4 Ways to Get More Work as a Relief Teacher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

How to get more work as a relief teacher:

  1. Broaden your list of schools.
  2. Broaden your skills.
  3. Gain a reputation.
  4. Find a community.

You’ve done everything that you were told to do. You printed off a stack of fresh resumes, donned your most professional attire, and even ordered some personal business cards and handed it all out to all of the schools in your area. You get up the following day bright and early and get dressed to sit by the phone. Waiting. And you don’t get the call. 

You don’t get a call the next day either. Or for the rest of the week. When you finally get a call and a day of work, you don’t hear from the school again for another month. Maybe you’re just not cut out for this? Maybe there are too many teachers and not enough work? Perhaps you did something wrong on your first day in that school and left a bad impression?

A young female teacher sits on a bench in the hallway looking anxious with her head in her hand.
These thoughts can really mess with your head and your self esteem, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone.

Don’t worry, everyone goes through this.

Not every school is always looking for new relievers. All schools prefer to stick with teachers they know, so it can be hard to break in when you’re new. Just because you had a day or two in a school doesn’t mean they will need you long-term. As a relief teacher, this is the goal; getting consistent work in only a handful of schools. If you feel like you’re getting stuck and no schools are calling you back for more than a few days, there are some things that you can do.

1. Broaden your list of schools.

I know that it can be challenging to get to a school that’s further away at short notice, but this is the easiest way to get yourself known in more schools. As I said above, not every school is looking for regular relievers, but there are always some out there.

Other than distance, the other way to broaden your options is to try out different types of schools. If you’re trained to teach younger children, go and introduce yourself to the local high school. Likewise, if you’re high school trained, consider giving teaching the littlies a shot. You don’t have to be great at it, but in general, you know what you’re doing, and you are lengthening the list of possible schools that could book you.

Another strategy that worked really well for me when I was first relief teaching was going to what was considered the toughest school in the area. It was often hard being a relief teacher in those classes, but I was very appreciated and incredibly well supported there. I would often get booked for entire weeks in advance, and the Principal of that school was the most incredible referee for me for years.

Many other relief teachers said that I was so brave to go and relief teach at this school. They would never consider doing something like that; that’s not the kind of job they wanted. That’s fine if that’s what you want, but I needed the work and appreciated the challenge. The fact that I wanted to be so consistently reliable for the school meant that I got the same back from them.

2. Broaden your skills.

Some of the most successful relief teachers I’ve met have something unique that they offer their school. Being a relief teacher is a skill in itself, but many people ignore this. To become a good relief teacher, you need to build a specific set of skills that maybe aren’t a priority for your typical full-time teacher.

This will depend very much on context, so I can’t give you all the answers. Some things to look out for are what literacy and numeracy program the school uses or what their site focus is at the moment. Every school has something they are focusing on, whether it’s project-based learning, group work and peer feedback, trauma-informed practice, or something completely different. These are good places to start if you’re looking at getting more work with a particular school, but they’re also great ideas for broadening your skills more generally.

3. Gain a reputation.

You might instead decide that you want to gain a reputation as an excellent Physical Education relief teacher that the usual PE teacher can rely on to keep the students under control and handle whatever lesson plan they had in mind. You might get enough experience doing this to be familiar with the equipment and how it is stored, which could be your unique skill that would lead to more work.

You might decide that you want to be the teacher who really understands ASD, cognitive delay, or other issues that affect many students. You may choose to become a bit of an expert, to the point where you are the person that a teacher can trust to look after their students for the day. Again, all of these suggestions really depend on the context of each individual school and what they need. Because of this, it’s a good idea to seriously consider being more flexible in what you want to get good at as a teacher.

4. Find a community.

One of the primary things that many relief teachers have in common is that they feel isolated. Being in a different school every day with different students and colleagues can really take a toll, so there are many groups for relief teachers on social media. These are often also places where relief teachers can share advice and tips, ask questions, get help with handling a tricky situation, or simply connect.

I’m mentioning this because these groups also have another function; advertising relief work. Say a relief teacher gets a desperate call from a school because one of their teachers’ cars has broken down on the way to school. Because it’s late notice, they’ve already been booked for the day at another school. Teachers in this situation will often go to their local relief teacher’s Facebook group and ask if anyone else is available to take the job.

Many schools also expect the classroom teacher to find their own cover if they are sick or need to be off-site for the day. These groups are great places for them to get to know the local relief teachers and quickly book one for the day if they’re sick in bed. These groups aren’t just good for advice and networking, but you can also be directly booked through them.
Being a relief teacher can be tough, especially when work isn’t as reliable as you’d like. Making sure that you broaden your network, take some risks, and focus on not only being a good teacher but a good relief teacher will make you highly sought after.

Related Posts

Teacher looking up from a book surprised after learning about tips for being a substitute teacher

6 Things I wish I knew starting as a casual relief teacher.

I started my teaching career exactly where most people do – utterly unsure of what to do, what I wanted, or how to get started.

Is it Worth Becoming a Highly Accomplished Teacher?

Many schools have a salary tier for HATs, but these are often specific positions. There is no guarantee that you will win one, or that one will be available.

How to increase your salary as a teacher.

Most schools will increase your salary yearly for 5 to 9 years. What can you do once you’ve hit the highest pay grade in your Enterprise Agreement?

School leader shaking hands with a young female teacher to congratulate her for winning a teaching contract

The #1 trick for winning your first teaching contract.

So, you’ve been a relief teacher for a little while, and you’ve decided that you want your first teaching contract.

4 Tips for High School Relief Teachers in Primary Schools.

Just seeing all the tiny children with their clothes and bags that were too big for them, and hand held tightly by their parents made me feel a little nauseous.

A room of young pre-service teachers sitting their LANTITE before they are able to graduate.

What is the LANTITE and how do I do it?

The Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education Students is a literacy and numeracy test that every teacher must complete before graduation. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *