Get into the right mindset to face the day ahead – find whatever it is that works for you
Be ready for your recruitment agency’s call – consider your tools, location and how to keep busy while waiting
Double check your transport options and route
Call on your standby child and pet care, if needed
Top up your supply bag with those essential last-minute items
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? That’s the question we’ve been asking Key Portfolio supply teachers and wow, do they have some great ideas!
If you’re new to day-to-day supply and feeling daunted by the uncertain weekdays, or just want to clean up your morning habits, our supply teachers want to help.
“Shower, make porridge, get dressed, eat porridge, go!”
In this series, they’ve been sharing their tips and tricks for preparing for a last-minute call, in the hope that it will inspire your own routine. They told us what time their alarm clock goes off, how they find their way to a new school in a hurry and how they get themselves into a positive mindset before stepping into the classroom.
Every good morning routine starts the night before. In part one, we took a look at the things you can do in the evening to give your morning a head start. Here in part two, we pick up from the moment your alarm clock goes off.
Starting the day off right ☀️🍳😋
Despite only 24% of our supply teachers agreeing that they were “absolutely a morning person”, 41% of them said they are usually awake before 6:30am every weekday.
Ann Pagin starts her day early, so she can fit everything else in. Her routine is simple: “up at 6am, shower, dress, walk the dog, eat breakfast, put makeup on.”
Waking up sharp means you are ready for that call from your recruitment agency, which most supply teachers said can come as early as 7am. It also leaves plenty of time for an all-important breakfast (which, if you followed the advice in part one, you prepared the night before 😉). Alexandra Iwejua says, “I always make sure I get up on time so I can have breakfast because I’m useless if I haven’t eaten properly.”
Pro tip: ⭐ Can’t tear yourself away from your cosy bed? Make it easier for yourself with this tip from Carla Garre. She likes to “program the heater for half an hour before the alarm goes off!” ⭐
When you have little ones to look after, the flexibility of day-to-day supply can be an attractive option. Mornings however, need a little more forethought. Here are some tips from supply teachers who juggle childcare with their assignments.
Beccy W is lucky enough to have her mum on standby. She told us that “usually my agency phone around 6:45am. When I get the call I then telephone my mum to check she can have the children for me. I then lay in bed until 7am with one or both of my children before heading down to make our breakfast. We eat breakfast together, then I pack my lunch into my bag before heading up to get dressed. My mum usually arrives at my house while I am getting dressed and she then takes over the childcare while I check everything I need is in my bag and look up any directions/postcode for sat nav. I leave between 7:45 and 8am.”
One supply teacher arranges for her kids to get a lift to school in the morning. She says: “I arrange the school run with a relative that works well. If I don’t get an assignment, I can be available for pick up.”
Sometimes all it takes is a little teamwork. Gayle Binns’ routine is to “wake the children up and get them to have breakfast and shower, then Dad takes over and gets them to school.”
It’s a similar story for Ingrid Macgregor, who told us “I get the kids ready for school as husband has to drop me before doing the school run himself. We all have to be ready to leave the house by 7:30am but hang around until I get a call. Usually by 8:10am I get changed into normal clothes as my husband wouldn’t be able to drop me at a school and then get back in time to drop our son at school.”
Pro tip: ⭐ Amy McCruden preps her children’s school bags at the same time as her own supply bag, leaving them in an easy to grab place. “I put my bag by the front door with my coat and shoes and keys and then get my children’s bags ready for nursery and add them to the pile by the door along with their coats and wellies.” ⭐
Mornings on day-to-day supply can be hectic, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice precious time with your family. “Once my daughter is awake, we get dressed together, brush teeth and hair together,” Mel Connell says. “I will then grab my bag and double check everything is in there. Shoes and coat on. I then drive my daughter to breakfast club at 8am. If I don’t get a call we sit and eat breakfast together, we polish homework or reading if needed and have time to do something fancy with our hair and then walk to school for 8:45am.”
If your children are older, they might just be able to helpyour morning routine run smoothly, like Cheryl Lodge’s daughter. “I usually get up before my phone alarm sounds at 6:30am,” she told us. “I shower and dress and come downstairs and switch Sky News on as it has the time on the screen. I check the BBC app on my TV too as well as the weather app. I listen out at home for a call on my landline or mobile from 7am. During this time I will be eating breakfast and drinking coffee and persuading my daughter to get ready for school (age 13 now so recently became more likely to want to stay in bed long after I have called her). Somehow I manage to get her and her PE kit and school bag into the car by 7:40am so that I can drive her to the bus stop (several miles from home). From then she becomes my secretary and speaks on my behalf if the agencies ring. If there is work I set the sat nav if needed and leave my daughter at the bus stop.”
