The Ultimate Teacher PD? Covering A Colleague’s Class

The value of trading places.

Why

This week, I did something I’ve never done before. Ever. Not in 27 years teaching.

I covered symphonic choir for the music teacher. *Gulp.*

Sure, yeah, I’m not new to covering classes. But this was different. 

And for a music lover, it might have been life changing.

You see, for all intents and purposes, I, the-Shakespeare-loving-composition-grading-vocabulary-inculcating-grammar-correcting senior English teacher became, for almost 42 and a half minutes, a high school choir director.

And WOOO-EEEEE was it a good time. OMG. So so fun.

Now to be fair, the symphonic choir is made up of some really great students. And one of them took control of the piano and some directing, thank goodness. (I haven’t played a full song on the ivories since I was 15 years old!)

Also, to be clear, most times when teachers are asked to cover another, we have to lose our planning time to do so, and I’m no fan of that.

(Side note: teachers need their planning time. It’s crucial to being prepared, especially if we happen to teach four—!!!—preps. And, teachers need down time.) This year, however, my schedule actually allows for covering others, because I am one of the in-school-suspension supervisors; thus, if there’s no one in ISS, as the case was earlier this week, then I am free to fill-in where needed. (I just love using the word “thus.”)

And this time it was choir. I. LOVED. IT. I think I may have found my next career, my second calling.

Me, this week: an imposter, but a choir director, nonetheless.

I could clap or snap along (which you really can’t do at a school concert), try my hand at directing (practicing in the shower paid off), and even dance (I’ve got some moves, y’know). Heck—I even sang along! And, I was just astounded looking at their music, because I realized that choir students really are learning another language. Just like math students or robotics students or French students would.

Every teacher should get the opportunity—as many as they wish—to cover other teachers’ classes.

Hey! Maybe even tradesies once in a while! And yes, I did think this through. To do so, and to really see the students in their other class’s element, you’d have to trade with another teacher on a day when there was no new instruction going on. A day when you really could let the class show itself off.

It’s nothing new for a teacher to find out that students act one way in her class but not the same way in his. We all get it, that’s education 101, people. But to actually find the time in the schedule to watch students excel or struggle in another class may be a better way for teachers to train in learning differentiation than any other. Plus, it gives us another way to leverage our relationships with students. (I watched a student of mine who can’t read in front of the class without turning red sing her heart out!)

So teachers, or anyone who works for that matter, as we wind down the year and realize that the winter blahs are right around the corner, consider how you might be able to cover someone you work with or trade positions for a change of pace. It could be a great way to refresh yourself or to see things from a different perspective.

I mean, I’m already gearing up for phys. ed. (got a whistle), industrial tech (found my purple tape measure), and maybe even a math class (still looking for my TI -84 graphing calculator)…

We’d love to hear. Do you enjoy covering classes? Why or why not? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook. 

Plus, five things PD trainers should never do.

The Ultimate Teacher PD? Covering A Colleague's Class

Posted by Aimee Ross

Aimee Ross is a nationally award-winning educator and writer who’s been teaching high school English for 27 years. Aimee just published her first book, Permanent Marker: A Memoir (KiCam Projects, March 2018), and she has had numerous essays and lesson plans published online and in anthologies. Aimee also worked as a regional educator for the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and a teacher consultant for the National Writing Project. Currently—sigh—she’s lavishing in loving two new grandbabies, Layla and Judson. Learn more at https://theaimeeross.com/.

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