academics,  new teacher,  procedures,  substitute teacher

It’s a Teacher Thing: Substitute Plans

She looks like such a happy sub…

This week’s blog topic is focusing on substitute plans. Most likely, your school has a designated time to turn in emergency plans and, hopefully, this blog post will help you with some important tips on sub plans. As a former substitute teacher, I can tell you how important it is to have good sub plans! Putting in a little effort on your part can really pay off and make your sub’s day a lot easier. If your school is like mine, we have a hard time getting and keeping substitute teachers, especially good ones. There are some key things to keep in mind as you prepare for your substitute to ensure that the day goes smoothly and the sub comes back.

Make sure you have all the necessary information in one, easy to locate, spot. I have a sub folder. It’s cute and has birds on it, which just makes it more awesome. Inside, I have a copy of the school schedule, the class rosters, general information about the day, and a sheet on what to do in an emergency situation like a fire drill. I keep the rosters updated monthly and I write out the pronunciation of students’ names (or indicate if the child is a girl or a boy). One of the parts I hated most about subbing was calling the roll and having no idea if I was mangling the child’s name or asking if “he” was present when he was in fact a she. I also leave the names of three student ambassadors on each class period’s roster. Seating charts can also be helpful. If your students are anything like mine, you may need to leave a note to remind the sub that the students may try and sit in other seats besides their assigned ones. The last time I came back from a day off, the sub had left the names of students who weren’t even in our class anymore because he went by the seating chart that the students were not following. If your school requires anything else to be in your sub folder, make sure you include it.

Try to leave enough work to fill the entire class period. It’s tough, sometimes, to gauge how long an assignment will take, especially if it’s one you’ve designed (or bought on TeachersPayTeachers as I usually do) just for this sick day. But trust me – a sub with extra class time and no work makes for a very difficult class. For me, I always try to leave more than I know they’ll get through. I’d rather them not get all the work done then be finished fifteen minutes early. Sometimes, it’s easiest to leave a video or a Webquest. Just remember to leave something on hard copy for those students who forget their Chromebook or it’s not charged. And, of course, if your school isn’t 1:1 then make sure your lessons are accessible. You can always leave ‘early finisher’ assignments like word searches or crossword puzzles in case some speedy Gonzalez finishes early.

Another good tip is to let your sub know what your students are accustomed to doing if they finish early. This year, in my classroom, I am instilling in them the idea that, if they finish before everyone else, they get a book and read. This way, if I have a sub and the student finishes early, the student knows the procedure is to get a book and read. Are they always going to do this when there’s a sub? No. But at least you’ve tried! And you can always leave a note for the sub that this is the expectation when the students finish!

Next, be sure to write down important information for the sub. If your class needs to be in the library for photo day at 9:30, write that down. If your kids go to the bathroom on the hallway after lunch (but only three boys in the bathroom at a time to cut down on shenanigans), write that down. If Lando takes medicine every day after lunch, well, you get the idea. More information is always good. I also generally leave the names of one or two teachers on my hall who are good to go to for help.

And, finally, provide some way for the substitute to leave feedback. I’ve created a substitute feedback form that’s in my TeachersPayTeachers store (and I’m sure there are many other such forms out there or you can easily make your own) that I leave on top of my sub folder. It has a spot for each class period and room for notes from the sub. I make it clear in my plans that the names of misbehaving students need to be left and those students will be dealt with upon my return. The feedback form makes it easier for the sub to do that, although sometimes I still just get Post-It notes that read “7th period was off the chain.” Not a lot I can do about that. The feedback form is linked at the bottom of this post in case you’re interested (and it’s free!)

The goal is to get good substitutes who will come back again. Providing them with good information and easy to follow lesson plans (and maybe even a buck and a quarter for a drink from the drink machine) will go a long way towards accomplishing that goal!

What are your key things to leave for a sub? Do you have emergency plans already laid out or do you just post something on Google Classroom if you’re out unexpectedly? What are some suggestions for new teachers when it comes to sub plans? I’d love to hear from you!!

Sub Feedback Form