Relief Teaching in New Zealand

Creating a community out of shared experience

Relief teachers (RTs), also known as supply or substitute teachers,  help out in school classrooms in emergencies or planned teacher absences, such as teacher release days.  A relief teacher is often based in one or two schools and jobs can be long or short term. 

Relief teaching is a relatively solitary experience.  Unlike permanent staff, there is often no fixed workplace, routine or friendly faces.  There are trials and tribulations specific to relieving, but little opportunity for relievers to share these common experiences with one another.  This website aims to go some way to filling that gap by providing a platform for relief teachers to connect and share experiences, ideas and resources.   

Being an effective relief teacher

Relief teaching is like any other occupation - if you are good at it, you will enjoy it and you will get the jobs.
The people that you will get your work from are the principals and the classroom teachers.  They are looking for professional people with strong interpersonal and behaviour management skills combined with excellent curriculum knowledge and understanding to go into their classrooms.  
There are also some fundamental personal qualities that principals and teachers repeatedly express a desire for, these are; flexibility, adaptability, warmth, friendliness.  An effective reliever must have the confidence to make judgement calls and be able to be relied upon to take the initiative.  You need to read your audience and be prepared for anything!
Experienced relief teachers reiterate these sentiments and in addition recommend a knowledge of child development, enthusiasm and a thick skin... 
As a relief teacher, you need to realise you are a guest (and can expect to be treated as one). Also realise that you are important.  There is currently no New Zealand study of the percentage of total time students spend with relief teachers but be assured that it counts. Teaching and learning opportunities can not be wasted.

Rewards and challenges

Once you have decided its for you, relief teaching can be very rewarding. Developing the ability to establish a good rapport with students very quickly, meeting new people and a sense of knowing you are needed. Relievers are a very necessary part of the New Zealand education system and that in itself can be a real source of satisfaction.

There are also valuable professional skills that are gained through the relief teaching experience, such as an exposure to many different programmes and resources, and the opportunity to make many good contacts in the industry.

Not knowing school and class routines can feel overwhelming, especially when there is a lack of information supplied by the school.  Unruly students and indifferent permanent staff can be stressful too.  However, 
with some forethought and the right preparation, challenges can be managed and stresses minimised.  Equally, positive experiences and development opportunities can be maximised.