Is being a permanent relief teacher worth it?

When I was working as a relief teacher, one school in particular gave me a lot of work. It was in what is known as a ‘difficult’ area; the average socio-economic status of the students was low, and there was a lot of trauma for both students and families. This school had a huge problem with staff turnover. Every year they would employ many permanent teachers, but many of them would move on within a couple of years to a school that was seen as ‘easier’. 

Young male relief teacher standing confidently in front of a whiteboard.
Being a permanent relief teacher can be a very fulfilling career choice.

They also had a hard time getting consistent relief teachers. There were days when they could not find enough relief teachers to cover all the classes that needed covering. I would often get booked for entire weeks in advance just because they knew that they were going to struggle, and I was more than happy to prioritise them if they were going to also prioritise me.

What is a permanent relief teacher?

They had a teacher there who was known as a permanent relief teacher. He was a permanent employee but only did relief work covering lessons. With how much trouble they were having finding casual relief teachers, they found it worthwhile having a salaried employee just for this purpose.

I remember him very clearly. His name was Teddy, and he was the kindest, gentlest guy you would ever meet. You wouldn’t guess that just from seeing him, though, because he was also a bodybuilder and a good one at that. He was huge. The students at that school absolutely adored him; he had fun and was kind and understanding, but he could also be absolutely terrifying when he needed to be, and no one ever tried to mess with him. He was very good at his job, and this job was perfect for him.

What are the benefits of being a permanent relief teacher?

He found that this job was perfect for him. It had all of the benefits of being a relief teacher without the downsides. He saw the same kids every day, had good relationships with all of the staff. He worked every day, but he did not have any planning or marking and didn’t have to deal with parents if he didn’t want to. It worked very well for his lifestyle because he could go home and spend two hours in the gym without worrying about getting ready for the next day. 

Male relief teacher teaching a science lesson to high schoolers.
Choosing to be a permanent relief teacher means that you can get the benefits of relief teaching, without some of the
downsides.

I know that some teachers would be frustrated with this. Many teachers get fulfilment and job satisfaction from planning learning and seeing their students grow over the year. Teddy was more than happy working with the same students most days and then going home and doing other things. He had a lot of different side hustles on the go and so many hobbies. He got satisfaction from this; he didn’t need his teaching job to give meaning to his life.

How do you become a permanent relief teacher?

There aren’t many other permanent relief teacher jobs that I know of. Teddy is the only permanent relief teacher I met during my time as a relief teacher. He was an exceptional circumstance because of how much trouble this school had finding casual relief teachers. I know that in my state, many rural and regional schools will get together and hire a local permanent relief teacher. These teachers might not be working in the same school every day, but they would be working in one of three or so in the area. If none of the schools needed a relief teacher on a particular day, they would still go to one of the schools and help out in other ways. 

These permanent relief teacher positions are advertised the same way as the other permanent teaching positions. I will say, I haven’t seen a permanent relief teacher position advertised for a private school, but if you’re interested in working in public schools, then this might be an excellent option for you. 

Relief teaching certainly has its benefits. Many teachers see it as simply a way to start their careers and get some experience before applying for their first full-time position. Relief teaching can be particularly good if you find it challenging to balance work and your personal life as a teacher. Being a permanent relief teacher, you can have many of the benefits without some of the downsides.

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