It is the reason I believe CRTs are best to try and establish themselves with work in one or perhaps two schools, where they are available for and undertake regular work, rather than spread themselves widely across schools in their area. If you knock back schools on a regular basis, they will not keep on ringing you when work is available. They will ring the person regularly available that knows their school and its student population and can deliver good educational outcomes in that demanding short term context!
Once you have gained that important first day's employment and arrived with your CRT's magic briefcase "The Casual Relief Teacher's Survival Kit" (see blog of that name), begin by finding the school's Daily Organiser. This is the person who will ring you when your skills are needed to fill in for an absent colleague.
The Daily Organiser will give you the classes and their attendance rolls alloted to you for work that day. They may supply you with work left by the absent teacher at that point, or show you to the place this can be found, or put you in touch with someone who will get you up to speed with what the class is up to and supply you with ideas or the material to take the class.
On your first day, they usually take you into the staffroom, where you can avail yourself to tea and coffee making facilities, a fridge and microwave. Ideally, but not always, they will hand you a school document containing school policies, a list of key personel, school day bell times and break schedules and emergency proceedures. They will take you to meet or direct you to an office staff member, who will be responsible for organising your pay sheets. You will need your tax file number and VIT Registration Card, for them to put into the school's records, so take them with you. There will be all the related forms to fill out!
Hopefully, the school will give you some time to fill in these forms and read through their policies and proceedures before you start work with a class!
At the school I regualry work at, they supply CRTs with class rolls for the day. Sometimes all the instructions for the classes I take are provided with the rolls and rooms list. Other work is left in pigeonholes provided for teachers to leave work for CRT's in the main staff room, For classes in the Arts, often we are directed to the Arts staff room where other members of the faculty will provide us with the work and direct us to the relevant materials or stimulus materials students will be working with.
Should you have trouble finding your way around the school, ask a student to point you in the right direction!
Make sure you know the school's policy in relation to mobile phones before you hit class. Some have a total ban on their usage and require student mobiles to be handed in at the office should they bring them to school. Other schools expect students to learn mobile phone etiquette as part of their learning. This usually means students can take or make a call to their parents with your permission. It also allows them to use their mobile phone as a calculator or research tool. It does not give them license to text friends, take photos in class of other students, or generally use it as a distraction from work. Never be afraid to ask a student to put away their mobile,in the first instance, or confiscate it should they be misusing it during class repeatedly. Hand it back at the end of class, or to the office in schools with total bans.
As for your own mobile, switch it to silent, but keep it on hand for emergencies.
Once in class I usually:
- Write my name on the whiteboard
- Write up instuctions/aims and learning goals on the board
- Distribute materials/resources
- Take questions/explain/use diagrams/ brainstorm/ read through materials as a class.
- Depending on the class/level/subject, I often mark the roll after I have students settled and working. I go round to each student individually, mark off their names and check on their progress. I find it way easier to remember their names and something about them this way, than marking the roll first up, when students seem a way more amorphus group. It also avoids students getting restless, or mucking up, during roll marking. However, in offering this suggestion, make sure the roll is marked within the first ten to fifteen minutes of the start of class.
- Keep students on task and monitor their progress
- Make up a progress sheet for the absent teacher, listing students absent, latecomers and the progress and attitude to the work of the class as a whole. If there is a really weak or difficult student, this is where I would mention them. The same is true of any outstanding work completed in your class!
- Be familiar with school policies if allowing the students to leave the classroom.
- I usually wait for a student to ask a third time if allowing a student to have a toilet pass. By this time they may well be truly desperate. If they were not genuine in the first place they will have forgotten.
- Locker passes to get relevant books or materials depend on the year level. Usually with junior classes I take the whole class to the lockers, should they need a key item due to their teacher's absence. With more mature classes I use my discretion.
- Keep a record of any student you permit to leave class and the reason for this, just in case one runs amiss.
- If a trouble maker or extremely distressed student needs to be removed from class I send a reliable student to the relevant personel. Usually a co-ordinator or member of the Administration team will come.
- Early leavers should always furnish you with an appropriate school pass.
