Professional Development and Relief Teachers

Relief TeachingI have a confession. As a principal, professional development for relief teachers was the furthest thing on my mind.

A good relief teacher was someone who turned up on time, turned up on playground duty without being chased and did not send kids to the office and hence me. So ... who looks after PD and relief teachers?

As a principal, I visited most relief teachers during the day but I offered only token support at most.

The poor relief teacher simply had to survive their day and I was happy.

I was ecstatic if a class room teacher came and told me the relief teacher did a good job. The better relief teachers were asked back. The others weren't.

Generally the better ones taught rather than simply supervised. Activities were designed for learning rather than behaviour management. They made a difference. they came back.

Now that I am relief teaching, I now feel terrible about it. Well - sort of.

Professional development activities for relief teachers was not even on the RADAR.

Honestly, who looks after the professional development needs of relief teachers?

Relief Teaching

In reality, no education departments do not place relief teacher PD high on the priority list but the Relief Teacher Association does.

Education departments might sprout some policy about how important relief teaching is to learning. (God bless their little hearts - having a policy solves every problem, doesn't it?)

In reality Education Departments do very little if anything to support professional development activities for anyone relief teaching.

Some education departments recommend that schools collaborate with neighbouring schools, thereby working in ‘clusters’ to achieve the professional development required for relief teachers.

That's a great idea except education departments don't provide any money for the professional development of relief teachers and schools simply can't afford extra professional development costs.

Some schools send information about staff meetings and staff professional development to relief teachers.

I found many relief teachers are unwilling to pursue such professional development activities.

When I was a principal, I did offer some PD to relief teachers but found that most did not want to be involved in professional development activities or if they did there was an expectation that they be paid for it.

This may be due to the nature of traditional relief teaching. When a relief teacher supervises rather than teaches, they are not interested in upskilling.

So it becomes problematic.

Relief teachers who are former full-time classroom teachers who enjoy the occasional relief teaching work do not usually feel compelled to pursue any professional development.

However, a new type of relief teacher has emerged and that is the young teacher unable to secure a permanent position and are really keen to sit in on staff professional development activities.

They see PD as an opportunity to add to their CV and show their professional interest to the school community.

To this end, it is reassuring that professional development activities are there for the taking. More than ever it seems schools need to continue to promote these to their wider relief staff.

But in the real world it is the relief teacher who must pursue support for their own professional development.

It is highly unlikely that any school will invest in a relief teacher's professional development if they are unlikely to see a return.

So, make a commitment to a school. Invest some personal capital into the school by taking vacancies, attending staff meetings on invitation, participating in after school professional development activities where appropriate. And then, make appropriate noises to the principal.

There will be some approval process but a principal is more likely to support PD if they feel a relief teacher is a valuable asset of the relief teaching staff.

However, if you want to

  • study in your own time;
  • study at your own place;
  • study matters specific to relief teachers;
  • receive certification for your PD to use for any Australian teacher registration board;

then Relief Teacher Association is the right place for you.

Relief Teaching

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