Reflecting on Cover Lessons

After spending my GPS and SPS sessions focused on Lesson Planning, I was keen to observe some more lessons so that I could peel them apart, slotting the activities into what I thought was; the Starter, the Main and the Plenary. However, as in real life, sometimes observations do not go to plan and one quickly discovers that their objectives are pushed aside because something else, a different learning opportunity, presents itself.

As I walked away from my first observation I overheard a music teacher explaining to a student how tricky it can be to learn to improvise when playing a musical instrument. Being a musician myself, I mused that improvising during ‘real life’ can also be ‘tricky’. If you want to change your tune in the beat of a breath this skill must be continually tested. In fact, the reality for many teachers is that lessons do not go exactly to plan, and whilst it can be unnerving, it also presents an important opportunity to develop a crucial skill – the ability to improvise.

I made my way to my next observation, a Geography lesson, expecting to pick it apart only to discover there was a supply teacher in situ. Instead of sneaking back to the safety of the English faculty, I stayed to watch the lesson. This proved to be a really valuable opportunity to reflect on what happens to student learning when a teacher is away from class.

I discovered that although a lesson plan had been prepared, there were many things that were missing from it. This meant the supply teacher could not ‘step into’ the teaching role as quickly as she would have liked and was forced to ‘improvise’.

Although the tasks were detailed, the learning objectives were missing and small specifics – such as page numbers for the various texts circulating around the room – were incorrect. Furthermore, the teacher could not use the planned power point as she did not have access to the school’s computer systems, nor was a hard copy of the slides left for her. No internet access meant websites and pictures from the web could not be accessed and ultimately, the supply teacher could not teach to the lesson plan. Although she improvised, the students missed not just valuable lesson time but also the continuity and expertise of their teacher.

In hindsight, this was a crucial lesson to have observed because I witnessed the lesson plan of another teacher rendered useless because of technology. Had the teacher included a memory stick in the cover pack the lesson could have been delivered seamlessly in their absence.

Shiela, English Trainee, Ormiston Sudbury Academy


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