Adventures in another classroom – Cover for another subject

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Despite ‘rarely cover’ it comes to all of us eventually. In my school it greets you on SIMS and on a cheery yellow sheet in your pigeon hole, cover.  I recently had a cover for a subject that I ceased doing in Y9 so immediately felt out of my depth, however at least it wasn’t PE (sorry PE teachers I were heels all day so not the best footwear for covering on grass, AstroTurf or the shiny wooden floored gym). Interestingly the class I was covering was also Y9 so had chosen their options and so I immediately thought of how I would have been many years ago in the same situation. I suspected rather like I did, sat next to my friends (no seating plan available back then) and probably not the most enthusiastic attitude to learning. I tried to put this to the back of my mind as I headed to the opposite end of the school.

I arrived at the period 5 lesson, the last of the day, midweek, to find that this was an emergency cover and on this occasion no cover work was available. I don’t panic but with an expectant class looking at me, clearly feeling like a fish out of water as I was in a humanities subject area and not my MFL forte, I was thankful when my brain started whirring. One lovely student raised their hand stating that there was bound to be a dvd somewhere they could watch probably in the hope of trying to save my further embarrassment and it was at that point I decided no, the class would not be watching a dvd and asked what the class had been doing in a previous lesson hoping to glean an idea to build some activities on. Sadly the class had completed an assessment so there was no chance on building a lesson from that with my knowledge. 

Suddenly my brain clicked in to gear and a little spark appeared with a genius idea. Thank you brain! I said to the class that they had 60 seconds to get in to a group with whom they could win, the class looked at each other then back at me strangely. I was walking past them counting down, none of them moved. So I launched the task at them. They had ten minutes, no more to come up with a new charity concept and marketing strategy to present to me and the class who would act as Simon Cowell and the swirly, turning chair gang and would support their charity if it was interesting, engaging and passionately marketed by the teams when presented. 

The students got to work straight away using skills learned across a range of subjects but also from their own experiences. Many passionate and desperately worthwhile causes were mentioned. There was a brilliant buzz of learning noise as they collaborated, shared and finalised their strategies to ensure their chosen charity won above all others.

After the timer rang out students settled quietly several hands shot up to present their charity and strategy to us, the potential supporters, with millions of pounds at our disposal. Students stood and presented and when complete the panel cheered, wooped and offered a response in the style of www/ebi before continuing on to the next group. 

I became increasingly aware that some students weren’t going to volunteer to present so whipped out some of my favourite Kagan questions ‘who goes first’ to ensure it wasn’t just volunteers who presented their ideas. I wanted everyone involved and sharing! No passengers in this lesson, no thank you!
After a short while one student who was working alone at a computer had his chance to present his charity. He unfolded two pieces of paper that he had clearly worked on for some time. This student chose to come to the front to present and he  took a theatrical moment to ready himself and started reading. With the words he spoke he reduced us all to utter silence within seconds, we were hanging on his every word and by the end of his reading had several of us, including myself, in tears with his chosen charity and plea. He had decided to write a letter to the EU where he was the parliamentary representative for the UK. This lone student spoke with such passion, eloquence and conviction that when he stopped the class erupted in applause and cheers. Classmates stood to congratulate him as he returned to his seat whilst several of us wiped our eyes discreetly. 

The student very kindly allowed me to photograph his letter, a proposed speech to the EU about the need to raise awareness, funds and to do more to help orphans in Zimbabwe who had lost their parents to AIDS. I’ve not heard such a passionate and moving plea from a student and I am certain that this was more than a ‘cover task’ to him. It struck a chord deeply within him, the emotion in his words, raw and honest and so beautifully placed. It was a pleasure to witness. I truly hope to see this student representing the UK, driving for change to help those who are less fortunate, who find themselves in terrible circumstances through no fault of their own. I’ll never forget this period 5 cover lesson that’s for sure. 

It’s always amazes me what students can do, what motivates and inspires them. Teaching is truly the best job in the world, and cover, well I guess it’s not so bad either.                

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