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April 21, 2016

Substitute Teacher Resources and Tips

By Lindsey Petlak
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    This year, substitutes have been a big part of my life. What started as several sick days eventually turned into a short leave to figure out a recurring upper respiratory situation (ugh). I came to realize that, while we slip easily into the groove of our specific routines and our role as classroom teacher, we don't give much thought about a substitute teacher's point of view; our biggest concern is getting those plans finished for days we need to be away from the classroom.

    As part of my situation, not only did I need to rely on substitute teachers to care for my class, but I also have been doing a little subbing myself.  Boy, oh boy, this has this given me a valuable perspective and a higher appreciation for great substitutes (or as I like to call them, “guest” teachers). So, using my new learnings, I'd like to share my plans for your class when you are absent, and how to make the process easier on you, more effective for the substitute, and more engaging for your students.


    What I’ve Learned About Needing Substitute Teachers This Year

    When you need to be out of the classroom, it is the absolute WORST, especially if you are or your child is ill. You already don’t feel well, and then you have to think about, plan for, and write out plans for every single detail of your day. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and very laborious. Then, you worry about your class all day. From this year’s experience, I’ve learned the following:

    • Find a Great Sub (or Two) and Hold on Tight: The value of a great substitute teacher is PRICELESS. Enough said. If you can find one or two reliable subs to depend on, it works out best for all stakeholders. You know you can trust those guest teachers, they know your class, your expectations, your routines, and more. It will be easier for you to leave plans, because after the first few times, they know much of what you would otherwise need to write out for a random or new sub. It’s not always possible, but find a few guest teachers you love and be sure you reach out to them first when you need help.

    • Go Digital (When Possible): I’ve heard back from my substitutes that they absolutely have loved how independent my class is. Part of this is because so much of my plans and student activities are digital. This may not be possible for everyone due to tech availability or age group, but for my kids, I leverage both their age/responsibility level and access to technology to help the days I’m out of the room to run smoothly. Below are a few of the tech tools I love to use.

      • Google Docs: Here I drop copies of my daily plans for the students and blank templates for work so that even if I’m out unexpectedly and don’t get work copies made, they can access them online.

      • Class website: I put sub plan notes here, as well as online resources like videos, work examples, online games, and more.

      • TodaysMeet: With this tech resource, I open a class-specific chat line where students can shoot questions to me during the day and I can quickly answer them. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of things for the sub, makes the students more independent, and gives them better direction throughout the day. NOTE: Have clear expectations set for the students when using this resource. No chatting, joking, etc. The line is for specific questions students need answered in order to stay on track during the day.

      • Online activities: Great online resources, such as StudyJams!, Scholastic magazines (with online components), and virtual tours such as the Ellis Island Tour, make being out of the classroom a snap for you, while making sure the kiddos are engaged during your absence. With online and printable accountability resources, you’ll know exactly what they got out of each online exploration.

    • Use Great Resources: Scholastic has outdone itself with resources for teachers to use when they need a sub. From folders to printables, books to leave for reading in your absence, and other blog posts with amazing advice, Scholastic has you covered. Check these out and use them next time you need a guest teacher to cover your class!

      • Substitute Folders: Organize your plans, forms, and student rosters with these cute and functional sub folders. Have them ready to go for unexpected absences.

      • Printables: From forms to lesson plan outlines, print out these amazing resources and have them ready to go in your sub folder.

      • Books: I always think it is fun to leave a book about substitute teachers for my class to read with the sub. Scholastic has TONS to choose from and if you have them already in your library, or order them from Scholastic, you could have the books, with printables, and sub folder ready to go in your emergency sub tub.

     

    For a limited time, these very useful forms are free from Scholastic Printables! Just click on an image to access.

     

    • Blog posts: Don’t take my word for it, listen to other amazing Scholastic Top Teaching bloggers from past and present! I’m amazed at the wealth of advice, tips, and resources that our bloggers have written about to help the classroom teacher better manage the burden of preparing for a short- or long-term sub. For some some great ideas for your sub folder, check out Rhonda Stewart's "New and Improved Substitute Teacher Folder" and the "Substitute Teacher Folder Makeover."

