I was very interested by this post http://headguruteacher.com/2014/10/04/towards-impeccable-behaviour-part-2-ready-for-launch/ by Tom Sherringham as he appears to have covered all bases, ensuring that everyone knows and understands the new behaviour policy. However what about the much-needed supply staff/cover teachers?
As term progresses the needs of schools mean the reliance on supply staff. These staff cover the lessons due to illness or planned absence. These staff are necessary for the smooth running of the school. Experienced ones are godsends, especially if they have been with the school a while. They know the schools needs, the rules, the teachers and pupils, so leading to a seamless transition between ill teacher and cover teacher. However, this isn’t always the case.
Just consider this scenario
After a late call, a Supply teacher arrives at Highbury Grove (or any other school) a place they have never been to before. They are met by the receptionist who is off-hand (obviously having a bad start to the day), and just gives a string of instructions of where to find the cover supervisor.
It is a large site, so only the first three instructions were remembered … go through the double doors, down the corridor, outside, then keep left etc., etc. After a few conversations with helpful staff and pupils, the supply teacher arrived at the correct place to find there was no one there. They waited a few minutes and then checked with the first adult that came past, the adult went away and came back with the information that the cover supervisor had gone to cover a lesson. The supply teacher was then given more verbal instructions on where to go next.
On arrival at the correct classroom (despite wrong turns), a teacher was already there, class settled ready to start and had switched on the laptop … it looked good. They said Hi, quickly followed by here is a pack (supply staff had no time to read it) , here is the cover work (no time to read it) and I have to go now…all in one breath, and promptly left.
Cover teacher introduced themselves to the class of 30 bottom set year 8’s and tried to start the lesson. It didn’t take long until the cover teacher felt sorry for the class teacher. The teacher had done the right thing and had set a great lesson on Power-point, but unfortunately both the supply teacher and students were set up for a failed lesson.
The computer and interactive board were not linked, and surprisingly no tech savvy pupils could make it work either. In addition there was no whiteboard/flip chart to put the information the students needed up, and so the disruption inevitably started. In response the supply teacher looks at the information given by the school, which incidentally is also the C1 etc behaviour policy as described by Tom in his blog. However it simply said C1 place name on the board, then second time add C2 to the name. There was a number to ring but no phone in the room.
The information on one side of A4 was confusing and needed time to digest, but quite simply the supply teacher did not have the time as they had to try to get the hang of it, without the tools to fully support it i.e. there was no whiteboard/flip chart to write the names down at C1 level. At the same time the supply teacher had to maintain discipline and ensure the students were learning, as they were very conscious of those students in the class who wanted to learn and the teacher who expected the work completed.
At break time the teacher reread the instructions, but there was no clear explanation of what to do when you cannot fulfil the process. The diagram on Tom’s blog is much more understandable and clear of its expectations at all levels. I suggest for Tom and the school to be even more successful, they should consider adding the diagram to the information that I presume they already give to supply staff re. behaviour policy and classroom expectations. For the supply teacher in this scenario, with no register to know who was in the class, (the register had to go to attendance within ten minutes of lesson start), or if they managed to find out the names, a board to write them down, what do you do?
How many reading this are now shouting, well why didn’t they go to the classroom along the way?? Such a great idea, but this was an isolated classroom and to get to the nearest other teachers/ humans you had to go up at least ten steps and along a long ramp – too far to leave a class of restless bottom set year 8’s.
The next class were bottom set year 9’s, again no way of getting help for the brilliant lesson, so using the small computer screen was the only option. At break time adults arrived to use the kettle in the back-room, so luckily these problems were resolved for the rest of the day.
Despite the students, staff and parents all being aware of this behaviour policy, it can be complicated if being picked up for the first time, so I urge you Tom and other similar schools before implementing new policies that effect classrooms, just check how easy is it for a supply member of staff – who doesn’t know the school – to pick up, understand and use the new strategy.
Remember you are only as good as your weakest link – in this case it could be unwittingly the supply teacher for no fault of their own.
NB to support supply/cover staff the following are always really helpful…its not an exhaustive list but a good start
- register with picture of students
- cover work – back up incase the link to the school intranet where the work is stored cannot be accessed if the technology lets you down
- something else in the classroom i.e. whiteboard in-case again incase technology lets the lesson down
- behaviour policy and a list of the terms management focus i.e. no mobile phones if so x,y,or z happens
- map showing staff room, classroom and toilet
- welcoming and then throughout the day helpful reception staff (They are the first people they met, so invariably if there is no one else they will go back to this contact point)
- senior team or cover manager to look in on isolated teachers, but especially cover teachers to support and help sort out problems particularly at the beginning of the day
Have a great term