Evening routines of supply teachers – Part One

9 minutes to read
Evening routines

Your evening routine
(a quick reference)

  1. Pack your supply bag with everything you might need the next day – think Mary Poppins! 
  2. Prep a quick breakfast, a portable lunch and hot drinks for the next day
  3. Iron clothes to suit any dress code
  4. Check for transport issues in your local area
  5. Go to bed with the mindset that you’ll be working tomorrow – so get an early night and set your alarm

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Morning routines are quite the trendy topic at the moment – a quick scroll through your Instagram feed or a search on Pinterest will show people crafting the perfect way to start their day. From curated snaps of fitness aficionados rising at the crack of dawn for hot yoga to busy parents sorting lunches into neatly-organised bento boxes.

Does this sound like your life? If you’re anything like us, it absolutely does not.

But it did get us wondering about the morning routines of day-to-day supply teachers. When you don’t know where (or even if) you’ll be working each day, how do you get yourself up and ready for whatever the day might throw at you? Is there any time whatsoever for green juice and mindfulness?

We asked Key Portfolio supply teachers how they prepare for a last minute phone call and the response was so amazing that we’ll be sharing all the handy tips we received over two articles.

Here in part one, you’ll find ideas from over 140 supply teachers who think the best way to cheat an effective morning routine starts with a little preparation the night before. “As I am not a morning person, I have as much prepared the night before as possible,” as one supply teacher put it.

So, what can you do tonight to ensure an organised morning tomorrow?

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Pack your supply bag 💼supply teacher bag

Everyone agreed that packing a supply bag with all the essentials, ready to grab when the call comes in, is a crucial part of a supply teacher’s night-time routine. “I always have a bag packed ready with things in that I may need during a teaching day,” says Donna W.

But what should you pack? Donna never leaves for school without “coloured pens, pumps, sticky notes, whiteboard pens and a copy of the EYFS/ National curriculum” while Mike Foster said “I always have a clear A4 Document Folder with me to put in all ‘Paperwork’ handed to me by the Cover Supervisor on my arrival.”

“I have my up-to-date DBS in my bag, in case I am going to a school for the first time and, my large A-Z is in my backpack,” says Sheila Chiat. Phil Merriott advises you “check that all DBS check certification is current” and that you have packed “two other forms of identification.”

One supply teacher shared that she always packs a stopwatch. Why? “Because some children can have behaviour issues and tend to entertain the whole class and waste my teaching time. I simply take out the stopwatch and say ‘if you are going to waste my teaching time, I’ll waste your playtime/golden time.’ Works wonders!!!!”

Supply is all about being flexible, but when you don’t know which subjects or year groups you’ll be teaching, you might be tempted to leave packing your bag until the morning. Instead, our supply teachers ‘prepare to be adaptable’. Jennifer Groves is a fan of this approach, saying “if I don’t know where I’m going to be I pack my trundle with a range of Primary resources to help calm my nerves.” If all else fails, a story will always be handy as a time-filler. Gill Potter remembers to “pack essentials in a bag, including resources I might need for an impromptu lesson or story to read to a class.” Sue Holling says, “Take an activity which you could link to other subjects, e.g. maybe do some Art in the afternoon from your morning Literacy lesson/book.”

One supply teacher said they keep a selection of resources on memory sticks. As Dipa Odera warns though, ensure you “pack a print out of a few things in case as a supply we don’t have access to a computer – hopefully, office staff can photocopy!”

Whatever you do, don’t forget snacks. “I use a trusty leather Next bag,” says Neil Hodder. “I always file any paperwork from the day before and top up with paper/depleted stationery (e.g. red, green & magenta marking pens) and other sundries like cereal bars if I need a sugar burst whenever the day comes.”

Pro tip: ⭐ Don’t forget to leave your bag somewhere that’s quick to grab on the way out the door. Driving to school? One supply teacher says she always “make[s] sure my school bag is in the car!”  

The all-important supply bag is such a hot topic, we have a whole article dedicated to it. Check out The Ultimate Supply Teacher Kit guide for more ideas to help you pack like a pro!

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Prep breakfast and lunch ☕🌯Soup cooking

When time is precious in the morning but you don’t want to miss the most important meal of the day, try Michelle Jones’ time-saving breakfast hack the night before. It goes like this: “put porridge in a bowl with water on and cover so it’s ready to heat up quick. Teabag in cup. Tablets beside cup. Oatcakes, rice cakes, cereal bar, coffee and cup in my bag.”

If you haven’t prepared anything the night before, try and have something you can grab on standby. “I always have a breakfast I can eat quickly if I need to, or take with me,” says Claire Davis. Denise Armstrong advises against the temptation to skip breakfast. “Use a porridge snack pot for breakfast,” she tells us. “Best not to leave on an empty stomach as you find yourself eyeing up the fruit snack of class and wondering if they will miss a banana!”

Pro tip: ⭐ For a delicious, healthy breakfast on the go, supply teacher Leon Ridyard has a quick easy recipe you can prepare before you hit the hay: “For a filling and ready-made breakfast to have when I arrive/break time at school – I mix up porridge oats with low fat yoghurt and put in a sealable container in the fridge overnight. By the morning the oats have soaked in the yoghurt and are ready to eat with fruit added on top to mix in.”  ⭐

(Wow, you supply teachers really like porridge, don’t you?!)

