I had never tried my hand at teaching or working in schools before, and thought that cover supervising would be a good way to throw myself in at the deep end and gain some valuable experience. It certainly was.
The cover manager was pleased to see me bright and early, because she was dealing with the stress of sending teachers home all throughout the day. Schools are having to deal with COVID-19 as responsibly as possible. Incidentally, I’d like to highly praise the cover managers I worked with during my stint in secondary schools. Keeping up with the fast-paced changes to coronavirus guidelines requires organisational skills that would impress even Marie Kondo herself.
As I received my first cover lists, it suddenly dawned on me that I was as lost and confused as a year 7. Fortunately, this time my blazer actually fit. I can still hear the echo of my mum’s voice from my first day of secondary school, “you’ll grow into it…!”
First things first: I had to try and find my way around the school without continuously bothering every single busy teacher I saw asking where the science block was.
Then there was the staff room. Were the mugs there for everyone to use? Or was it a bring-your-own type situation? I dared not use the Arsenal mug and tick off Mr Anonymous from the P.E. department. However, it turned out to be a free for all. Good news for me as I was already onto my fifth tea of the day. I found that cover teaching requires a lot of caffeine.
Luckily the other teachers tipped me off about the more challenging pupils. This was great as I could prepare myself for the worst, but more often than not, they turned out to be completely manageable.
Cover teachers will agree that teaching assistants will become your new best friends. Most of them have been at the school for a while and they know their way around the classroom. They also know who needs more help or is likely to be more challenging and they offer incredible help and advice.
"I now know that one of the pupils wasn’t actually called “David Attenborough.”
For some reason, some pupils had a terrible habit of trying to come into the classroom even though they weren’t meant to be in there. Pretty clever because as the new cover supervisor, I didn’t actually know their names by heart. And yes, I now know that one of the pupils wasn’t actually called “David Attenborough.” Coincidentally, his knowledge of natural history was pretty impressive.
By the end of the first week, I had come into my own and felt like one of the team. The staff were all so friendly and I was even able to direct one of the new cover supervisors to the toilets. Success! I looked like I had it all together.
Even to me, as a newcomer to the classroom, it’s clear how important it is to talk to pupils about how they’re finding the school experience in the pandemic. Yes, as an adult, it’s challenging trying to cover lessons but it’s even more demanding for them. Bubbles means that some of them might not even see their closest friends as their breaks are all staggered and they’re getting the serious side of school, and not so much fun. Some pupils will say they’re finding it boring, and others prefer it to being stuck at home in lockdown. If you check in on them, you’ll hear that they’re feeling it too.
Overall, I really did enjoy my experience cover teaching. Every day was completely different, and it was fun adapting to new experiences. And at least I now know where the toilets are for next time, even if it is just for a two-minute breather to get ready to tackle period three.