Are your pets your babies? You’re not alone! Lots of supply teachers said that an early morning gives them plenty of time to ensure their furry friends enjoy some exercise and a yummy breakfast too. Whether you have dogs like Beccy W (“I let the dogs out into the garden whilst preparing their breakfast. I then make ours while they eat theirs”) or are more of a cat person like Jill T (“I get up and make coffee and porridge. Then I feed the cats. I have my breakfast whilst checking emails and social media for about 10 minutes”) or maybe you have other pets to take care of like Elizabeth Wheeler (“I prepare my breakfast, lunch and the guinea pigs’ breakfast too”).
Pro tip: ⭐ Consider if you need to arrange a pet sitter. Robyn Witts tells us “if I get a call for work I then set off and drop the dog off at my mum’s on the way.” Another supply teacher remembers to “make sure the dog is booked in for daycare if a call comes.” ⭐
When you don’t know where your day will take you, how do you get into the right mindset for the class ahead? Our supply teachers shared the techniques they use to stay calm and positive while waiting for a last-minute call to come.
“My mindset is preparing for work as if I will be going to work!” said Mandeep Lalli – a thought echoed by many who said they get up and dressed every morning on the assumption that a call will come.
Pro tip: ⭐ Dipa Odedra stays a step ahead. “On a day when I don’t know if I will be booked, I will get to the station between 7 and 7:15am and wait for a call from the agencies I am with,” she explains. “This way, I keep to a routine of waking up daily as if I work 5 days a week, but also so I’m ready for those late bookings if they come through. The agency also knows I’m ready to board the next train to get to a school on time so they will prioritise me over someone who is maybe waiting at home for a call.” ⭐
Many supply teachers like to keep busy while waiting for their agency to ring.
Ann Pagin likes to stay productive by “doing some household tasks”, while Jill T suggests doing some life admin“whilst having a green tea and waiting for the call.”
Or why not do something you enjoy? Ann Cooke explains that “usually I am ready by 7am and do crosswords or knit and watch tv until they phone.” Another supply teacher likes to “read a book whilst waiting for the agency to ring”, while Pete Walton gets some morning exercise in. His routine is to “wake up, run 5km, eat breakfast, shower…. wait for the phone to ring.”
Mel Connell’s morning goes like this: “my alarm goes off at 7am at which point I grab a cuppa tea and go back to bed to check the morning news from the Guardian and my emails. This helps me to relax.” Jenny Jones says that “it can be a bit nervy waiting for a call,” so she might read the paper or do a bit of yoga to stay calm.
Pro tip: ⭐ Try to find time to enjoy the morning before work starts. One supply teacher said: “I allow time for some peace to just have a ‘me moment’ before the day begins as when it does there is no rest, not a minute. I savour my coffee. Also, later, I switch my mind on to thinking about school.” ⭐
Alexandra Iwejua spends a few moments in the morning to get her head straight for the busy day of teaching ahead. “If I have some time after breakfast it is a good thing for me to think and pray,” she shared. “My faith in Jesus helps and encourages me in the morning. Then putting my makeup on gives me the confidence to walk out the door and face the world.”
Lastly, the key to a good day on supply is starting the day with a positive outlook. Take it from Jonathan Gunz, who tells us that “I try to keep a positive mindset for last minute changes – it’s part of the job and I’ll accommodate them where I can.”
Angela Young starts every day off on a positive note. She said that “the first thing I do is open my curtains and greet the morning with a ‘Hello Day, what surprising thing have you got ready for me?’ I then get dressed in my walking clothes and take my gorgeous furry friends for a short 30 minute stretch at our local park. If I get a call, I fill my travel mug with an energising cup of coffee and ensure I have another travel cup with my favourite tea bags. I note the address and postcode for the school and Hi-ho off to work I go, with a smile on my face ready for the adventure ahead.”
Pro tip: ⭐ If you barely have time for a coffee in the morning, let alone five minutes of time for yourself, use your commute to get into the right headspace for a day of teaching. “It’s all about being in the moment – getting ready for those children’s faces and helping out wherever I can in the classroom. The walk to the school is usually my time to reflect and gear up.” said Claire Hardy ⭐
One supply teacher added that “on reaching the school, take a deep breath, go in smiling and just do the best you can. If the school likes you, they may well ask for you again. As you are supply, if you don’t like them, you always have the option of not going back!”
The phone call ☎️💬
For most people, the earliest time their recruitment agency would call them is 7am – 7:30am, but it could be 8am – 9am at the latest. It’s time to sit and wait!
If a call does come, your agency will share all the information you need, according to Donna W. For her, a “call with the agency goes as follows; they will tell me which school/ nursery, age group, ask me if I want to go. I thank them.”
