Thursday, February 28, 2013

Supply Teaching 101: How to Have a Splendid Day Cover Teaching - Part II



This is part II of the "How to Have a Splendid Day Cover Teaching in London" series by our guest blogger & Canadian teacher in London, Dusan Sekulic.  Read Part I here.


One fascinating thing I find about the London Underground is the propensity for people to be silent in the train cars. It is like an unwritten code in the tube, for the most part. Londoners love to mind their own business, generally turning to their iPods or, more frequently, reading the daily news via newspapers, The Evening Standard, etc.  I personally enjoy reading as well, so a semi-library atmosphere in a train that is filled to the brim with people is astounding!

Through the occasional murmur of passengers, many teachers choose to mark exercise books (not notebooks) while on their way to school. However, as a cover teacher, other options present themselves as well, especially since many times it will be your first time travelling to a particular school.

Supply Teachers must show their passport & British Police Check (CRB)


Once you have shaken off the cobwebs of an early morning rising – packed lunch held firmly in your hand and bag filled with your passport, CRB and favourite pen and back-up lesson plans – most cover teachers do different things while on their way to school. I always checked the address of the school I was going to and planned my exact route once I got out of the tube. That way you do not waste any time when you emerge from the Underground. Even though Classroom always sends you a text message with the location of your school, always have your mini A-Z ready with the route to your school planned out. Allow yourself plenty of time in the mornings but, remember, it’s okay if you don’t arrive at 8:15 or 8:30 exactly. Classes normally start around 9am and, again, remember: They are grateful that you can come in and cover for one or more of their teachers.

Mentally preparing yourself is also important, especially when you are first starting out. You are going to a school you have never been to, going to teach students you have never met before and trying, at the same time, to navigate your way mind around different school policies, classrooms and systems already in place.

Remember to breathe.

Take a deep breath, don’t panic.

Once you have reached the school, remember that Reception, Register and staff have a system in place. They have all requested cover teachers before. Reception (The office) will always request your work via (passport) and CRB for inspection and casually, usually with a smile, hand you the list of rooms and subjects you will be teaching that day, accentuated with a flourishing, “Good luck!” You may even get a quick tour of the school if you are early enough. These greatly help!

What follows is a marathon of sorts. You speedily head over to your first class, which probably is not a subject of your speciality. Maybe music. Or perhaps Science. Be ready for it as most of the time you will cover for multiple teachers, not just one. Versatility is key.

Try to mark everything you've assigned that day & leave the class teacher a note.


Once you get to your first class, usually a stack of texts and exercise books will await you with a set of instructions, learning objectives and what the teacher generally wants you to accomplish that period. A class list is also usually provided so that you can do the register (attendance). I recommend you always wait at the door of the classroom to welcome your students. It projects a welcoming, responsible presence on your part.

The day more or less will proceed how you want it to. By that I mean your approach. Students will give you a hard time certain days. You might not accomplish everything their regular teacher wanted you to do with them. Fortunately, most teachers recognize this and will not give the students a titanic series of tasks to finish in one single period that is usually 50 minutes long. Your pupils will be disruptive sometimes, they may take advantage of the fact that you are a cover teacher and pull out every distracting technique in the book. Think for a second when this happens. You probably invented half the tricks they are using and let’s face it: We have all given supply teachers a hard time in the past when we were in school.

These are the days that you have to just do your best, not take it personally, and let any negative, stressful experiences wash off your shoulders. Tomorrow is another day. They are kids after all and, believe me, you will meet plenty of bright, inspiring students willing to put in the effort and passion in their classwork that will remind you why you decided to become a teacher.

"Do you know Justin Bieber?" A typical question for Canadian teachers in London.

Another thing to consider: Students in the UK find our accents fascinating. They are enamoured by North American culture and music and their initial questions, once they get over the excitement that they have a cover teacher that day, will revolve around these topics. Questions about favourite artists, cities in America you have travelled to and what celebrities you like. It’s all natural, teenage questions. Don’t take yourself too seriously when these inquiries come flying at you. Use it to your advantage.

When the final bell strikes to end the day’s toils and you emerge from the school that had consumed the last 7 hours of your life, you may feel exhausted, or fulfilled, or even upset. A mixture of emotions will always surface, especially at the start. Don’t ever feel dejected. Your skills will improve, your confidence will grow with each passing day. Until then, you should always reflect. What did you do well? What could you improve on? Always look to be better every day. With patience, experience and conscientious reflection, you can become an even better teacher in due time.

The tube beckons again, as do the many fascinations of majestic London, waiting for you to explore.

More stories to come…

To apply to teach in London with Classroom Canada, whether as a daily cover teacher or a full-time classroom teacher, simply submit your resume & cover letter to apply AT classroomcanada.com. 

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