Ask Mary: Preparing for a Substitute Teacher

By Mary Rose
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

Thirty years of classroom experience makes Mary Rose a teaching expert. We've asked her to answer a question from a new teacher. Hear her advice!

The Question:
What are some good ideas to help me prepare for a substitute? I know all kids hate to have a sub, so I would like to make this easy and pleasant for both the teacher and my students.

Mary Rose's Answer:
I think a substitute teacher is always a hard thing for the children to have, and I always feel sorry for the subs when they walk in there, so I try to make their job a lot easier. I think getting ready for the sub is actually a two-part process, and most of us only do half of it. We get ready for the sub by planning easy, kind of boring things — lots of paperwork, just sit there and do these math problems, you know — that's what we usually give them. But what we don't do is we don't prepare the children well enough. My students and I created a pamphlet called, "How to survive your sub," and it's a cute little thing that I kind of recreated every year with a different class. It's just things that they think of to help their day go easier when there is a substitute. And they learn that if they cooperate and help the sub that their lives will be easier, and the sub's life will too.

I always let my kids know when I'm going to be gone. I let them know ahead of time. I write them a note on the chalkboard. I show them the papers and give the instructions ahead of time if I can. And it makes it much easier for the sub walking in there if the kids already know what's going to go on.

A couple other nice things I like to do is to leave some stickers or some candy that she can pass out. Sometimes, if I'm in a really good mood, I'll even buy her lunch for her or have a cup or coffee paid for before she gets there — kind of starts the sub's day out right too.

  • Subjects:
    Classroom Management, Adjusting to School, New Teacher Resources, Teacher Tips and Strategies

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