If you’re brand new to supply and now sure what to expect from a call – it’s pretty straightforward. One supply teacher shared how the conversation usually goes for them:
“Agent: Hi K are you free for work to today? Me: Yes, where? Agent: Name of school, in (town) Me: Can you give me the postcode, please? Agent: Yes and I’ll email booking confirmation details. Bye.”
Mel Connel said that “if I get a morning call it normally always starts with a good morning exchange. ‘How are you? Are you available today? We have some work in …. school as a TA/cover supervisor/one to one/teacher, could you do that? Awesome. I will confirm with the school and send you a confirmation text and email with details.’ Thank you exchange. Goodbye, have a good day exchange.”
Before you end the call, remember to ask any questions you may have. “I tend to go to schools I know,” says Alison Narraway, “so my main query is the year group I’ll be teaching.” Michelle Marcar adds that it’s worth checking how long it’ll take to travel to the school, so you can let your agency know now if you expect to arrive later than usual. She says that “if it’s local I usually need to leave at 8am. If it’s further I tell the agency to warn the school I’m likely to be later than 8:30am.”
Pro tip: ⭐ Make sure that your phone volume is up and you have everything you need to hand. “I have home and mobile phones plus a pad and paper beside me” – Gill Ayers ⭐
After call prep 🏃
When you’ve hung up the phone after speaking to your agency, you’ll often need to be at school ASAP. That’s the whole reason for having a slick morning routine, after all. If you just need to get out the door and hit the road, you’re like Emma, who said “as soon as I have put the phone down, I grab my coat and bag (and sat nav) and off I go.”
Or, perhaps you aren’t quite ready yet. Jennifer Groves has a go-to quick makeup routine she turns to when she needs to get ready in a rush. Then, before she sets off for the bus stop she collects“a pie and an apple from the fridge, get some crisps out and my water bottle. I always put items in my fridge that do not need preparing or heating up at school so I don’t waste time in the morning making a sandwich.” For more tips and musings on supply teacher life from Jenn, check out her blog ‘Just about Jenn’.
Noelle Roberts also has a fail-safe plan to get ready super fast. She shared, “Upstairs I dress quickly, put on some face cream and sometimes powder and earrings and watch.”
Donna W has prepared her supply bag the night before, ready for a speedy departure post phone call.“I grab my ready-made supply bag and handbag and go!” she says. If you’re looking for advice on what to pack in your supply bag, check out our ‘Ultimate supply teacher kit’ guide.
Pro tip: ⭐ Now you have more details on what your day will hold, Alison Narraway suggests adding a few final additions to your supply bag. She said, “into the bag goes an age-appropriate story, then I check the postcode of the school if it’s a new one, make a quick sandwich, say goodbye to my son, (if he’s lucky he gets a cup of tea!), then out the door.” ⭐
Don’t forget to pack your lunch! You’ll appreciate it later if you’re not sure how the school canteen works or don’t have time to check lunch options nearby. Dave Walton tells us “when I get a call I get dressed, pick up my packed lunch, and am out of the house in about 10 minutes (Thunderbirds are go!).”
Love soup for lunch? Us too! 😋🍜 One of our supply teachers said that before they leave the house they “warm homemade soup in the microwave and put it in a flask so I can have lunch whilst marking in the classroom or have it at home if I’m not called.”
Don’t forget the all-important tea/coffee too, warns Ann Cooke. “If I haven’t been to the school before, I boil the kettle and do my flask in case I can’t get to the staff room. I also take water in a bottle to drink.”
Pro tip: ⭐ Sue Holling wants you to stay hydrated! 💧 She said“always have plenty to drink before you leave home in case you don’t get a drink until lunchtime. Take a water bottle.” ⭐
The commute to school 🚗🗺️
Now that your agency has called and you know where work is taking you today, you just need to work out how to get there.
Pro tip: ⭐ If you can choose between driving or taking public transport, research directions to see which option will be quickest.One supply teacher shared a brilliant time-saving hack: “When I get a call I use speakerphone so I can check the current travel time on my phone” she said. ⭐
Advice for drivers 🚘
Plan your route to school before you set off to save you stressing out on your journey. Supply teacher Mike Foster said “when the call comes through, I get the postcode of the school and put it straight into RAC Routefinder to work out the journey length and the optimum route. Then I calculate my departure time to arrive at school for around 8:20am.”
“I use the Waze app to plan my route. I always check on my home computer too, just in case,” says another supply teacher. Someone else shared, “if it’s a new school, I usually Google-map the location to find the easiest and quickest route.”
