Eight rules for cover lessons (from a frustrated supply teacher)

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As a supply teacher, I am frequently amazed by the poor quality of the lessons I am required to deliver. They show disdain for the pupils' learning and disdain for the fellow professional covering the class. It is easy to blame us when there is poor discipline in a classroom, but often we are on a hiding to nothing.

So before the new school year gets under way, here are some basic rules to make sure that cover lessons – and students’ and supply teachers’ time - are not wasted.

1. Leave more work than the class will complete
There is nothing worse than finding that all the tasks have been completed with half an hour to go. Pupils will not accept extension tasks dreamed up by a cover teacher.

2. Do not write'this is quite a difficult class' then ask me to 'read around the class' from a book that you know bores them
They will not listen to each other and I will end up telling them to read it themselves, which, of course, they won't.

3.  Remember that you are not always going to get a specialist in your subject
Despite my best efforts, I am perplexed by Key Stage 3 physics and unable to assist. Sometimes I find a bright pupil to help, but too often we end up skipping questions and end up running out of work.

4. Make sure the right exercise books and textbooks are on hand
I have lost count of the number of times I have had to send pupils off to see if they can find the books in the office, in the room where they had their last lesson, or anywhere else they might be. They never hurry back. Furthermore, sharing one textbook between three is not conducive to independent learning.

5. Powerpoints are fine, as long as I can access them
Check if supply teachers have a login and leave detailed instructions where to find the lesson on the system. A printout is very useful so I can cast a quick eye over the content before the lesson. If supply teachers have no login, arrange for a colleague to set it up.

6. The same rule applies to DVDs

I never understand why I have to show DVDs that do not further the students' learning. There are tremendous documentaries available about most subjects and excellent adaptations of classics or great foreign films with subtitles. So why do I find myself having to persuade classes that watching Shrek for the umpteenth time is meaningful?

7. Set work that you are going to mark

If the task is to be completed on paper, the pupils and I know that it will more than likely find its way to the recycling bag – they do not take it seriously and instead use the opportunity to hone their aeronautical design skills.

8. Leave up to date seating plans

Old, inaccurate ones mean that the classes and I have arguments before they even sit down.

Lynne Field is a supply teacher in the south-west of England

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