Expert Hints and Tips for Successful Casual Relief Teaching

“ARE YOU A CASUAL RELIEF TEACHER OR STARTING OUT AS ONE THIS TERM? IT CAN BE A BIT NERVE WRACKING TO GET GOING, BUT NEVER FEAR NIKKI TESTER FROM OCEANVIEW RESOURCES HAS SOME AMAZING HINTS AND TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED”

Here's an interview between Amy from Aussie Star Resources and Nikki from Oceanview Resources.

Amy - Hi Nikki! Thanks for taking the time to share your wisdom and experience with us. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself so we can get to know you and your experience in education and as a casual relief teacher?

Nikki - Hi Amy, thank you so much for inviting me to share my insights and ideas. A little about me…. I began teaching back in 1976 when classrooms looked incredibly different than they do today. Spirit duplicators and some fancy chalkboard work were about the extent of our resources. We worked mostly out of workbooks and lots of chalk and talk where students copied down pages of notes from the board. My how things have changed!!!! Photocopiers were the first big change to schools, and overhead projectors (I know I am really showing my age here). I really am blessed though, because I have been a lifelong learner thanks to teaching and for that I will always be eternally thankful. I have taught permanently for over 20 years and been fortunate to have job shared in permanent positions while my children were growing up and became casual when we re-located in 2000.  

Amy - For readers who are just starting out as a casual relief teacher (CRT) What are the best ways to get work? Should teachers contact schools directly or contact the department? And what kind of documentation do you suggest they take with them in their kit?

Nikki - At the start of my casual teaching I began to work voluntarily at the school my daughter attended, and that was a foot in the door for me. I was recommended to other schools in our area, and my career as a casual began. I was fortunate to have had block work which really ingrained me into the school community, and I was treated the same as other full-time members. As this was a coastal area, the chances of obtaining permanency were remote, but I was grateful to have become the preferred casual.


I would suggest that when starting out, volunteering is a great way to go, it gives you a feel for the culture and routine of the schools you would like to work in, and the more familiar your face, the more likely you are to be offered work.

The start of any term, but particularly term 1 is quite crazy! With new staff, new enrolments and often new principals, I would not suggest that the first few weeks of school are great to go visiting. Send an email or make a call to arrange a time that will be suitable for you to drop in your resume and perhaps meet with the staff member who is responsible for bookings. When you do drop in your resume you will need to include all your relevant documentation, tax declarations, approval numbers, working with children, CPR, anaphylaxis etc, as well as a brief documentation of your experience. 2 pages maximum!!!!  

The biggest tip I can offer is to be incredibly friendly to the staff in the office. They are often the first point of call in any school, and the Principal really values their first impressions, so it is best to make them good ones. Dress appropriately, make a positive comment about something at the school you have noted, and a little flattery will also go a long way!!!!

Amy - Being a Casual Relief Teacher can be a bit daunting when you first start, what are your top 3 tips for making it less stressful?

Nikki - It certainly can be daunting so my top 3 tips would be:

  • 1. Be organised and flexible….My car boot is my office, and if there are any last minute changes, I can easily grab any resources I may need. When you are booked, if possible, ask if you will have access to a computer and an IWB. If the answer is no then you will have to take in resources that require no internet or IWB - they can be very tough days!!! It is worth asking if you are able to take in your own device (but it would need to have the software downloaded on it and ready to connect)  
  • 2. Establish those routines and agreements from the word go!! Be consistent, calm and fair. You must be able to follow through with any punishments or rewards, and be like a swan…..calm and in control on the surface even though under the water your feet are paddling madly to keep you afloat!!! Fairness is a universal currency with students…. give them no opportunities to argue with you. Distance yourself from any conflict as it can escalate very quickly if you engage with a student on that level. 
  • 3. Make sure that you have all the food and water that you need to get you through the day. Staying hydrated is so vitally important as headaches can creep in towards the end of the day if you have not eaten or drunk enough water throughout the day.  

Amy - Behaviour management is a huge part of CRT, especially if you haven’t taught in the school or class before, can you share with us some ideas and strategies for behaviour management as a Casual Relief Teacher? Do you have any stories or examples?

