My career as an occasional teacher has just begun and it certainly is rewarding. I like being able to choose my workdays and make time for other activities. These are the benefits of working after retirement. Being a supply teacher has its challenges though so let’s look at some of the ways to have a safe and successful day as a new OT.
If I am new to the school, I usually give myself enough time to tour the school and property. It’s important to find the washroom, office, SERT room, photocopier, gym and library. I like to borrow a book to read aloud. I’m looking for opportunities to build relationships quickly and I have a knack for silly voices so if I read a Robert Munsch book or Elephant and Piggie I can win most of the younger students over that way. A joke book or trivia book is a handy tool for older students.
Safety has to be the priority so it’s very important to review any safety plans relevant to my day. This applies not only to students in my class but also any students I may encounter during my lunch or recess supervision. I ask myself these questions as I read the safety plan:
- What are the steps to take if the student is refusing to listen or do work?
- Is there a calming space in the classroom or in another room? If so, what are the routines? Who is allowed to use it and when?
- What is the protocol if the student displays behaviour that could injure themselves or others?
- Are support staff working with this student? How can they be contacted if they are not in the room? Who is the back-up staff member?
- Are there verbal or visual cues to help this student get on track?
- Are there helpful routines for transitions such as recess, eating time, or gym.
- What will happen in the event of a fire drill or lockdown practice?
- Are there preferred activities or leadership roles to involve the student?
- Are there other staff members nearby who have a good rapport with the student when their teacher is absent?
- If use of technology is in the plan, what are the expectations?
As hard as it might be, if I’m in a new place I try to connect with other staff members. Building relationships with colleagues helps me when I have questions and need assistance. Many other staff members have been in the occasional role and have sympathy for difficult situations that may arise.
Beyond the safety plan, there are other tips and tricks to having a joyful day as an OT. More ideas to come in part 2!