Pro tip: ⭐ “Ask the contact at the agency to read the postcode over to you and repeat to make sure you heard it accurately. This saves time because you can be in the car ready to turn sat nav on and the job hasn’t come through yet on your emails because they have got too busy and you then have to waste time ‘Googling’ the school address.” – Denise Armstrong ⭐
Save yourself some time by making sure the car is full of petrol and ready to go. BJ Green has a little help to ensure she’s ready for a speedy start. When it’s time for her to set off, “my husband – bless him – has turned the car round in the drive and [I’m] away!”
Kayleigh Charlton recommends you always leave earlier than you need to – just in case. “You can never know if there will be traffic so leave early,” she advises. If things aren’t going to plan, Sandie Edwards advises you communicate with your agency. “If you’re struggling with traffic jams, ring the agency from the car for them to let the school know,” she says. Only if you have a hands-free kit, of course!
Pro tip: ⭐ Here’s some first class advice from one supply teacher (and their dad!). “If it is an emergency booking and traffic is bad, I tell myself that the school must know I’ve only just been called and that I will get to them as soon as I can. I also remember a saying my dad used to tell me – ‘it’s better to be late in this world than early in the next’. Although delays are infuriating, it’s not worth taking risks or making the situation more stressful than it already is.” ⭐
Advice for public transport users 🚌🚅🚇
You might have visited this school before and know your route, or perhaps you’re super organised like Jennifer Groves and know all the transport options for your nearby schools. “When I get the call I always ask them to check the route I will need to take,” she told us. “I am very good at all the routes around me (a big recommendation to new public transport supply teachers) so when they mention a certain bus I can tell them exactly, including traffic, how long it will take me and how late I’ll be to the school.”
Jurand Zygadlo checks his trusty “A-Z on my way to the tube/bus stop.”
Pro tip: ⭐ One supply teacher said: “if travelling by public transport make sure you have the local timetable for the bus/train.” ⭐
On the commute
How to spend your commute? Colin Franklyn prepares for class by checking “the school website for any specific things related to the school.” Ingrid Macgregor said that “in the car to school, my husband drives, so I normally quickly remind myself of the pre-prepared lessons I have for the year group I was told I would be with in case there is nothing planned.”
Another supply teacher agrees that now is a good time to plan the day’s activities and take a moment to prepare yourself, saying that “on my way in I pray for the school and the children and run through ideas in my head as to activities I could use to supplement the day’s plan if necessary.”
On arrival at school 📚🍎
Now, you’ve made it to school you’ll (hopefully) have time to ask any burning questions. “I like to be in the school at 8am so you have time to know the classroom, ask the TA the pronunciation of the tricky names on the register and write them down for you,” says Carla Garre. “I ask about the routine and if I have to know about anything in particular, like two children not seating together, allergies or rewards.”
Ellen McBride agrees that asking a few questions in the morning will help your afternoon run smoothly. She said “On arrival, talk to the teacher. Find out about any medical problems, children who may need toilet frequently etc. Discuss lessons, marking policy and timetable for the day.”
If you want more tips on what to ask when you arrive at school, plus more advice for new supply teachers, you’ll find it in spades in our ebook ‘How to be a superhero supply teacher’.
How to deal with a call not coming 🌈
You might find that you don’t work every day and that could even be why you chose supply in the first place. But on days when you were really hoping a call would come, our supply teachers have shared some tips to help you deal with it.
Try to busy yourself with something productive, like Amy McCruden. She says that “if it gets to 9am and I haven’t heard from my agency then I go get changed into normal clothes before making a cuppa and doing some housework!!”
You could also take the opportunity to enjoy some morning exercise to help clear your mind. Like Cheryl, who jumps straight into the pool! “If there is no work I go to the pool instead and swim for 45 minutes, which is what I do practically every day that I am not working including weekends. If I don’t have work, I do check my phone after swimming as there is sometimes an offer of an afternoon’s work which I am happy to accept if it is not very far from home” she said.
Susanne Allcroft agrees that you could still get a booking for the afternoon. She says that “occasionally, I have mentally decided that I won’t be receiving a call and started to plan my day when the agency ring with a late request or a request for an afternoon session. I always take late requests at the moment.”
“If I haven’t heard anything from my agency by 8/8:10am I might phone them again, and am often lucky,” says Sheila Chiat. “I am sometimes prepared to travel further than I’d like, or go to different areas, in the hope that the agency appreciates my co-operation, and might offer me more work nearer home.”
Pro tip: ⭐ One supply teacher always leaves her options open – “If I don’t get a call by 8:45am I get dressed for a day without work but keep my phone and diary near in case there is a late call. I have my lunch early (11:30am) in case there is a call for an afternoon booking. If there is no call by 1pm I then go out if I need to, but keep my phone with me in case of calls for advance bookings.”⭐
However if there’s no afternoon booking then enjoy your day off, like Mandeep. She said, “If I don’t get a call, then I have already planned what things I would do with my day the night before and enjoy a day off!”