Substitutes — We Can’t Live Without ‘Em!

Sep 17, 2013

Know you’re going to be out for a fantastic PD? Coming down with a cold? Due for jury duty?

Regardless of the reason, at some point during this school year, you are going to need a substitute teacher.

We recently met with Danielle T., a permanent substitute at her school in Kansas City. She helped clue us in on how classroom teachers can make things easier for substitutes, more effective for students, and happier and smoother for you!

  • Leave plans. At least a week’s worth. Including all copies.
  • Leave an explanation of classroom routines and procedures. You could just include what you send to families at the beginning of the year.
  • Leave a current seating chart for all times of day (elementary) or all sections (secondary).
  • Assign a classroom helper. Leave a name of a go-to student for each class period.
  • Leave a note-taking sheet. We love Danielle’s model adapted from this great book. You can download a free version here!

If possible, have all of these documents in a clearly labeled binder left in your school’s office, with a buddy teacher, or in your classroom—depending on your school’s policies. If your school doesn’t systematically collect these in the office, ensure a colleague knows exactly where your plans are. Maybe you could set up a “substitute teacher” corner if you have wall space, or start a collection bin for your department or grade team.

And if you are a substitute yourself, and perhaps, ahem, subbing in some un-together classrooms (gasp!), we love this idea from Danielle.

Create your own substitute teacher box, full of supplies, materials and activities that may not be available in the classroomh.

Danielle includes the following items in her portable substitute teacher pack:

  • Post it (to leave a quick note for the teacher)
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Extra pencils for the students to borrow (her name is on all of them)
  • Calculator
  • Sharpie pen
  • Dry erase pen
  • Stapler
  • Paper clips
  • Rubber bands
  • Timer
  • Highlighter

Then look! She packs it all up in this nifty case!

With a little planning and forethought, you just may be able to walk back into a neatly organized classroom with a positive report about student behavior! And substitute teachers, start assembling your very own “substitute survival pack” now!

Discussion Question: Other good substitute teacher prep ideas out there?