Towards the end of class
- Put away and return items such as class sets, laptops and Ipads, DVD players.
- Pack up classroom equipment, Eg class sets of greyleads, erasers, coloured pencils etc
- Collect up work.
- Clean the whiteboard (courtesy for the next teacher).
- Make sure any rubbish is binned, tables are clean and chairs back in neat position. Word will soon get out if you let classes leave rooms in a mess, full of rubbish, or students have graffitied on the tables.
- Students will often be ready to leave a good five minutes before the end of class. Do not let them out until you hear the bell, or see other classes moving if it fails. An easy way to get students to co-operate with staying seated or inside the room till the bitter end is to tell them your ongoing work and re-employment depends on how well they co-operate and if you let them out early, I will not be re-employed. Most students get the importance of doing the right thing and stop asking if they can leave "five minutes early"!
- Lock the room on exit.
At the conclusion of your day's duties:
- Return the rolls to the appropriate person.
- Leave updates, student work and relevant notes or materials for the teacher you are replacing on their desk, or in their pigeon-hole.
- Make sure keys and other school supplied materials for CRTs are back with the daily organiser.
- Sign relevant time books and your pay sheet in the office. (let the office/daily organiser how much you enjoyed one or more of your classes)!
Other Important and useful Information for CRTs:
Health and Safety
- Move any obstacles or quickly clean up anything spilt and likely to create a hazard in your classroom.
- Confiscate any item a student may bring to class that may be a risk to other students
- Deal with dangerous student behaviour, including bullying and any form of harassment as soon as it arises. Try and nip it in the bud. If it recurs let those in authority know about it!
If a student has an accident (practical classes are especially vulnerable), allergic reaction, seizure or similar:
- Be familiar with school first aid proceedures.
- Console if it's very minor
- Send the student themselves, and a friend to accompany them, or a reliable student to the school first aid person if the student cannot be moved.
- Report it as soon as possible to the school administration, even if it seems minor, accidents need to be recorded for legal liability, or treatment purposes.
- Keep up to date with your anaphalaxis training and administering an epipen certification. (School nurses or St Johns Ambulance can take you through this annually)
- Keep up to date with asthma relief and using puffers and spacers.
- Do not give any pills or medical intervention to a student unless you are legally authorised to do so by their parents or the school.
- In the case of diabetic students, make sure they eat on time, or send them with an accompanying student to get their glucose fix of a jelly bean or mars bar, if their insulin levels fall too low.
- Send genuinely ill students to the school nurse or first aid administrator, who can contact their parents to take them home.
Major Misbehaviour Incidents and Incident Reports:
- Incident reports need to be filled out in the case of a student commiting seriously dangerous or abusive behaviour, or assaults and can be used for suspension and expulsion proceedures.They are considered a "legal document". Make sure you fill one out should the need arise. Document carefully as to what the incident was, who was involved, what actually happened and who witnessed the incident. Pass it on to the relevant person up the administration chain, such as a level co-ordinator or the Principal.
- Do not confuse filling out an incident report for a major behavioural incident, with letting co-ordinators know less formally, if a student falls out of line, or has some kind of a welfare concern from what you observed in class.
- Do let co-ordinators know if you believe recurring bullying of a student is happening within or beyond the class.
- Deal with most behavioural issues yourself as they happen in class.
- Notify the Principal, or Student Welfare Co-ordinator if any student shows or discloses an incident of child abuse. They are legally obliged to follow up. This is a legal requirement of teachers under 'Mandatory Reporting Laws'.
- Make sure you know where to take and remain with your class, should the school need to be evacuated.
- In the case of a lock down, do not let any student out of the room until the all clear is given. Keep students away from windows. Come up with quiet activities to distract students from fear and anxiety eg Chinese whispers, keeping a stopwatch of how long they can maintain being quiet and still. Sitting on the floor is preferable to being visible through windows if there are no blinds or curtains.
- In the case of an earthquake the safest place is under the tables or in the smallest narrowest rooms. Most Australian schools lack earthquake proceedures but minor and sometimes more major earthquakes do occur.