Relief teachers play an important role

Issue: Volume 99, Number 10

Posted: 29 June 2020
Reference #: 1HA8cm

Christchurch early learning teacher Penelope McRae says relief teaching has allowed her to learn from others and share her expertise at the same time.

'Are you a young girl or are you a lady?’ was not the first question Penelope McRae expected on her first day relief teaching at an early learning centre. However, given the nature of relief teaching – and the nature of early learning – Penelope knew to expect the unexpected.Relief teachers

About a year ago, the fully qualified teacher decided to take a break from full-time teaching. She was keen to broaden her horizons and see what else was out there.

“I’m in my late twenties and I’ve only worked at three centres. I wanted to explore different centres and find the right fit for me – what fits with my philosophy.”

She signed up with teaching recruitment agency who helped her gain experience at a range of different centres on a relief teaching basis.

“I’ve worked at a big centre with 130 children and a small centre with a maximum of 33 children, so I’ve had the two extremes.”

Relationships are at the forefront

Penelope believes she has found her niche at the smaller centres. 

“Relationships are at the forefront for me. I really value relationships with the staff, with the families and with the children. I’ve found those smaller centres to be my spot, mostly because of the relationships I’ve been able to build while providing meaningful care.”

Penelope views relief teaching as a great opportunity to both learn from other teachers and impart her own expertise.

“As a passionate teacher you can go in with resources and ideas. And it’s a good chance to gain ideas and see how they use resources. It’s like PLD (professional learning and development) in action.”

“Going into a new centre, you can be spontaneous and see what’s going on and you can add to that with your experience and ask questions. Quite often the staff are keen for you to get into it because it’s something fresh.”

Flexibility is important

Penelope admits that relieving might not be for everyone – you have to be flexible, she says.

You have to have the right mindset as well, she adds. 

“If you’re going out relieving and you don’t have that mindset of ‘I’m going to use my initiative, I’m going to find out what happens here’, then it’s very easy to just have an unsatisfying day. It’s up to the person to put their all into it and do their best for the children.”

Penelope is grateful when centres provide additional information to aid relief teaching staff. Details about children’s learning needs and requirements can be helpful, she says.

“I think the more information the better, because you can be better prepared.”

Having explored her options with relief teaching and having learned a lot in the process, Penelope has recently signed a contract with a centre that she feels is a good fit for her.

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:12 am, 29 June 2020

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