Few things are more disheartening than returning from a day off only to find a note from a frazzled substitute. When a sub doesn’t have all the information he or she needs, it not only makes the day much harder, but it can disrupt the flow of your lesson plan for days to come. Give your sub the tools for a smooth and productive day and rest assured that total chaos won’t erupt in your absence. In addition to leaving helpful resources, it’s also a great idea to go over substitute or guest teacher rules and expectations with your students at the beginning of the semester and reiterate them when you have planned leave coming up.
Keep a binder or file system that will serve as a master kit with all the resources a sub could need. This is perfect for unplanned or emergency absences when you haven’t had time to set up a lesson plan to leave for your sub. Make sure the binder or file is clearly marked and easy to find. Some key elements of the master kit include:
- Classroom rules and school protocol
- Labeled map of the school
- Daily schedule
- Class roll and assigned seating chart
- Bus and lunch assignments
- Names of reliable students who can point out potential problems, like name-swapping tricksters
- Names of classroom aides and nearby teachers they can call on for help
- Notes on particular students, such as who has an aide or special accommodations, who leaves for speech therapy, etc.
- Computer log-in information
- Master copies of “busy work” handouts like word searches, crossword puzzles, etc.
- List of websites your sub can use if he or she needs to find additional activities
- Form for your substitute to leave for you regarding any problems encountered
- List of rewards if the teacher hears they’ve been well-behaved and consequences if the report shows poor behavior
In addition to the master kit, leave a lesson-specific binder or folder if this is a planned absence. This helps show students that substitute teachers should be taken as seriously as classroom teachers, and it keeps you from falling behind on your lesson plans. While “busy work” handouts are great in a pinch, they also cost you valuable time. Include textbook and workbook page numbers, instructions for stations or centers, and master copies of handouts. Leave a detailed description of any activities that would normally take place plus where to find materials.
With a little prep work, you’ll come back from a day off to find a happy sub and productive students.