Behaviour management: Cover lessons

Weekly updates from Tom Bennett with advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management

When teachers die and go to the Hell of Ironic Retribution, they are made to do cover lessons forever and ever. If you are a supply teacher, you don’t have to wait that long because you are already there.

Make no mistake, lots of kids simply adore cover lessons because it means the normal rules have been suspended and playtime has crept into the classroom. I’ve spoken to lovely sixth formers who reassure me that even they feel it is open season when an unfamiliar face walks into the class. Teachers in such a position fall victim to the same problems as one-night-standers; you aren’t respected in the morning, and are only wanted for the fun factor. But that doesn’t mean you’re helpless. You might be dropped behind enemy lines, but you can survive on bread and water if you’re properly prepared.

1. Take names

Names are power. A nameless student is invisible and undetectable; you may as well be teaching a ghost. A student with a name can be tracked, sought out, called home…any number of things. Before the lesson, get a class list if you can. You can find out their names from their books, if they affect to have them, or their planners. Worst comes to worst, get a body from next door to help you finger the felons.

2. Use a seating plan

If you get the chance, put the class into a seating plan yourself, either by name, alphabetically, or boy/girl. That way you break the group up to some extent and show them that you decide where they go. It is a powerful signal that you’re in charge, and they have no right to demur. If they do, proceed to…

3. Consequences

Nothing reminds a student that you aren’t to be trifled with like finding out their impish antics have earned them time in the Big House. If you can, set detentions and do them yourself. If you cover a lesson in your school, treat it exactly as seriously as you would your own. You aren’t a tourist; you’re the teacher. Don’t act like the class doesn’t matter. If you believe that, then they certainly will. If you’re unfamiliar with the school, or cannot do detentions, take names and pass them onto the HOD for processing. Let the kids know that even if they mugged you off the first time, there were consequences to follow. And then if you come back, they might just remember it.

Citizens of supply and cover, I salute you.



Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state schoolin Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletterson behaviour. Read more from Tom on our behaviour forum or on his blog or Twitter

His latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum/ Bloomsbury


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