     


    I hope these tips, advice, and resources make it easier for you the next time you need to leave sub plans! Thanks for reading, and see you again soon! -Lindsey

    This year, substitutes have been a big part of my life. What started as several sick days eventually turned into a short leave to figure out a recurring upper respiratory situation (ugh). I came to realize that, while we slip easily into the groove of our specific routines and our role as classroom teacher, we don't give much thought about a substitute teacher's point of view; our biggest concern is getting those plans finished for days we need to be away from the classroom.

    As part of my situation, not only did I need to rely on substitute teachers to care for my class, but I also have been doing a little subbing myself.  Boy, oh boy, this has this given me a valuable perspective and a higher appreciation for great substitutes (or as I like to call them, “guest” teachers). So, using my new learnings, I'd like to share my plans for your class when you are absent, and how to make the process easier on you, more effective for the substitute, and more engaging for your students.


    What I’ve Learned About Needing Substitute Teachers This Year

    When you need to be out of the classroom, it is the absolute WORST, especially if you are or your child is ill. You already don’t feel well, and then you have to think about, plan for, and write out plans for every single detail of your day. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and very laborious. Then, you worry about your class all day. From this year’s experience, I’ve learned the following:

    • Find a Great Sub (or Two) and Hold on Tight: The value of a great substitute teacher is PRICELESS. Enough said. If you can find one or two reliable subs to depend on, it works out best for all stakeholders. You know you can trust those guest teachers, they know your class, your expectations, your routines, and more. It will be easier for you to leave plans, because after the first few times, they know much of what you would otherwise need to write out for a random or new sub. It’s not always possible, but find a few guest teachers you love and be sure you reach out to them first when you need help.

    • Go Digital (When Possible): I’ve heard back from my substitutes that they absolutely have loved how independent my class is. Part of this is because so much of my plans and student activities are digital. This may not be possible for everyone due to tech availability or age group, but for my kids, I leverage both their age/responsibility level and access to technology to help the days I’m out of the room to run smoothly. Below are a few of the tech tools I love to use.

      • Google Docs: Here I drop copies of my daily plans for the students and blank templates for work so that even if I’m out unexpectedly and don’t get work copies made, they can access them online.

      • Class website: I put sub plan notes here, as well as online resources like videos, work examples, online games, and more.

      • TodaysMeet: With this tech resource, I open a class-specific chat line where students can shoot questions to me during the day and I can quickly answer them. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of things for the sub, makes the students more independent, and gives them better direction throughout the day. NOTE: Have clear expectations set for the students when using this resource. No chatting, joking, etc. The line is for specific questions students need answered in order to stay on track during the day.

      • Online activities: Great online resources, such as StudyJams!, Scholastic magazines (with online components), and virtual tours such as the Ellis Island Tour, make being out of the classroom a snap for you, while making sure the kiddos are engaged during your absence. With online and printable accountability resources, you’ll know exactly what they got out of each online exploration.

    • Use Great Resources: Scholastic has outdone itself with resources for teachers to use when they need a sub. From folders to printables, books to leave for reading in your absence, and other blog posts with amazing advice, Scholastic has you covered. Check these out and use them next time you need a guest teacher to cover your class!

      • Substitute Folders: Organize your plans, forms, and student rosters with these cute and functional sub folders. Have them ready to go for unexpected absences.

      • Printables: From forms to lesson plan outlines, print out these amazing resources and have them ready to go in your sub folder.

      • Books: I always think it is fun to leave a book about substitute teachers for my class to read with the sub. Scholastic has TONS to choose from and if you have them already in your library, or order them from Scholastic, you could have the books, with printables, and sub folder ready to go in your emergency sub tub.

     

    For a limited time, these very useful forms are free from Scholastic Printables! Just click on an image to access.

     

    • Blog posts: Don’t take my word for it, listen to other amazing Scholastic Top Teaching bloggers from past and present! I’m amazed at the wealth of advice, tips, and resources that our bloggers have written about to help the classroom teacher better manage the burden of preparing for a short- or long-term sub. For some some great ideas for your sub folder, check out Rhonda Stewart's "New and Improved Substitute Teacher Folder" and the "Substitute Teacher Folder Makeover."

     


    I hope these tips, advice, and resources make it easier for you the next time you need to leave sub plans! Thanks for reading, and see you again soon! -Lindsey

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