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Relief Teaching Tips and Advice for Australian Teachers

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Photo of Jill (Teach Starter)
Updated | 4 min read

Are you starting out this school year as a relief teacher? For some teachers, relief teaching is a convenient, enriching choice, while for others it may be something that they have found themselves needing to do while they wait for their first class.

If you have found yourself without a class at the beginning of the year and need to take relief days, don’t panic… you are in a wonderful position to grow and learn as a teacher!

When I graduated, I had dreams of my first class; starting the beginning of the year together in a room that was beautifully decorated, being super organised with everything set and ready to go. I was disappointed when the first day rolled around and I didn’t have a class yet. I was apprehensive about taking on relief days because I had heard horror stories of the behaviour issues that surrounded them.

I registered with the appropriate organisations and dropped my resume into every school possible and then waited. I received my first relief day call in Week 2 of Term 1 and I was excited to get into a classroom, but also very nervous.

That first relief day was hectic, busy, eye-opening and lots of fun!

As the calls started rolling in, I started enjoying going to different schools and meeting new students and teachers. I eventually received a contract at the school I would become permanent at, and took over a grade 1 class in Term 2.

My experience as a relief teacher was invaluable. I quickly learnt that I had to be organised, think on my feet and be unwavering with my behaviour expectations. As I was reflecting on my time relief teaching, I came up with some essential points that I hope will help you to find your time relief teaching as rewarding as I did:

  • Come prepared: Some teachers leave a meticulous plan which spells out how they would like the day to run step-by-step. If so, follow this plan as closely as you can. I know of relief teachers who have disregarded the plan and done their own activities, much to the annoyance of the classroom teacher. If there isn’t a plan, have activities with you that are age appropriate. Have any sheets or activities photocopied, ready to go, so you can walk in and start the day.
  • Be early: Arrive early and check in with the office staff for any plans, duties or extra information that may be left for you. Ask for the Principal or line manager’s name, as well as who you should contact in case you need any assistance. Also, take some time in the classroom becoming familiar with the class behaviour system or reward charts.
  • Leave feedback: Leave a note for the teacher letting them know what activities you completed during the day. Be sure to mention anything else that they might need to be aware of including any parents that dropped in to see them, behaviour issues and any students who did a great job!
  • Set your behaviour expectations: Let the students know first thing in the morning what you expect from them for the day.
  • Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to ask other teachers at the school for clarification on any of the school’s policies or procedures – before class starts!
  • Playground Duty: Make sure you are clear on where you need to be and when. Clarify what the expectations are for the students in that particular area and what your responsibilities are.
  • Name tags: You may like to take some blank labels and write the students’ names on them. This will help you to get to know their names throughout the day.
  • Dress appropriately: Make sure you take a wide brim hat and dress appropriately for the day.
  • Clean up: Finally, leave the classroom as you found it. Make sure you have cleaned up any mess from throughout the day, instructed the students to tidy their desks and put back anything that you used.

Here at Teach Starter, we have put together a large selection of Relief Teacher Resource Packs that are year level aligned. We have two packs for each year level and each term, which provides you with a plan for the day, all of the teaching resources that you will need and a feedback sheet to leave for the teacher. Print each pack off and place them in a plastic sleeve folder. When you receive a call for a particular year level, grab that folder and you are set for the day.

All the best for your exciting teaching journey ahead!

Do you have some tips or advice you would like to share with new relief teachers? Let us know in the comments below!



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  • Nirza Giraldo

    I want to be a relief teacher !

    • Alison Smith

      Hi Nirza, Thanks for your positive comment. Have a great day.

  • Jayne Taylor

    Thanks for these resources. I haven't had a chance to look at them in detail yet, but this site it amazing :)

    • Jill (Teach Starter)

      Thank you for your lovely feedback Jayne. We hope you find the resources useful and that they help to save you some preparation time! Kind regards Jill

  • ·

    Thanks so much for providing resources and advice for new relief teachers. This site has been invaluable already and has helped me feel much more confident about going out and starting the adventure.

    • Jill (Teach Starter)

      Thank you for your lovely feedback Natalie. I'm glad you have found our resources useful. All the best with your adventure - teaching is a big job, but also very rewarding! Kind regards Jill

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