The Art Of Cover TEFL Teaching in London | TEFL Jobs London

The Art Of Cover TEFL Teaching in London

By Neil Root
Neil Root is a writer and London based English Language teacher with 10 years experience.

Cover TEFL teaching in London

By Joseph Plotz (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

With the London TEFL industry being very sporadic in regard to teaching opportunities in autumn, winter and early spring, being a cover teacher for permanent staff off sick or on holiday is a major part of surviving as a TEFL teacher in the capital. Being a cover teacher is an art, and there are ways to streamline your approach to these short-term roles.

Remember that you are taking the class for anything for one hour to a fortnight or three weeks. You may think that the class you will enter will be used to their regular teacher and miss that teacher, and this may daunt you. But not necessarily – most London TEFL schools rotate their teachers at regular intervals, to keep their teaching fresh. Also, no teacher is everybody’s favourite. This is an important lesson to learn- you have skills that other teachers do not, and they ones which you don’t possess. So be ‘yourself’, as students respond to confidence and a fluent lesson.

Cover what you have been told to

You will almost definitely have some prescribed materials if it is a very short-term cover, but you may have to prepare your own more for longer cover assignments. There will almost always be a core course book, and you must cover what you have been told to. That is the main point of your job, to keep the absent teacher’s seat warm as efficiently and smoothly as possible – students hate change if it is too sudden and sharp. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t supplement core materials with your own ideas and activities, whether it’s cut-ups, games, debates or grammar or vocabulary activities. Read the class diary of the teacher you are covering – identify the area which you feel is under-represented, and focus on that weakness. If there’s not enough speaking or tense-work, or the listening has been too easy, choose appropriate resources and materials to fill that gap.

Listen to your students

Be creative, and above all listen to your students. Their needs and desires are what you are there to deliver as they are the customer after all. But don’t become too focused on one or two vocal students – you have to take the whole class with you, although of course in a one-to-one class this does not apply. That is not to say that you should let your students lead you too much though – you have to maintain control, let them know that their opinion and input is highly valued, but that you are dictating the pace and direction of the class. This is particularly important for cover teaching, as you have no prior relationship with the students or them with you, so boundaries on both sides will be tested. Be positive, confident and attentive, prepare well, follow the criteria given by the school and you will thrive. Best of luck!


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