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Advice please! Cover lesson chaos.....

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by steflovesandy85, Mar 8, 2017.

  1. steflovesandy85

    steflovesandy85 New commenter

    Dear all

    I have just started in a new secondary school and have taken on a HLTA role which involves covering some classes. I had my first cover lesson today; i think I just about survived it! There had clearly been a huge dispute between some of the children and they were understandably very fired up. Swearing, threatening language etc, walking out of the classroom, kicking doors. I was on my own - I couldn't leave the class so all I could do was call SLT and ask them to keep an eye out for the escapees. I've only been there a week so the kids havent had time to get used to me covering yet. The cover work was poor and there wasn't any kind of plan whatsoever-just a couple of lines if that. I feel that if I had been better prepared, the lesson would have had a bit of structure, therefore making it easier to keep everyone focused. I have gotten myself into a negative mood about how I handled the situation; I did warn those involved that I would be reporting the behaviour but they didn't seem to care. Has anyone else got any cover horror stories? I have been told that it's quite normal, when new to cover, for a lesson to end up like a day out at the zoo! I guess I just want a few comforting words from anyone who can give me some advice and tips while bedding in. These kids certainly don't see me as an authority figure right now! thanks xx
    pepper5 likes this.
  2. MissHallEnglish

    MissHallEnglish Occasional commenter Forum guide and community helper

    You've only been there a week! Disasters are allowed.

    1. Get to know the kids - look them up on SIMS or your equivalent, look at behaviour points & award points.
    2. Ask other staff who to 'watch out for' and how they handle them.
    2a. Make an effort to find out who the students are & appear interested in their hobbies, not just the loud ones, all of them.
    3. Go armed to any cover lesson with your own starter: discussion starters work well, e.g Cats vs. dogs or discussion on a current theme or news story. That way if your cover isn't up to much, you've got time to do a bit of thinking and form a plan before launching into something.
    4. Be firm and fair - follow the behaviour system.
    5. Praise - genuine praise.

    Nail the relationships: behaviour and order will follow. Good luck while you're settling in.
  3. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    Definitely agree with the advice above.
    6. If you know you've got a tough class coming ask SLT/Pastoral to drop-in. Hopefully about 10 mins in and to praise the kids for good behaviour or failing that can help you pull them down from the walls.
    7. Cover work is usually brief but if you can see it first thing (or even the day before) you can think of ways of jazzing it up.
    8. Try feeding back on how the lesson went to the absent teacher, sometimes they might step up to make sure it's better next time.

    Cover can be a great thing. In time, probably after Easter, it'll stop being a terrible burden and instead a chance to interact with the kids.
  4. Ryan91

    Ryan91 New commenter

    I'm a cover supervisor, so I feel your pain! I walked out of school Tuesday depressed with the poor behaviour in my classes. However, today went really well! I think the cover role unfortunately has a prestigious reputation for being an up and down role, while also being a 'free game' in terms of behaviour. As the others said above, enforce the behaviour policy and sit detentions. Some will need to see you're willing to lose your time to account for their actions. I know far to many CS's and cover staff fear judgement to say a lesson went ok only for the TA to later say it it was like a zoo.
    pepper5 likes this.
  5. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter


    Great advice and tips from the above posters.

    From someone who has worked as a supply teacher for a long time covering hundreds of cover lessons, I can assure you what you experienced yesterday is a typical scenario being experienced in schools in every town in the country. If you have time, you can read some of the experiences on the supply forum. What I have found very useful is this:

    Have 3 rules and write them on the board:

    1. Follow instructions fast
    2. Stay on task
    3 Work without disturbing others

    Almost everything that happens in a classroom falls into one of those three categories.

    Have intervention scripts - just like in a play you have learnt your lines:

    You: Megan, I saw you throw the pen across the room at Rodney. I need you to finish questions 5 to 6. This is verbal warning.

    Megan continues to throw pens, paper, rubbers, rulers, glue sticks etc.

    You: Megan, you have broken rules one, two and three. This is your second warning. You can make intelligent choices. You need to get back on task and finish questions 5 and 6.

    Megan continues to throw paper, pens, rulers, glue sticks, rulers, board markers etc.

    At that point you have given Megan two fair warnings, she had chosen not to follow your instructions, so call on call or whatever to have her removed.

    During all this, praise the ones you see doing what you have asked and take notes of their names so you can log the positive behaviour.

    Never use the system of putting names of misbehaving students on the boards as it creates more drama and arguments.

    As far as the cover work is concerned, go to the HOD of the subject and tell them what happened and see what they can do in terms of helping you. Their job is to ensure appropriate cover has been set and, as you say, if you had appropriate cover that would have helped you to maintain the focus of the class. You can't be expected to produce cover for classes and subjects you may have never taught before.

    Having a few things up your sleeve is a sound piece of advice: anything connected to literacy and numeracy. In English classes, 15 minutes quiet reading is a good starter.

    Check out the Pivotal Education web site for tips on how to manage classes.

    As the above poster says, it is a very much up and down role: some classes you will think you could be in a private school and on other days the behaviour will be challenging.

    Never blame yourself and realise a lot of what happens is outside your control. Try to change the things you can control and leave the things you can't control.
  6. mrmatt73

    mrmatt73 Occasional commenter

    Mindful of what pepper5 has said, get to know the school's behaviour policy very well and follow that to the letter. Our school's 'proactive behaviour' policy obliges you to put names on the board after a verbal warning. This students then know that they have reached a particular punishment phase and it's up to them to continue poor behaviour or desist.
  7. wanet

    wanet Star commenter

    if your SIMS (or other MIS) has student photographs, printing these out will help you identify students, half of the battle.
  8. sarah_dann1

    sarah_dann1 Occasional commenter TES Behaviour peer advisor

    Great ideas provided already by our excellent community. I think the 3 simple rules on the board is a particularly good and usable one. The kids will get to know you as you cover more lessons and you can expect to see behaviour settle down if you remain consistent.

    Having senior staff drop in to lessons can also be an excellent way of reminding students that you may not be their usual teacher but that you are part of the school structure and therefore should be treated in the same way as any other teacher. Hopefully your SLT will have the relevant authority to have an impact!

    Definitely worth having a load of back up ideas as cover work is often left hastily. It's often boring or too quickly finished.
    - Search for 'one off lessons' and 'cover work' in our resource areas and you will find plenty of excellent ready to go resources.

    Some ideas:
    - General knowledge quizzes
    - Watch Newsround and discuss the current issues/have students come up with questions they would ask the people involved/write a newspaper article or creative story based on a topic/present a Q&A with someone involved in one of the stories etc
    - www.formtimeideas.com has a range of literacy/numeracy activities that are excellent starters to give you space to read the cover notes/find the class register - and look for photos (helps to act like you just know some names until you learn them)
    - Find out about P4C (Philosophy for Children) as you can then always create a discussion based lesson using these principles
    - Have a range of thought provoking images on a file that you can use for discussion/creative tasks

    It sounds like you handled the situation well and are rational about the up and down nature of a cover role. Unfortunately, many students will see it as a a free pass and many teachers don't leave adequate cover. However, over time the students will get to know you and hopefully you can build positive relationships with many of them. Being honest about your own strengths and weaknesses here is often good too - if it's a subject you know, be confident and help with their work but when you don't know, look information up together. Many "good" kids will just want the help with the work so try to provide that where you can.

    Most importantly, stay as positive as you can! Good luck.
    pepper5 likes this.

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