“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” –Paul Meyer
Supply teaching can be unpredictable. You never know when the phone will ring or an old contact will text you, and you certainly never know what school you will end up at day to day. I have been living the life of unpredictability this year, but there is one thing that has remained consistent this entire school year: supply calls do not come my way on Mondays.
This has been an odd trend to adjust to so far. You spend Sunday evening packing up a lunch to go, sadly accepting that the weekend is over, and gear up for a day of work, hopeful that a phone call will be your alarm in the morning. However, when you wake up Monday morning, ready to start the workweek again, nothing happens. All of the energy that you spent convincing yourself that Mondays are all right and going back to work is fun is now gone. You have officially achieved a three-day weekend for the fourth time in a row, but somehow it doesn’t feel like an accomplishment at all.
Today is once again an unwanted Monday at home. I have to admit, I loved having a few extra days off to relax in September when I was just getting back into the school routine. But as the months went on and “unemployed Mondays” turned into a routine thing, I was finding that I needed something to keep me busy and I was craving the feeling of being productive (Netflix wasn’t cutting it anymore). I slowly found ways to focus my attention and efforts and get work done, even if I wasn’t at work.
So, as I’m going into month 3 of the school year, here are some ways that I have been keeping myself on track during my “days off:”
- Wake up early and eat a good breakfast: When it’s 8:30am on a Monday morning and you still haven’t received a call, the temptation to go back to bed and sleep the morning away is beyond powerful. BE STRONG. For one thing, you never know when a last minute supply call will come your way and you will need to be out the door in 10 minutes. Also, forcing yourself to get up, get dressed, and eat breakfast, even if you aren’t going anywhere will make the day much more productive and enjoyable in the long run (I’m sure we can all agree that 9 times out of 10, sleeping in until noon is filled with ultimate regret).
- Meal prep for the week: Now this is one of my favourite ways to spend an unexpected home day. I supply teach at multiple schools that are located in rural communities. With no fast food restaurants in sight, this means that I need to be prepared with a lunch to bring to school every single day. I would consider myself a very healthy eater; however there are always days that I get into a meal slump. I find myself eating crackers and an apple because I failed to organize my meals for the week. Having an entire day to make a large batch of soup, quinoa salad, or chop up veggies for snacks leaves me feeling productive and excited about my week of healthy meals all ready to go.
- Get into a school: As a relatively new teacher, I view every experience working with children or other teachers as a fantastic learning opportunity. The more that you are in the classroom, being paid or not, the better your teaching skills will be. Connect with a school in your area about volunteering and see if you can arrange some sort of agreement where you can come in to help out on days when you are left without a call. Most principals and teachers are extremely understanding of the schedule of an occasional teacher, and jump at the opportunity to have a certified teacher lend a hand in one of their classrooms.
- Check out professional development opportunities: What is your board’s policy for professional development for occasional teachers? Personally, my board offers a variety of online PD sessions that we can work on throughout the year and get paid for. This means that I can spend my day learning about new teaching strategies or assessment methods, even if I’m not in a classroom. Because occasional teachers are not assigned directly to schools, it can be difficult to get involved in professional development activities, so make sure you know what your board has to offer and take advantage of it.
- Run all of your day time errands: If you know that Mondays are always going to be slow for supplying, use that day to book doctor’s appointments, oil changes, or day time meetings. It’s the worst feeling when you have to book off a work day to get things done, but you can feel slightly better when it’s a day that typically produces little to no work regardless.
It’s hard when you don’t get to do what you love all the time, especially when you feel so ready to be in a classroom every single day. Being an occasional teacher can be mentally draining; it takes an immense amount of hard work, optimism, and resiliency. However, every single day that goes by brings you closer to that full time dream and will teach you something new. So be sure to make every day a positive and productive one, whether it starts with that coveted phone call or not.