We’re not there to be popular, approved of or well-liked. We’re not even there to be the most perfect teachers, with the most innovative, rigorous programs and the most immaculate classrooms. It’s not a competition.

The core business of schools and of teachers is our students.

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It’s the final week of term in Sydney. With that comes many distractions. I’m battling tiredness, the cold I regularly get at the change of season, and have quite a few deadlines that I need to meet.

As I go to work each day this week, I plan to ask myself this question:

How can I make a positive difference to my students today?

When I keep that question in mind, it helps me get past all the distractions and I remember why I’m there

 

Advice to New Teachers: Clothing Matters

When parents meet you for the first time, they want to have a sense that their children are in safe hands. Your colleagues want to know that you are someone who can be relied upon to do a good job and your students want to have a teacher they can respect. I truly wish we lived in a world where people didn’t judge others by their appearance, but the sad reality is we don’t, so it pays to be mindful of the impression you leave upon others. Yes, clothing matters.

This doesn’t mean you have to hide your own personality and style, but depending on what yours is, you may need to tone things down or dress things up a little for the work environment.

While many private schools will have a clearly defined dress code, NSW government school teachers are simply asked to dress professionally – interpretations of which vary greatly from school to school and teacher to teacher. Most NSW government schools teachers wear neat, casual attire.

Here are some general guidelines, which should keep you out of trouble. What you wear is a personal choice, so feel free to follow or ignore.

  • Men – a collared shirt or polo is a good safe option.

    English: Example of a common dress code for ma...

    Business and Smart Casual are typical in NSW public schools. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Australian summers are hot, and many schools are not air-conditioned, so in my opinion shorts are acceptable so long as they are neat and tailored. Avoid wearing these on the first day, however.
  • Be a role model – this means wearing your hat on playground duty (most NSW schools have a no hat no play rule as part of their sun-safe policy) and avoid shoe string straps – follow the  same sun-safe guidelines expected of your students.
  • Thongs  (the footwear, NOT the underwear) are never acceptable. For non-Australian readers, thongs are also known as flip-flops or jandals.
  • Ladies – avoid necklines that will expose your bra when you are leaning over to help students with their work.
  • Primary teachers – avoid hemlines that won’t allow you to sit on low classroom chairs, or sit on the floor with a group of students
  • If you like wearing high heels, choose wedges for days when you will be doing playground duty on the oval.
  • Wear clothing that can be washed easily – especially if you work with small children, paint or other messy substances.
  • Wear shoes you can stand up in for a long time.
  • Choose clothing appropriate for the work you will be doing that day. If your day includes teaching dance, or sport, wear or pack something appropriate.
  • Smart jeans in a dark denim are acceptable in most NSW public schools, but ripped, torn or frayed jeans are best avoided.

Update: Since writing this post, a number of readers have commented on the dress code requirements for private schools. Find out more about what private schools like their teachers to wear in the comments section.

This was the fourth post in a series of advice for new teachers. For more, see my New Teachers page.