PedagogyPop QuizSecondary Education

Pop Quiz: Ah, They Can Just Write a Story or Something.



This week I found out that I passed the Open University “Exploring Science” course that I’ve been taking over the last year. This has provided me with enough credits to be allowed to start teaching physics, at least in a probationary way. I’m an English teacher, but I’ve always wanted to teach science too and now I’ll be able to start building up my experience. The thought of teaching a brand new subject is quite terrifying, but the new challenge is exciting too.


Most high school teachers will be at least a little familiar with finding themselves in front of a class in a subject or department that is not their own. All the schools I’ve ever been in (and all the ones in other countries that I’ve either visited or met people from) seem to operate the same kind of system when a staff member is absent unexpectedly: when a class teacher is off, someone else gets drafted in to cover that class. That someone might be a formal substitute or supply teacher if someone’s available and if the school’s willing to pay for it. It’s more likely that teachers from throughout the school will be asked to cover individual classes during their non-contact periods.


Over here we call these class-cover requests “Please Takes”, for obvious reasons. When I worked in sunny Glasgow, in a fairly rough school, they were called “Yuffties”. Yufftie = ye huff tae = you have to = you have to take this class whether you want to or not. Scots slang is weird.


Cover classes like this can be a nightmare or a delight. It’s possible to find yourself face to face with students who you don’t know, or you might have the opportunity to see familiar students in a different setting. Sometimes the absentee teacher (or their boss) has left excellent work that their class can get on with. Sometimes you’re met with a bemused shrug when you ask if there is any work at all for the class to do.


I feel that the majority of the cover classes that I take help to make me a better teacher, because they offer excellent opportunities to learn more about the content and structure of other courses. They also provide a chance to become more established throughout a school; it’s all too easy for a teacher to hide within their department day-in day-out.



Today’s Pop Quiz questions are about your experiences with cover classes!


Have you ever had a really positive or a really negative experience when covering a class for a colleague?


Have you ever had to take a cover lesson with content that has troubled you “skeptically”? This especially applies to teachers in schools with Religious Education programmes.


What do you do when you know you’re going to be absent, maybe for a conference? What kind of work do you leave for your classes when someone else is going to be taking them? How do you make sure that your classes are doing productive and worthwhile work when you’re not there?


The Pop Quiz is a question for you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3pm ET.

Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Alasdair is a high school English teacher in Scotland. He's a passionate skeptic and science fan, which is why he runs a discussion club for young skeptics in his school. He loves space and astronomy more than pretty much anything and is studying for a physics degree in his spare time in order to become qualified to teach science.

He lives with a cat made of distilled hatred and spikes.

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