Supply Teaching in Canada

Shortly before I graduated with my teaching degree in December 2009, I applied to work for Edmonton Public Schools. I was one of the lucky few who had an interview while I was still completing my final teaching practicum, and as soon as all of the paperwork was completed, I was able to start teaching. From March until the end of June 2010 I worked as a supply teacher in various schools all over Edmonton. A supply teacher is the same thing as what many people would call a substitute teacher. For some reason we use both terms in Alberta. Most teachers and people that work in education use the term “supply teacher” while students and other members of the community tend to use the term “substitute teacher”.

When I began working as a supply teacher I had no real idea what to expect. I figured that the students would behave badly and that I would have to be really strong in the area of classroom management, but other than that I didn’t really know how the system worked. In Alberta, to get on the list of available supply teachers you have to pass the first round of interviews by the district. If you are considered acceptable and you have a subject that they need, you get put on the list. People on that list are then the ones who can be considered for contract positions. Once you are available for work, you are put on the available list, which is maintained by the school district, and you can start getting jobs. The larger school districts like Edmonton Public Schools and Calgary Board of Education have a computer-automated systems, while in the smaller school districts it is someone’s job to make the phone calls personally.

As a supply teacher, I would wake up most mornings to my phone ringing. Groggily, I would answer the phone and try to enter in my personal teacher code and pin number in order to access the system. Then a computer recording would read aloud a job that was available and I would have to hit one button to accept or another to reject. These jobs were either for a half-day or a full-day of teaching, and though I didn’t get a call every morning, the work was consistent enough. This was probably because as a language teacher, and more specifically a French teacher, I was more in demand than many other supply teachers would have been.

Though I only worked as a supply teacher for 4 months before securing a position teaching French and Spanish, I found that I enjoyed it. The students were not so badly behaved and the staff members were always very supportive and willing to help out in any way. Teachers in Alberta must leave full lesson plans if they are away, so there was always something planned for the students to do. Generally any materials they needed for the class were set out neatly and everything was very organized and easy to figure out. As a new teacher, I found it quite helpful to see how other classrooms were set up and what kinds of things the teachers did in terms of class work, discipline, etc. But the best part of supply teaching was definitely not having to make my own lesson plans or take home any marking!

I would love to hear from people in the comments about what it’s like to be a supply teacher or substitute teacher elsewhere in the world. How is it similar to or different from your own experiences? I plan to follow up with a blog post about supply teaching in England as well.

Fluency in 11 Languages

Twenty-year-old Alex Rawlings has won a national competition to find the UK’s most multi-lingual student. The Oxford University undergraduate can currently speak 11 languages – English, Greek, German, Spanish, Russian, Dutch, Afrikaans, French, Hebrew, Catalan and Italian. Entrants in the competition run by the publishers Collins had to be aged between 16 and 22 and conversant in multiple languages. Alex drew on all his skills in this video to tell BBC News about his passion for learning languages and how he came to speak so many.


FilmArobics specializes in comprehensive lesson plans which accompany feature-length films in four languages (SpanishFrench,German and Italian) and ELL. Although each lesson plan is different, the basic outline and types of questions are the same. They break the film down into 10 to 15 minute segments for each lesson. Each lesson contains:

  • vocabulary necessary to understand the film or necessary to discuss the film
  • cultural notes when appropriate
  • several comprehension exercises
  • two communicative exercises where students either discuss something in the film or discuss a topic related to their lives but which is brought up in the film
  • a follow-up homework assignment that is often a writing assignment

Each lesson generally lasts anywhere from 45 to 50 minutes of class time. They recommend you show a section of the film once per week over a period of 8 to 9 weeks.

For more specific information on how their lesson plans work, see How It Works.

The End of Molasses Classes

The End of Molasses Classes, by Ron Clark

A schoolteacher with the heart of a parent, Ron Clark has made it his mission to make a difference in the lives of all of our children. His first book, the million-plus copy bestseller, The Essential 55, offered students and teachers dozens of practical ideas to achieve classroom success, ranging from accountability to practicing good manners to demonstrating industriousness and respect. In The End of Molasses Classes, Clark provides 101 innovative and classroom-tested ways to lead our children to greatness and build schools full of passion, creativity, and energy.

These 101 solutions capture the magic, the success, the heartbreaks, the mistakes, and the triumphs of Clark’s own groundbreaking school, the Ron Clark Academy. These practical, ground-breaking, and powerful methods are specifically geared towards parents who want more for their children; teachers who need strategies for helping every student achieve success; and communities who hope to uplift every child and improve the education of our next generation.