The K-6 Casual Teaching Survival Guide


When I graduated from university with my Bachelor of Teaching in 1997 I was fortunate enough to walk straight into a block in a public school in Mount Druitt. From Term 2, 1997 - 2003 I worked in the private system. I started casual teaching at 40 after being out of the classroom for 14 years. During the in between years I worked in e-commerce and communications / marketing. I worked only a handful of day to day casual days during those 14 years - and they were at the school I was at pre motherhood. As I'm about to head back into full time, permanent classroom teaching again, I thought I would reflect on the past 18 months and share some of the things I have learned along the way before my memory becomes fuzzy! Getting back to the classroom was one of the best decisions I have made.

Casual teaching can be a tough gig. You have to wear a badge that to the students says, "Rookie - or Not a Real Teacher." You need to be super organised, resilient, happy to carry a phone around with you (EVERYWHERE!!!), quick to pick that phone up and flexible. Having a sense of humour is a big advantage! It can be rewarding work, especially when you teach a class a few times throughout the year. I recommend finding two schools that you like and only having your name listed with them. It is to your advantage to get to know the names of students, office and teaching staff, the layout of the school, bell times, daily routines etc. Any more than two would have been too much for my head to cope with. Building up a relationship with the school is key. Being more readily available means they are likely to call you earlier rather than after others as the person responsible for calling isn't keen to waste time calling people who always say no. I worked for 2 schools for 2.5 terms but reduced that to 1 when I realised that I was able to get 5 days a week at the one school (Dept of Ed). In Terms 3 & 4 I had a temporary contract for 3 days and worked 2 days casually. I had 5 days of work for the majority of the year. Don't spend your days off worried about why they haven't called you. REST! You need those days to gather energy to be ready to work when they call. Casual teachers don't get sick pay ... There have been days when I almost can not talk by 3.30pm. It can be exhausting! Don't presume that teachers will leave work for you. Most likely they won't because they are having an unexpected day off. If they do, cover what you can and make sure the students do it carefully. Don't rely on other teachers to help you either. It is much more helpful for everyone if you are prepared. I am by no means the casual teaching expert - but what follows is what worked for me :) My boot became my mobile classroom with a few boxes ready - for anything! I thought of them as my Mary Poppins bag. Hopefully this list will save you some money as you'll only buy what you need. I found it easier to take in my own than rely on classroom resources. In them I had:

  • Picture books (visit Aldi when they have their book sales!)

  • Playing cards (UNO, Playing cards from $2 shop)

  • Large (for Round the World) and small dice, counters

  • Flash cards of generic basic 'Magic Words' - endless game possibilities https://www.magicwords.com.au/

  • Mini whiteboard, eraser and pens

  • Bingo cards

  • Large clock

  • A4 games that can be printed and laminated eg Snakes and Ladders

  • Handballs, soft ball (for silent ball - good for any grade)

  • Joke book, short stories

  • Stopwatch (that students can use so they aren't using your phone)

  • Prize box

  • Stamps, stickers

  • Puppet

  • DVDs (Pixar short ones are great), CDs (songs to sing, stories to listen to, relaxation music)

  • Hand bell

  • Clipboard, pens, paper, Post-It notes, scissors, stapler.

  • Coffee cup (with your own tea / coffee / long life milk) Teachers generally pay for the milk in the fridge - don't presume to use it.

  • Sticky notes

  • Water, lunchbox (with ice to keep cold). Don't presume you'll have time to go to canteen - you are quite likely to be on duty

  • Whistle, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, antibacterial hand gel and wipes, tissues

  • Colouring in sheets

  • Rolls of butchers paper from IKEA / Kmart. Some of my favourite filler activities were "Design a Theme Park / Board Game."

  • A list of websites that are accessible - but don't rely on wifi etc or having access to a classroom computer

  • A list of outside, age appropriate games (Dodgeball seems to be the game of the moment, and Catch the Flag)

  • A classroom music playlist on my phone with age appropriate music

  • Google stopwatch / countdown ready to go

  • Shopping Catalogues

  • Folders of work for K-1 |2-3 | 4-5 | 6

  • Panadol

Folders (display) of work - examples of what I included in them:

One of my favourite activities was to create a joint SCRATCH project using the Smart Board: https://scratch.mit.edu/users/jacaranda99/ (I've recently created a teacher account rather than a general account which was Magnolia99)

Some great YouTube Channels:

Other tips:

  • Always have a list of who has left the classroom, whether on a message or the toilet (whiteboard is easiest)

  • Make sure you have a class roll before the bell goes. Sometimes it is easier to tee up with a responsible student to read out the roll alongside you so pronunciation of names doesn't make you look silly to start the day with!

  • Know where your duty area is before school starts so you can head there straight away

  • Ask the executive if it is okay for you to go to the Inservice / Training Days at the start of term.

  • Read the school newsletter weekly to be aware of what is going on. Always read the noticeboard and try to get to before school meetings so you know what is happening that day.

  • i mentioned it above, but worth restating - don't rely on having a classroom computer, Smart Board or wifi

  • Be kind. Always. Be firm and consistent. Always.

  • Remember that everyone has bad days. The sun will come up tomorrow. Don't be hard on yourself. Casual teaching can be really worthwhile and rewarding. But it can be hard squishing 30 or so names into your head in a day. Take away an idea from each classroom, whether something to do or not to do. Enjoy not having to take marking home or having to write a programme or reports!

  • Always leave the classroom tidier than what you found it. Clean the whiteboard. Leave a note for the teacher. Turn off the light, aircon, fans etc :)

  • Become friends with the other casual teachers - help each other out. Cheer each other on. Form your own social club. You need your own network. Try not to see them as competition for work :) :)

  • BREATHE

I think that is everything - will pop back when I remember something crucial for survival - haha! Enjoy the privilege of having a class of children to teach. Stretch their minds and help them to enjoy the wonder of learning. Bring a smile to their face. You never really know what is going on in their world. Enjoy making friends with other teachers. There are many gems in the Teacher world. I have been fortunate to work alongside many. Jen x

Be like Nanny McPhee :) x

#CasualTeaching