Non-contact time is precious, and it's always disappointing when you lose it - perhaps at short notice - to cover for an absent colleague. But you can lessen the pain by following a few basic guidelines.
* As soon as you know you have a cover lesson, contact the head of department or subject leader to see if work has been set, and to ask for any support you may need.
* Children may be fed up at losing their teacher, so arrive in good time, and in good humour. Learn and use names as quickly as you can.
* Try to have your own supply of paper and pencils - you don't want to be arguing with children you don't know, or searching a trange room for equipment.
* Don't confront a difficult pupil you don't know. Seek help from a senior colleague or through the school's emergency system.
* Take an interest in the set work - walk around and talk to some pupils about it.
* If no work has been set, don't just childmind. A letter-writing lesson is always useful - discuss layout and choose a topic that appeals. Or you could ask pupils to choose, and be ready to explain if called upon, their best piece of work from the past couple of weeks. The discussion will fill up some knowledge gaps.
Next week: taking pupils outin the minibus