It’s a fact that most teachers will spend at least a portion of their working lives working casually. Whether it’s because they haven’t been able to find permanent work, or because it suits their particular stage of life, there are often a great many casual teachers in the system. While the IEU is keen for teachers to become permanent quickly (if that is what they wish), there are also a few tips and tricks to getting work as a casual teacher that are important to keep in mind. Some of these are specific for the NSW/ACT Independent sector, but others are more general and may be of use to teachers seeking casual work elsewhere.
When I was teaching, one of my jobs was calling in casual teachers. In a big secondary school, that meant that there were often as many as 10 or 11 casuals on site each and every day - replacing sick teachers, or helping out when teachers were on excursions. I would often receive dozens of CVs every week - and selecting the right casual for the day was a big part of my job. Here are some tips on what I looked for - and what made me ring people back after their first day.
1. Don’t miss the call.
Sometimes- even with the best of systems - teachers call in late to advise they are going to be absent. That means that the person in charing of calling casuals might call you on the morning that you’re needed - sometime with only a couple of hours notice. I know that when I was calling, if a teacher didn’t answer a call, their CV went straight to the bottom of the pile. As a casual, your reliability is one of your biggest assets - don’t become the casual that never gets a gig because they don’t answer their phone.
2. Come dressed appropriately.
This one is especially important if it’s your first time at the school. Dress better than you think the teachers at the school. I’m not suggesting that you have to wear a three piece suit, but you should stay away from open toed shoes and board shorts. It’s possible that you might end up supervising a PE theory lesson - but you still need to make that good first impression, and that means looking your best.
3. Get to know the coordinator and front office staff.
Depending on how the school manages casuals, the person responsible will be either be a member of the school clerical staff or a coordinator. Regardless of who looks after the job, make sure that they know who you are - introduce yourself to them, thank them for the opportunity and tell them how much you’re looking forward to the day’s work (and don’t forget to check in at the end of the day).
4. Follow the systems in place in the school
As a casual teacher, you’ve got to fit into the bigger machine that is the whole school. This means that you shouldn’t get too experimental with your teaching - by all means, bring your own knowledge and enthusiasm to the role, but follow the instructions left for you by the teacher - unless you have a very good reason for doing something else. This approach goes double for managing student behaviour - schools have different approaches, and you should adopt the school's system where possible.
5. Leave feedback
Again, different schools have different systems, but regardless of whether you are working in a primary school or a secondary school, make sure that you leave feedback about your class or classes from that day with the classroom teacher. Most teachers feel anxious about leaving a class at the best of times; you can help allay that fear by describing what you did, how much of the set work you completed, and any issues that arose - and how you dealt with them.
6. Join the IEU
One of the biggest issues that young casual teachers face is gaining accreditation at proficient, as often schools do not recognise their responsibility to assist casual teachers in this process. If this is happening to you, it’s something that the IEU can assist with - so make sure you’re a member!
What other advice would you give for casual teachers? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.