Saturday, September 8, 2012

5 Quick Tips for Prepping for a Sub

It's pretty much an unavoidable fact that at some point in the school year, you'll probably miss a day...  Or 10.  I feel like one of the biggest disadvantages to our job as teachers is that it usually takes more effort to be gone than to be there.  I rarely have to take sick days, but with some of the added responsibilities I've taken on in my building I have a lot of required meetings to attend.  This month alone I'm missing 4 1/2 days of school!

In prepping for my own absences I started thinking about what I do to try to make being gone a little less stressful.  I'm not saying these things are anything spectacular (in all honesty I feel like it should be common sense), but they're good tips / reminders to hopefully ease any stress that comes with having to be gone.

  1. Have super detailed lesson plans - My daily plans aren't really detailed, but they are enough that in an emergency a sub could get by.  For when I know I'll be gone, my plans go through everything step by step with all of my procedures.  My lesson plans for a single day usually run 3 or 4 pages long minimum.  )If it's my regular sub who knows my routines a bit better they're a teensy bit shorter.)  Subs really appreciate when you're detailed.  If they have downtime, tell them what papers it is okay to grade or if there are any other classroom jobs they can work on.  
  2. Tell the kids (and parents) if you know you'll be gone - I try to put any known absences on my calendar in my parent newsletter each week.  I also tell the kids when I'll be gone.  This is especially important for some kids (such as kids with autism who cling to consistency) so that they know what they're walking into in the morning.  
  3. Warn the sub of any potential problems or "hot spots" - During my first year I had a student with major behavior issues.  I spent time typing a page-long summary of how to handle him, prevent a blow-up, and diffuse a situation.  So of course I wasn't happy to be called into the principal's office after being gone one day to be told that student had a horrible day with the sub.  My principal asked if I'd given the sub any warning and I was able to provide her with the page-long summary...  The sub didn't even bother to read it and it was stapled to my lesson plans!  Needless to say, that sub got negative feedback and was not invited back.  Even better, my butt was covered!  Even if a child isn't a problem, it's better to give them a warning of any potential issues and how they should be handled.
  4. Over plan / provide extra time activities - I try to schedule things out pretty strictly, but there are also those times that things go faster than usual.  I always give a few ideas for time fillers...  An extra read aloud book, extra independent reading time, math flashcards with partners, etc.  
  5. Meet with your sub in your classroom beforehand (if possible) - Even if your sub has been in your room before, it's sometimes helpful to go over things with them in person.  This is also helpful if you use technology in your classroom and you want the sub to use these things as well.  
I can't say those are all of my tips for making an absence go smoothly, but it's a good start.  

Do you have any other suggestions or tips for having a substitute in your classroom?


  1. Great tips! I always overplan, but let the sub know that if they don't get to everything, it's ok!

    Sara :)
    Smiling In Second Grade

  2. I like the idea of the "cover your butt" student behavior explanation! I have a student this year who may qualify for such a document. Thanks for the idea!

  3. I'm like Sara- I always put some "extra" things in there, but I have to tell subs not to worry if they don't get to everything.

    I also talk to my students early in the year about what I expect of them, and I tell them that I know I can trust them to do the right thing, even when I'm not here. And because I know I can trust them, I'm ready to reward them for acting the same way with a guest teacher as they do with me. In our class behavior jar, we earn 1 cotton ball per compliment. But we can earn FIVE from a great day with a sub. It emphasizes to them how important it is to me, and also offers a little bit of motivation :)

    Thanks for your tips!

    Luckeyfrog's Lilypad


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