Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
The best skills that relief teachers can put on their resume:
- You have excellent behaviour management.
- You have worked with all types of students.
- You have seen the processes in a wide range of schools.
- You have taught all across the curriculum.
- You need to build relationships with students quickly.
- Don’t discount experience outside of teaching!
So you’ve decided that you want to move on from relief teaching. You’re ready for a class of your own, and you’re going to go for it. You are worried, though; how does relief teaching look on your resume? How do you even put relief teaching on your resume?? What skills that you’ve developed as a sub should you highlight, and are there any skills that a classroom teacher needs that you should work on?
I’ve talked before about how relief teaching is a valid career choice in its own right, but I realise that arguing this can be an uphill battle. Some schools struggle to see the transferable value and prefer a teacher who already has experience as a classroom teacher over a sub. As a relief teacher, though, you have skills, and you do have value to a school as a full-time teacher. Here are a couple of things to highlight:
1. Relief teachers have excellent behaviour management.
Nothing trains your behaviour management like being a relief teacher. You’ve got a tougher job to begin with because the class routine is broken and the students want to test your limits, but you also don’t know the students and how best to manage them. You need to think on your feet and have a considerable repertoire of strategies up your sleeve to adapt to any situation.
School leaders like teachers who are good at behaviour management. As a referee for many teachers, it is one of the first things I am asked about the people I manage. Putting specific skills and strategies to manage student behaviour in your resume will definitely get noticed by any school.
Get specific about what you actually do to manage behaviour; there is only so far that putting down’ excellent behaviour management’ in your skills section will go. Do you use targeted praise? Do you practice unconditional positive regard? What preventative strategies do you use, and what do you do when things really go wrong? Many of these will be discussed in detail in your interview, so you don’t need to go in-depth. That being said, these will come up in your interview, so make sure that you CAN discuss them in-depth. As I already mentioned, this is a favourite topic when hiring new teachers, so make sure you’re prepared and proactive in demonstrating what you do.
2. Relief teachers work with all types of students.
Working in a range of schools, and even more different classes within these schools, gives you a huge range of experience teaching different students. As a relief teacher, you’re likely to have taught students of high and low socioeconomic status. You’ve taught different year levels, subjects, and students with various learning difficulties and disabilities.
When putting this down on your resume, you’ll want to highlight the type of experience that the school will be particularly interested in. Demonstrating your breadth of experience is definitely valuable, but research the context of the school and see what they’re going to be looking for. Suppose the school has a high Indigenous population, for example, or you’re applying for a job in a Special Education setting. In that case, you want to show that you have broad experience, ESPECIALLY in these relevant areas.
Again, saying that you’ve done this is all well and good, but what did you actually do. How have you modified your approach when teaching students with ASD, vision impairment, or mobility disability? How did you adjust your teaching when covering the specialist Science teacher in an elementary school? If you are a high school teacher, how did you adapt to teaching younger students? These concrete examples and strategies demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about and are precisely what schools are looking for.
3. Relief teachers have seen the processes in a wide range of schools.
As a relief teacher, you have the unique perspective of seeing the processes in different schools. Now, this is definitely an easier thing to demonstrate in an interview than a resume, but definitely something worth mentioning at this point. You’ve seen different systemic ways of managing students and keeping them safe, which is probably the first thing that comes to most peoples’ heads, but you’ve also seen a broader range of literacy and numeracy programs, social clubs, and other school-wide approaches to student learning and well-being.
4. Relief teachers teach all across the curriculum.
If you’re a high school teacher, you know that you don’t just get lesson cover for your particular subjects. I’m History trained, but I did a lot of Science cover as a relief teacher and am now much more comfortable teaching science up to senior years. I remember the day when I got to a school and was told that I was going to be the Vietnamese teacher for the day. I will admit that I panicked, but I sorted it out and adapted.
Even if you don’t want to be a Science or Vietnamese teacher, school leaders like teachers who can adapt. I know that even if I do like a teacher and want to extend their contract if they’re only willing to teach one subject, it is a lot harder for me to actually find them a job. My Principal told me that I got my first full-time permanent position in a school because she knew that whatever she needed, I could do it. This meant that she could easily justify holding on to me long-term.
Again, you don’t need to volunteer for something well outside of your comfort zone. But having perhaps a bigger comfort zone that you’ve explored during your time as a relief teacher is definitely something worth emphasising to a potential employer.
5. Relief teachers need to build relationships with students quickly.
As a sub, you build relationships with your students in a shorter time because that’s all the time you’ve got. If you’re going to build a relationship (and your job will be far easier if you do), you need to do it as quickly as possible.
There’s a huge range of strategies that you can use as a sub, and all of these are also crucial for classroom teachers. Sure, there are additional techniques that classroom teachers need to also employ. These include building relationships with parents, but showing that you have these critical short-term techniques covered is excellent for your resume. This is uniquely easy to do by drawing on your experience as a sub.
6. Don’t discount experience outside of teaching!
You may not be able to demonstrate all the skills that a school is looking for as a relief teacher, and that’s okay. One that is particularly difficult is working with parents and families, but it can also be challenging to have evidence of your curriculum planning when you’ve been a relief teacher for a longer period.
I spoke to a teacher who was applying for a job at my school about this. They were very concerned that while they knew that they had the skills for the job (and I knew it too), they couldn’t prove it on paper. This teacher did a wide range of things outside of school; they ran a youth group to teach young adult men who didn’t have a father figure life skills and volunteered as a coach on his son’s soccer team. These two experiences neatly filled some of the gaps in his application. Still, he was worried that it was irrelevant and that he should just talk about teaching.
Adding something to your resume that is not directly linked to teaching is a lot better than not being able to fill the application criteria. If the application asks you to discuss how you build relationships with parents and you’ve only been working in schools as a relief teacher, talking about your relationships with parents as a soccer coach is far better than leaving it out. If you haven’t done the exact job you’re applying for before, you won’t have used all the skills required in the same context. You’re going to have to demonstrate how the skills you do have apply to this particular situation.
What things do you always make sure to include in your resume when relief teaching? Leave your ideas in the comments below!