Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Value of Relief Teaching for New Graduates

Relief teaching is a challenging, and sometimes frustrating business, but it can also be intensely rewarding. 

Relief teachers come from all walks of life. Some are retired teachers seeking to supplement their retirement incomes, there are the few career relief (one colleague has been working as full-time relief for 20 years - she taught me!), others are in-between jobs, and some are new graduates, forced to work as relief while looking for more permanent/fixed teaching positions.

I fall into the final camp. I certainly didn't choose relief teaching as my preferred career path; rather it was a decision forced upon me by circumstances beyond my control. At first, I was intensely disappointed at my "failure" to obtain a full-time teaching position; however, with the benefit of hindsight, I now understand that this was the best possible thing that could have happened to me.

Relief teaching was a rude, and extremely stressful introduction to the true realities of teaching. As a newbie graduate, I had no conception of the planning, instructional, and behaviour management demands of the teaching profession. I was in for the greatest shock of my life.

I am so thankful, that as a part-time casual employee, I had the ability and the time to adjust, reflecting on my experiences and actively seeking to address my major professional weaknesses. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my relief teaching experience in so many schools and classrooms has helped me grow as a person and a teaching professional. 

As I will detail in later postings, I have used my time as a relief teacher to clarify my understanding of effective curriculum planning, instructional strategies, and assessment. I have learnt how to teach from K-7, and developed professional relationships with colleagues from a diverse range of teaching backgrounds. 

These relationships have proved an invaluable professional learning resource, as my conversations with teachers about effective behaviour management, literacy organisation blocks, quality curriculum resources, and instructional strategies have significantly influenced my evolving teaching practice. I have met some incredible teachers, and I am truly grateful for their advice and support. I hope to emulate them one day.

While gaining valuable classroom experience, I have been actively preparing teaching resources and programming materials (syllabus overviews, units of work, activity planners) for teaching Years 4-7. I am confident that my curriculum resource database, which now contains well over 3000 documents, is unique for a graduate teacher, and will will significantly reduce my stress and planning workload when teaching across a range of year levels.

One day, I hope to be able to share this treasure trove with my teaching colleagues, but in the meantime, I will continue to explore ways to improve my teaching practice & curriculum understandings with the ultimate intention of supporting those "difficult", "hard-to-teach" students I meet and work with on a regular basis.

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