Nikki - Never be afraid to ask questions or to ask for help….get the executive on side, if you need to have support for any reason (and behaviour management is usually the biggest one) then you need to be able to follow through confidently with the school management plan, and not feel like you have ‘failed’ by not being able to deal with a situation. 

If you visit the school’s website, you may find a copy of their code of conduct or behaviour management plan which is always helpful. 

Look for the casual folder in the classroom you are working in (hopefully there is one) It will have behaviour management plans, medication needs etc, and if the school doesn’t have these, then politely suggest that they implement them as a strategy to support relief teachers. 

Stick with the classrooms reward system if you can…. many schools use ClassDojo, so it is in your best interest to visit that site and familiarise yourself with how it works. 

I highly recommend all teachers visit Bob Brandis website for behaviour management…..he has all bases covered, some wonderful tips, resources and his podcasts are really helpful. He is incredibly user friendly and I love his sense of humour!!! 

Amy - What’s in your CRT kit? What are the top 5 items in your kit and why are they so essential?

Nikki - I look like I am running away from home when I go relief teaching lol. I have a craft bag on wheels which I find easy to manage. I have spare pencils, paper etc, and try to be as self sufficient as is realistic in this regard. I have 4 thumb drives- one for kinder, stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3. Stickers (I am not a bit fan of reward boxes-I think the expense is not worth the result to be honest), award cards, notes for the teacher (I have pre-prepared ones in a folder) 

I like to plan my units of work (if nothing is left) around a theme, and picture books. Eg if I am looking at the Ocean for stage 1, I have a collection of great books eg Whale And A Snail, One Is A Snail Ten Is A Crab, Tiddler The Story Telling Fish, and I link all of my daily or weekly activities around that theme. It really is easy to do. In a SMART or PowerPoint presentation. I have all the links to great websites on the theme hyperlinked so that I just need to click and go. Any worksheets I have that relate are kept in a folder to go with those books so at any time I have up to a month if need be. 

My thumb drives are great and keeping them organised is vitally important too. I have backups of everything on my Dropbox account just in case! There's nothing worse than losing all that hard work.  

My personal care items are also included in my kit. 

  • water  
  • Panadol 
  • food 
  • tea 
  • tissues 
  • sunscreen 
  • hat 
  • whistle 
  • anything that I may need but the school is unable to provide.  
  • I keep my thumb drives and my whistle on my lanyard.  

I have created 3 major teacher reference books for teachers as well as a wide range of resources that are aimed at supporting teachers to create units of work with minimum effort and maximum results.

My Survival Kit for Casual Relief Teachers is over 100 pages of links to websites across all subject areas as well as a range of activities that you can implement easily as I have endeavoured to include as many no prep ideas as I can- the images are all hyperlinked to some of the most amazing websites for teachers, which again I have chosen non-subscription wherever possible.

My Substitute Teacher Bundle - Planner Binder and Ultimate Sub Pack has been my biggest passion project/ resource taking over 6 months of constant work to compile and publish. It includes over 300 pages of printable master sheets you can use in the classroom for a variety of reasons from feedback, planning, number games and a whole host of ideas. I have also collaborated with some fantastic resource makers to compile this resource and they have generously allowed some free resources to be included in the kit. The remaining 270 pages are website links across ALL aspects of teaching from report writing, resume writing, finding resources and all subject areas. I have included everything I thought that an elementary/primary teacher might need as a basis for building a relief teaching kit.

Have you bookmarked, pinned and saved hundreds of links? 

Do you promise that one day you will sort them out? 

This fabulous Relief Teacher Website Reference Guide may be the answer to your organisational dreams. It is designed to be an easy to use, interactive resource. It has been sorted into categories with links to provide answers and help for frequently asked questions posed in posts on Facebook and other social group forums. 400 hyper-linked web pages and PDFs! This small investment will save you hours of your precious planning time and money. By investigating the comprehensive list of websites and links to free resources you can inexpensively build on your vital pool of resources. It is estimated teachers spend $2000 annually on resources. Let this book help to keep some of this money in your pocket.  


Visit Oceanview Resources