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Emergency cover

August 31, 2007

Hello again,

It’s what every D.O.S. dreads hearing first thing n the morning: the phone call saying a teacher is too sick to report for work. Ideally of course ...

...the timetable has sufficient slack to ensure that one teacher is always available for such an emergency. Or the D.O.S. may be able to step in, or a standby teacher will be on call. But from time to time the system breaks down and the situation appears to have no solution. So what do you do?

I have known many reactions to this. You can disperse the group among the other classes. The only problem with this is that it disrupts the continuity of study and the homogeneity of the levels. I think a better solution is for the whole school to slip into self-access mode for just one lesson during the day. Ideally two classes should go into the self-access room or library together so that one teacher can set everyone up with appropriate work and be available for questions. Each pair of classes takes it in turn to do this during the day. This means that, even if classes have to have a different teacher from normal, no class will be uncovered.

This solution works better if it is in fact part of a regular routine. It is a cost effective way of giving teachers some free time when you have full staff. So once a fortnight, for example, you could operate this system rotating the free lesson among staff. Then, if the emergency crops up, simply put the school into a well rehearsed self-access mode and the disruption is minimised.

Perhaps not every school has a self-access library. If not, then think creatively and set up a movable self-access centre. Have the resources available on a trolley that you can move into your biggest classroom; combine your groups and work it from there.

By the way, think of this as a valuable aspect of learner training. Students need to develop some independence in the way they choose activities and study what is relevant to their personal needs. A good-self-access system is invaluable in this respect so the approach is pedagogically sound.

Let me know what you think.

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  1. Eric Says:

    That's a very good idea.

    One variation could be to create project for the two classes. Have each student pair up with a student from the other class to complete it. This would work well if their proficiency levels were similar (i.e. not beginner with advanced). A project could help solve the problem of what to do if one teacher has an illness that might keep him or her away for a few classes.

  1. billman Says:

    I was once ill and away for three weeks because of an emergency surgery I needed while teaching in a school in China. The way my school deals with this sort of thing is by having all the teachers post their lesson plans up on the school's server in our own teachers folders so that anyone could access them as a resource.
    we ideally post them up several days in advance so that we are well prepared in case of emergency.
    The other teachers were able to see where I left off and where I needed to go for the next three weeks of class. The classes continued on the pace I had set for them and I was able to pick it up from a predictable place.

    hope this helps too!

  1. Anne Says:

    My partner and I are thinking about doing the Teaching English course and would like to know the likihood of us getting jobs in locations together?

  1. Brenda Townsend Hall Says:

    The likelihood of finding work in the same place is quite good if you take some care about choosing where and when to apply. First select your area and then find out how the academic year is organised: does it start from September or from January ? Time your applications to meet the start of the academic year in your chosen location and send off as many applications as possible.

    You could try an employment agency too and specify exactly where you both wish to work. Obviously you will have a better chance in bigger towns with a lot of schools. Good luck!

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