Not forgetting the all important cuppa, Angela Young doesn’t head to bed until “teabags are poised and ready with my travel cup.”  While Angela Ness prepares a “portable thermos mug mixed up the night before – just add milk and hot water – good to go.”

You can also save time by planning your lunch, like Mike Foster. “Have sandwiches/other food for school ready in the fridge to lift out just before the off next morning,” he advises.

But you don’t even have to actually prepare it… “I think about what I’ll make for lunch, even if I don’t go so far as to make it!” says Alison Narrawat.

If you do forget or don’t want to prepare a lunch in case you end up with a day off work, Susanne Allcroft suggests filling your bag with “lunches such as Mugshots so that I have something warm and filling that does not need to be stored in a fridge. All schools have had easy access to boiling water, but sometimes finding a mug can be challenging!” Anjana Clark keeps pre-made meals like “dried noodles, soup and other kinds of food in a bag in the car to have for lunch.” She says this saves her making lunch “cos that can be so disheartening if no work comes that day.”

If you really just don’t have the time (or can’t be bothered) you could follow CC’s advice – “If I get a call I grab a sandwich on the way to school.”

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Get your outfit ready 👔

Have an outfit ready to go and you’ll save yourself the morning panic of realising you haven’t got time to iron your clothes. “I get an outfit out and hang it together in the wardrobe so that I KNOW there is always something in there to wear,” says Jennifer Groves. David Walton is also prepared – “I put my clothes ready on a hanger in my study.”

Hate ironing? You’re not alone! Leon Ridyard saves himself the daily effort by getting it over with at the weekend. “I always make sure all my work clothes are ironed on a Sunday evening to prepare for the full week.”

Our British weather is famously is unpredictable – you can spend one day welcoming sunny skies with a light shirt/blouse and the next wishing you’d wrapped up a bit warmer. To help you plan your outfit, “check the weather online,” advises Seher Demir.

If you’re not sure what the dress code will be, take note from supply teacher, BJ Green who likes to be super organised by preparing “sets of clothes and shoes laid out, smart or casual depending on school/college.” Lorna Wilson also finds it useful to “select an outfit that is suitable for all eventualities. i.e. nursery setting or primary school.”

Pro tip: ⭐ You could even go one step further like Colin Franklyn who said: “I try to be aware of special days like World Book Day which most schools do. This year I had a last minute call for a school and had an outfit ready just in case. The class were doing Roald Dahl and luckily I had brought a Willy Wonka costume.”⭐

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Think about how you’ll get to school 🚌 🚲

Colin Franklyn stays ahead. Each evening, he will “check transport issues for the next day and then relax.” 

Pro tip: ⭐ If you don’t know where tomorrow will take you, try to be aware of transport routes for schools in your area and previous schools you have worked in. “For all school that I have worked in recently, I check the route and travel reports,” Phil Merriott tells us. ⭐


If you drive to schools, get your car ready to leave at a moment’s notice like Mike. “Prep car, especially in the winter months…..ensure it is ‘pointing the right way’ to exit from our street smoothly”.  Michelle Marcar adds, “Get petrol beforehand!” Oh, and one last thing – don’t forget to “check the sat nav is charged”, Robin Cooper shares.

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Go to bed early 😴

You’ve prepped for tomorrow with the mindset that you’ll be working the next day, so go to bed with the same mindset and try to get an early night. “Go to bed in the mind that you will be working the next day and you have to get up early,” says Mustafa Ramadan. Angela Johnson said she will “aim for an early night just in case I get called in the morning.”

“No alcohol and bed by 10,” is Vanessa Nevill’s advice. Mike Foster agrees with her that limiting alcohol will lead to a smoother morning. He “make[s] sure I don’t drink alcohol after 11pm.”

Don’t forget to set an alarm for the morning. Or maybe set a few, like Mike Foster! He always “set[s] 2 x mobile phone alarms for 5:45am. (My journeys ‘may’ be up to 30 miles away).”  Donna W says “I also go to bed at a decent time just in case I get a call out. I generally always set an alarm for 6:55am so I’m awake, just in case one of my agencies phones me.”

Pro tip: ⭐“I take my home phone up to bed the night before, so it is with me if it rings. I then set an alarm for 6:30am.” – Beccy W

Most importantly, stay positive and relax. “I try to get an early night with a positive mindset so I’m not too anxious about a new school and hopefully have a decent night’s’ sleep,” one supply teacher told us.

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That’s it!

Bag packed? Breakfast and lunch made? Outfit picked out and local transport options checked?

If you answered yes to all the above, you’re off to bed and all that’s left to do is wait for a call from your agency in the morning. You’ve already shaved precious time off of your morning routine – which means more time in bed for you 😴❤️

Want to know how to streamline your morning, so you can be ready to go and out the door 10 minutes after you accept a job? You’re ready for part two of this article.

Read part two – morning routines