Substitute Plans: Keeping Students Productive When You're Absent
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
It's that time of the year again. It's late Winter and the usual swell of students and teachers falling ill seems to be coming along right on schedule. For teachers, missing even just a day of class presents a huge obstacle, especially considering the pressure that we face to stick to our pacing plans. Next, is the fact that even the "best kids" tend to slacken in class when they realize that there is a substitute for the day.
Even if you're the type who rarely gets sick, there's still the matter of conferences and trainings that occasionally take us out of the classroom. Although no sub is going to be able to run your class as well as you are, here are some tips that will help your students to stay productive:
1. Have an emergency lesson plan in the class - You never know when you're going to fall sick or when an emergency might require you to request a sub. It's always best to keep a complete class lesson with materials in one of your drawers so that somebody can step in without you having to prepare anything. I personally use a lesson about study skills, because it can be used for any class or grade level. This way, a sub can use the same lesson plan and materials for all of my classes. If you would like a copy of my emergency lesson plan materials, you can download it by clicking on the link below.
2. Keep a copy of your seating chart posted near your desk - Unlike you, a sub will not be able to take roll by simply looking out into the class. Make sure that your seating chart is up to date and easy to find.
3. Give more work than your students can finish - I always intentionally leave more work than any of my classes could possible finish, because especially when there is a sub, idle time can easily become a classroom management issue. As an extra precaution, students can have silent reading books to read for early finishers.
4. Make sure that your sub knows where to go to ask for help - For 90% of the issues that might come up, a sub doesn't really have to call the front office. Whenever I'm at a training or conference, I always make sure to let the neighboring teacher, Ruby, know. I also leave instructions for the sub to contact her if there are any issues. I let my student TAs know that I'll be gone too. All of them are familiarized with our class procedures by now and they can navigate my class much better than any sub.
5. Let your kids know that you missed them when you return - I always let my students know the reason for my being out of class, because I want them to understand that they're important. When I'm out for professional development, I try to emphasize that like them, I'm a student too, and that I always want to better myself. I tell them that I miss them and that I want to be a better teacher for them.
Interestingly, teachers are the only people that I know who actually don't like to take time away from work. Hopefully though, some of these tips will help you to make sure that your kids stay productive the next time you have to be out.
Do any of you out there have universal emergency lessons that you use too? Are there any substitutes out there who have other comments to add?
Rosemead High School
El Monte Union High School District