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Job offer as a cover supervisor

Discussion in 'Thinking of teaching' started by emmabai1ey11, Jan 22, 2020.

  1. emmabai1ey11

    emmabai1ey11 New commenter

    Hi everyone,
    Not sure if this is the right place to post but I’m looking for some advice.
    I am a recent graduate, I think I would like to teach and I have been offered a position as a cover supervisor in secondary schools. I have never taught before, of course I’m a tad nervous about what may happen, I’m worried I’m not going to know the answers to pupils questions and my worst nightmare is to not have been given enough plans to be able to keep the class going.

    Does anyone have any advice to offer me?

    Emma :)
    MathMan1 likes this.
  2. MathMan1

    MathMan1 New commenter

    I'm not a teacher (yet) as I've not yet finished my degree to get onto a PGCE, however, a suggestion I've heard is to see about securing some voluntary time in some schools. That would enable you to explore more the day to day 'how it goes' procedures in either primary or secondary.

    From what I know, there's certainly a 'knack' to being a successful Cover Supervisor, and those skills are usually developed over time.

    When I'd spoken to some schools about volunteering they welcomed my involvement in certain areas, but deferred the idea of any actual pure CS activity until I'd built up experience in their school and handling the class(es) on my own etc.

    I wondered, therefore, whether the offer for the CS role was coming directly from a school or from an agency? If the former then they should be able to assess your suitability and if an agency then they might possibly be more interested in short-term fee income perhaps?

    Others on here more qualified than I will undoubtedly provide more nuggets of wisdom than I have.
  3. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    You are a cover supervisor and not the font of all knowledge. I did a lot of cover in my 33 years in the classroom and I covered a lot of lessons. The students know that the person covering the lesson may not be a specialist in the subject being covered.

    In many instances any student queries were to do with understanding what they had to do and how much they needed to write. I would explain the task to them so they understood what they had to do and with regard to what they had to write I'd ask them what their teacher would expect and get them to do that. Failing that I would make a rational judgement as to what I would expect if I had set the work.

    If I was asked a tricky question I would suggest they look it up in their text book or if they had something about it written in their notes and if that failed I would quietly ask nearby students if they could help the struggling student. If that failed I would ask them to write a note in their book to ask their teacher when they returned. The key thing was that if the class was working quietly it's best not to disturb them with announcements or questions. As for working in silence I found that was a nightmare to enforce so I allowed students to talk quietly to those next to them but no shouting across the room or wandering about. If it got too noisy then I'd insist on silence. Actually, you'll find a good bit of the talk is about the work set and discussing it with a neighbour may help the students' learning.

    A couple of weeks in and you'll be winging it like a pro. Keep them focussed on the task, keep moving around the class homing in on those who are slacking, just standing by them without saying much can head off any problems. I would mostly stand or sit at the back of the class so the students would have to look round to see where I was and I could see the mobile phoners and texters hiding their phones under the desks more easily. Being sat inactive at the front at the teachers desk is a recipe for disaster - get around the class offering help and heading off any problems.

    When the work ran out I always quietly said to the students that if they had done the work to a good standard then they could get on with some homework or read a book as long as they were quiet and stayed in their seat. If they couldn't find anything to do then I said I would set them an essay to write. They soon found something to do and to be frank I didn't really mind if they sat there idly doing nothing as long as they weren't disrupting the others.

    If they claimed to have finished the work early I would always check that they had done the work that had been set and if I didn't think it was sufficient or had been rushed or was the barest minimum I would make them do it again. Having some photocopied educational crossword puzzles or word searches in your bag can also be handy.

    Present yourself well - look smart! Be brisk and business like, confident and un-hurried. Introduce yourself and explain you're covering the lesson and the work they do will be seen by their teacher to ensure it has been done properly. Get the students to enter the room and settle down in a sensible orderly way. Have the work ready to go and give clear instructions, perhaps writing it on the whiteboard before they enter. If your school has SIMS perhaps print out the class photos so you can identify students - knowing a student's name is a powerful weapon in a cover supervisor's armoury.

    Don't stand any nonsense and make sure you are fully up to date with the school disciplinary policy and don't be afraid to use it when it is necessary. Set out your expectations right from the very start and get the reputation that when you cover a lesson the work gets done in a sensible and orderly manner. Don't let students see your cover lessons as playtime.

