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Occasional Teachers

ETFO Voice

Ready for the call

The request for your services can come from different sources. Some boards use an automated system to contact occasional teachers. In other cases, it may be the school principal who will contact you.

There are many instances when it is known well in advance that an OT will be needed to replace a teacher. In situations where a teacher is on a curriculum writing team or where a teacher has a scheduled medical appointment, the school has plenty of time to contact an OT. For the OT, this situation is an advantage since it provides an opportunity to plan and prepare for the assignment.

At times, the principal or board are notified of a teacher's absence on very short notice, leaving little time for the OT to prepare for the day. Expect to be called early in the morning, moments before you are needed. Given this, you are wise to be prepared for an assignment at all times.

Although you may disagree with the following statement, it should not be left unacknowledged:

"A high percentage of OTs do not get the call because they are not available when the call comes in.”

To ensure you will receive the message for a teaching assignment, here are some suggestions colleagues have found helpful:

  • Check your answering machine regularly; consider a cellular phone.
  • Establish family rules regarding messages received.
  • Have your Telephone Response Sheet ready to record information.

Telephone Response Sheet

  • Prepare a Telephone Response Sheet to ensure you receive the information you need for your assignment:
  • Record the name, position and telephone number of the person who initially com tact you, in case you require additional information or if an emergency arises;
  • Record basic information about the assignment.

Telephone Response Sheet

Initial Contact Person: Position:
Phone number:
School Board:
School Phone:
School Location:
Teaching Assignment:
Name of Teacher:
Length of Assignments Starting Date/Time:
Special Considerations:

Under "Special Considerations" take notes about such things as the need to bring appropriate clothing for yard duty or a class trip to the local conservation area. Similarly, if your teaching assignment involves surpervising students during physical activities and recreation, appropriate attire is needed.

Starting right

Familiarize yourself with the area in which you will accept OT assignments. When you leave for your assignment, be sure to allow yourself ample time to arrive at the school. No doubt, most of your available time has been spent thinking and preparing for your day in class. However, before you begin the instructional day, there are a few things you need to consider:

  • How can you determine the length of the assignment?
  • Is there a teacher who can provide assistance during the day?
  • Are there special needs ^students in the classroom?
  • Where is the class list, the seating plan, the register?
  • Where is the daybook and the timetable?
  • Are there special events that might alter your timetable (e.g.: an assembly or fund-raising activity)?
  • Is there an OT Handbook outlining classroom and school routines and a code of behaviour?
  • Will you be responsible for extra duties or supervision?
  • Where are the staff room, the nurse's room, the lunch room, the gymnasium, the office, the photocopy room, the doors to the playground, and staff and students' washrooms?
  • Are you aware of fire drill/evacuation procedures and fire regulations?
  • Where and how can you access audio-visual equipment and computers? (You may have to make arrangements beforehand to familiarize yourself with the equipment.)
  • What are the procedures for collection of money and permission forms?
  • Will there be other personnel with whom you may be interacting during the day? (Teacher aides, parent volunteers, language teachers, special education resource teachers.)

When you have had several opportunities to teach in a particular school, the information will be easy to obtain. The checklist is provided to assist you in becoming familiar with school routines as quickly as possible. It contributes to the smooth operation of the learning environment and may reduce the opportunities for disruptive students to subvert the learning activities you have planned.

The Bell Rings - They’re Here!

Getting off to a good start

  • Be ready to meet the students.
  • Be firm but positive as you tell the students what to do as they enter the classroom.
  • Follow the established classroom routines.
  • Seek out willing students to assist you with your understanding of routines.
  • Get to know as many students by name as quickly as possible.
  • Catch some students "doing something good!"
  • Plan for quiet times.
  • Plan for active times.
  • Establish behavioural expectations with the students
  • Allow students to respond to behavioural expectations in the areas of safety, order and learning.
  • Stick with the host teacher's plans if possible; otherwise substitute your plans.
  • Don't attempt to teach a lesson about which you are not certain. Most teachers would rather return to a lesson untaught than a lesson poorly taught.
  • Begin your instructional day immediately after opening exercises.
  • Keep it moving.
  • Try to have at least one positive interaction with each child each day.
  • Celebrate the good things happening: focus on the positive.

Have fun, enjoy yourself. The children want you to succeed.

At the end of the day

  • Leave the room in the tidy condition in which you found it.
  • Identify work completed and work substituted.
  • Leave anecdotal remarks for the teacher; be honest but positive.
  • Mark all the work completed that day.
  • List the names of students who were helpful and those who could have been more supportive.
  • Prepare a simple lesson the teacher may be able to use first thing the next day.
  • Thank staff and students who assisted you during the day.
  • Take with you all your teaching resources and personal effects.
  • Check at the office before you leave; leave your name and phone number.
  • Maintain confidentiality and a professional attitude about the school.

This article adapted from Answering the Call: A Handbook for Occasional Teachers.