On joining my primary school, I was a bit unnerved to find out that occasionally I would be expected to cover the class if a supply teacher couldn’t be found or if there were unforeseen circumstances.

It made sense that the TA would cover the class from time to time:

  • The TA knows the children and so it can be less disruptive for them than to have a supply teacher
  • The TA knows which children have SLCN and what works best to support them
  • The TA knows the teacher’s expectations for the class and can ensure that these are met
  • The TA knows the class and school rules and so children don’t ‘try it on’
  • The TA understands the relationships between children and so is mindful of this when grouping children, lining them up, etc

But when I found out I was to cover my teacher’s PPA for six consecutive Thursday afternoons, I had so many sleepless nights. Why? Confidence – or should I say lack of it!

OK, I knew the curriculum; my teacher was an excellent planner and therefore I would know what the class was expected to do. I knew the children’s capabilities and felt able to think on my feet and extend activities should the lesson finish earlier than planned. The children would be making mobile phone cases in their DT lesson – in theory this would all be quite straightforward.

In practice it wasn’t quite the case:

  • I was taking the class WITHOUT TA support!
  • The class still viewed any cover as an opportunity to relax a bit
  • Less structured lessons like needlework meant more talking, more movement around the classroom – more opportunities to be off task

Week 1 didn’t go too badly and I felt my confidence begin to grow. Having already designed their cases, the class spent the session cutting out the basic felt shapes for the case. Yes, there were a few minor wrangles over material and some squabbles about trimmings but, all in all, a good session.

Week 2 arrived and everyone appeared to be industrious and making headway with their project. A knock at the door and the head, escorting a couple of prospective parents around, popped into the class just as this ‘perfect’ lesson screeched to a halt.

Bobby realised he’d sewn his finger to his shorts and began to scream, Amy was unable to walk as she was bound by the ankles with embroidery thread and began to scream and very naughty Eric had thrown ‘top table’ Maisie’s pin cushion out of the window (and yes, Maisie began to scream). And worse, as if it COULD get any worse, was the humiliating telling off the class got for ‘behaving disrespectfully to Mrs Chambers’ in front of a mortified Mrs Chambers…

Perhaps some TAs find covering class easy, but I always found it difficult to make the transition from one role to another. A TA’s relationship with the children is a bit different from the teacher’s relationship and, although my style complimented my teacher’s, it wasn’t the same.

Dear TAs, please share your stories of class cover, when things go wrong or when things go right – we’d love to hear from you. We have a couple of sets of classroom posters to give away for the funniest story and for the best tip, which we will share on The Blog at www.speechandlanguage.info. Please contact office2@speechlink.co.uk

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