Picture this, you drop your child off at their classroom and you find out the teacher is away, and there’s a stranger you’ve never seen in their classroom. A casual teacher!
Do you sigh? Gasp? Does your heart sink?
Why is it that many parents are so wary of casual teachers?
Casual teachers can be great for your kids!
Sure, but maybe you’ve never seen it for yourself.
There are lots of casual teachers with great skill and passion for teaching. Many are good at managing a classroom with very little prior relationship with the kids (this is one of the most difficult things to do in teaching). However these unsung heroes are like Ferraris locked in the garage. Let me explain.
Two classrooms stand next to each other. They are usually productive, happy places. Today they have one new thing in common. The regular teachers are away. This changes everything!
In one room the casual teacher is confident and prepared and the children productive. The teacher uses her ability and interest in music and poetry to write songs with the children. They are hooked on the learning ideas, and respond enthusiastically.
In the other classroom the teacher does their best to ‘babysit’ the class, but the students are left bored and unproductive. The kids know more about how the class should run than the relief teacher does. And so, chaos ensues! Sound familiar?
Unfortunately teachers get sick or need to take training in-service days. This will always be a reality in a busy school. As parents and schools we need to reframe the days where the regular teacher is absent and see the potential of casual teachers and help our kids get the most out of it.
Why a casual teacher can be great for your kids
1. A casual teacher can bring new important skills and perspectives
Every teacher has natural strengths that they bring to enhance the learning process. They may have travelled to interesting countries or undertaken a humanitarian project somewhere in the world. A focused day, which harnesses the casual teacher’s passion and skills can be a great asset to the school’s overall curriculum.
2. Fresh air in a long term
All children get bored of routine. Novelty is one of the key drivers of curiosity, and therefore engaged and meaningful learning. In a long term children can benefit greatly from a ‘different’ type of learning day. This will make the regular days of teaching better too.
3. A casual teacher has potential to change your child’s life for the better
A chance meeting with someone, especially someone as influential as a teacher, can open up many new possibilities. Todd Sampson, the Canadian born TV personality speaks of a stand-in lecturer at a university who inspired him to change careers after just one short lecture. Todd gave away economics and biology and took up advertising and media messaging. Now he is a leader in this field. I know many people who have been deeply affected by one powerful experience at the right moment in their life.
4. Education is much more than preparing kids for NAPLAN
A subtle but insidious thing is infecting our schools; NAPLAN and its predictable preparation regime. Every day teachers are pressured to achieve specific learning outcomes. But these are not the ones that matter most. The most important learning outcome must always be to create a love of learning. NAPLAN can bury all this. The first and most important task of a teacher is to inspire the desire to learn. A casual teacher can do this as well as any teacher.
5. Kids learn responsibility and self-control
A casual teaching day is an opportunity for kids to grow in their self-discipline. Parents can help them prepare for casual days by reframing the purpose and potential of the day and by helping kids reflect on how they can be a helper, not a disrupter on these occasions. This is a vital life skill that all kids need to learn.
Casual days are a reality of the classroom, and necessary for a school to function effectively and give teachers much needed sick-leave or the opportunity for professional development. Parents have great influence over children and their attitudes to schools and casual teachers can ultimately have a dramatic effect on the success of this necessary system.