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How to... organise your absence

I'm away from school on Monday. Any suggestions for setting work in my absence?

Crazy Mike and 3B in my free period? No thanks. I would rather pull my own teeth out.

But someone has to. What's the best thing to do?

First, remember you're setting work for a non-specialist. Nothing too complicated, no arc welding, explosives, batter pudding mixes or cross-country runs. A note on what they were doing last is useful and tips on who to watch out for would be appreciated.

Hmm, Denzil tends to move around in class - a kinaesthetic learner, so I'm told.

So the teacher should know to keep an eye on him. Instructions must be simple, clear and brief. Write the main part to be read directly to the class. Make clear where the resources are and check no one else is borrowing them. Keep it simple - textbook, paper and pen are fine. Identify another colleague who could advise if things go wrong.

Doesn't sound like my usual inspirational lessons of fun and frolics.

This is the time for heads down and graft, not song and dance. Think back to basics, not free expression. If pupils have their own books and materials make this clear - then add some spares just in case. Aim to head off Crazy Mike's usual tactics of "forgot", "lost", "broken" or "cat ate it".

Supply more than enough work to keep them at it - and then some. Describe the end product you expect in terms of length and content. Provide a set list, seating plan and space for comments on the lesson, pupils, their behaviour and achievement.

Sounds like a lot of work.

More work than teaching it yourself. But your pupils will learn your way and your colleague will respect your efforts. Make things easier next time by agreeing a common format for all work set in absence. That way, every cover teacher will recognise the pattern.

OK, thanks.

Oh yes, and find out who took the lesson and thank them. Do as you would be done to. Enjoy your away day. I've just remembered an urgent dental appointment Duncan Grey is author of 100 Essential Lists for Teachers, First Aid Kit for Teachers and Getting the Buggers to Learn (published by Continuum)

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