    You can do this. Good luck.
    sbkrobson and MathMan1 like this.
  4. MathMan1

    MathMan1 New commenter

    Thanks Shedman, I'm not the OP but I've gained value from your reply to them - appreciate it.
    Shedman likes this.
  5. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    Thanks for your kind words @MathMan1. The above are just some techniques and tips I developed that worked for me when I was covering but if you're new to cover supervising, a little bit of early advice can head off problems from the start.
    MathMan1 likes this.
  6. ellenlilymay

    ellenlilymay New commenter

    Don't worry: the kids have zero expectations of cover supervisors (I know from experience). I think my key advice is learn not to fall into the kids' traps. Don't fall for "you're the best cover teacher we've ever had" or "you're my faviourite cover teacher" as usually there is a favour to be asked "can I go to the toilet [to use my phone] please sir?" five seconds later. Never leave the room. If someone asks you if they can go to the toilet, reply "ask me again in 15 miinutes" and you'll find that instead of a deluge of requests stemming from your permission for that kid to go, the first kid will forget they've asked.

    In addition, Google "behaviour management" online and try to find out tricks and tips on how to get the kids to shut up, and how to deal with specific behavioural issues as this will be your biggest challenge, not keeping them busy. The signal you will give at the beginning of class to ge tthem to shut up (eg counting down) or keeping also in stock some spare pens, and terms on which you give out pens (I posted on this in the "supply" forum a few days ago). These are the things you need to learn about - discipline, behaviour and how to stop them running riot.
    Shedman likes this.
  7. science_geek_2020

    science_geek_2020 New commenter

    Hi. I'm in training at the moment but worked as a TA and cover supervisor before this year.

    Doing cover supervisor work is the best possible experience you can get in regards to deciding if teaching is for you.

    And, yes I do have some simple advice:


    1. Seating plan.
    Have a seating plan in front of you. THIS IS ESSENTIAL. Your life will be miserable if you do not know where each and every student sits. You need to be able to address them by name to use the behaviour policy. The behaviour policy is useless if you don't know who people are. Ideally, this plan would have photos (in schools that use bromcom this is possible to do and you could ask another teacher to print one off if you can't access the system - teachers tend to be very happy to help, and like explaining things.. explaining things is their job). At the start of the class, ensure students are sitting in the correct positions.

    I can't emphasise how important it is to know who each student is. If you cant identify them, and they realise it, you are in for hell. They will give you fake names, mess about, and it can turn into a circus. Needing to call for help really undermines your authority.

    Kids just see teachers as teachers, so being a cover makes no difference to them. They think we all live in the basement with no real lives anyway. In other words, you can command respect straight away, regardless of your experience. Introduce yourself as a teacher; all the distinctions mean nothing to them. "I am Ms... and I am your teacher today"

    2. Behaviour policy
    Know the policy to the letter. If students see you don't know it, they will take advantage of you. Know what to do if you need to have a student removed from class. Know how detentions work, how warnings are given etc...

    3. Have fun

    Once you get over the nerves, teaching is fun. I find it fun anyway. Some people hate it, and that's fine (why they end up staying in the profession for years is beyond me)., it's not for everyone or the faint-hearted, but it works for me. Kids are hilarious. 95% of them are good people with good hearts just turning from children into adults and with all the emotional and physical changes that happen over that time period too. Keep them busy, don't be scared of them, and under no circumstances take anything personally. Teenagers don't consider adults to be real people anyway, all they care about is their peers.

    I have a lot of banter with my students. I don't take it all very seriously, and neither do they. They know what they need to do, and I make them do it. If they don't do it, they know the consequences. They know the school rules, they don't even blame me. Use the behaviour policy fairly and properly and the students wont blame you. If you start being inconsistent, this is where the resentment kicks in. Students don't mind being punished if they know they deserved it. At the start of class I lay out three simple rulesL 1: no talking over teacher, 2: no talking over each other, 3: giving your 100%

    The 100% is intentionally vague, as I can rely on it to give warnings. If someone is being lazy, I can say "you're not giving me your 100%" and give them a warning.

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