I know, teachers. You don’t like to plan for a sub. And you all have horror stories to share about subs. But, there are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind that will help keep those horror stories to a minimum.
DO Write detailed lesson plans.
“The students know what to do.” I have read this in a lesson plan a time or two. I guarantee you, no matter how much your students know when you are there, they become clueless when a sub is there. I have even asked students to get out their Writer’s Workshop notebooks for a lesson, and they respond with, “What’s that?” It is quite the amazing phenomenon.
DON’T Leave out anything special going on that day.
Assemblies, visitors, library, counselor, etc. Make sure all that is included in the lesson plans.
DO Put out all materials and supplies.
The last thing I want to do as a sub is go rooting through your things to find the nurse passes. And you all know about the other natural occurring phenomenon when a sub is there: all the students need to go to the nurse. Other handy supplies to have available are sticky notes, attendance forms, seating charts, and any materials needed for the lessons.
DON’T Include lessons that use a lot of manipulatives.
If you know the sub well, and the sub can handle that, then by all means go ahead. But, when an unfamiliar sub comes into an unfamiliar class, manipulatives tend to be misused even with the best classroom management.
DO Let the sub know your classroom rules.
When a student says, “But our teacher lets us do that all the time,” I have no way of knowing that unless you have told me what you allow and don’t allow. Personally, I always lean to the side of no just to be safe, but many subs will believe the students.
DON’T Forget dismissal procedures.
Dismissal is something I get acute anxiety over… because I feel it is incredibly important to get it right. There’s only one reason the office would page a sub after school. And that is to ask me where Sally is because her mother is here to pick her up. Yea, I put her on the bus per instructions. Everyday of subbing, I go back to the room at the end of the day to clean up and leave my notes and cringe when I hear the pager. Don’t forget to include your dismissal procedure and leave your dismissal clipboard out if you have one.
DO Make sure to leave instructions for technology.
I consider myself pretty tech savvy, but every school (and sometimes classroom) work a little differently. Leave instructions for how to get announcements, movies, etc.
DON’T Write lesson plans with a lot of busy work.
It is hard enough as a sub to get the students to do the work left by the teacher. And if that work isn’t meaningful, it is even that much harder. If you can get a good sub, they can do some teaching.
DO Warn the sub about students to watch.
One of my most challenging sub days was in a kindergarten class. We were all sitting on the carpet singing the alphabet song when out of nowhere a boy screamed… not because he was upset; he was just a screamer. And he sat next to a sensitive little girl who cried every time he screamed. Now, this took me totally by surprise and was apparently a common occurrence because in the next couple of hours, every other kinder teacher poked their head in to make sure I was handling the screamer OK. It sure would have been nice to know that.