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I started my career as a relief teacher, as most teachers do. I come from a family of teachers, and I remember my mum telling me that she will never forget the first class that was her own.
At the time, though, I was really enjoying relief teaching. I am just the kind of person who really liked being in a different school with different students every day. I was bouncing around between about three different schools and was coming back regularly enough to build friendships with staff and get to really know the students.
I enjoyed the challenge as well. A school in my area is well known to be a challenging school with a severe issue with retaining staff. I’ll never forget the surprised look the daily management organiser gave me when I was smiling at the end of the day and said that I couldn’t wait to be back. Needless to say, I was back many times.
There is a bit of a stigma with casual teaching; it is the thing that teachers do when they’re not good enough to get a full-time position. Relief teaching is a valid and admirable job. I’ve noticed that particularly through this pandemic, that is hopefully starting to become more recognised.
Choosing to be a relief teacher.
I know several teachers who choose to be relief teachers. All of them are brilliant teachers, and all of them have been offered contracts many times before. One of them is a science specialist and is highly valuable to the one school that she works for, as she is the only relief teacher trained to do practicals in the labs. Suppose a teacher is absent on a day that they planned an experiment. In that case, they will specifically request that she comes in to cover it. She has been offered contracts from this school multiple times but isn’t interested.
The other teacher I know who only does relief work owns multiple businesses and travels to France every few months. She wants to stay in schools as she loves working with kids and finds that relief work fits neatly around everything else in her life. Again, she only works in one school in distance education. She is specifically requested if the teacher knows that flexibility and confidence are required to cover them for the day.
Don’t get trapped by the full-time hype.
If you’re a good relief teacher, and particularly if you’ve developed your skills in a niche, you can definitely get consistent work. Better yet, you can grow to be picky about what jobs you take. Relief teaching is definitely not something that you need to settle for, and it is a valid career choice in its own right. If you want to spend more time with your family, give more time to your side hustle, or simply duck down to the beach or hike whenever the weather’s nice, it could be the right choice for you.