I am excited to welcome a great blogger here today named Mrs. R Mathis. She has been substitute teaching for the past six years. Today she is showing us all a glimpse of how a substitute teacher may see our classrooms. There are things that only another substitute teacher can tell you when it comes to leaving your class for a day. Read on for her thoughtful, thorough, and eye-opening tips…
Advice from a Substitute Teacher
by Mrs. R Mathis, www.mrsmathishomeroom.com
I have been a substitute teacher for almost 6 years now and have taught every grade between Kindergarten and Grade 12, in both French and English. Although I would much rather have my own classroom, teaching jobs are very scarce in Ontario right now, so I feel lucky to even be on not only one, but two occasional teacher lists. Over the years, I’ve seen many different classrooms, styles of teaching and lesson plan layouts. I’ve been in classes where there were no lesson plans left whatsoever and I had to improvise. I’ve also been in classes where the teacher had left 6 pages worth of lessons and a binder full of instructions to follow, and that was only for one day! You may think that the more details you give, the better it is for your substitute teacher, but that’s not always true. The more there is to read, the more chances your sub will get overwhelmed and misinterpret something. Stick to what’s necessary only.
There are things that only another substitute teacher can tell you when it comes to leaving your class for a day. Here is a list of other dos and don’ts that I’ve compiled. These are things that seem to get forgotten about too often. Things that would make my job a lot easier and your students’ day a lot smoother.
- Do have worksheets already photocopied, especially if your substitute teacher is new to the school. Trying to figure out the photocopy machine can be overwhelming for someone new who’s also trying to find their way around the school. If you leave photocopying for your substitute teacher, don’t forget to leave your PIN if you have one! I personally don’t mind doing some photocopying for the teacher I am in for, but I’ve been subbing for a while now and am very familiar with all the schools I work at.
- Do leave a seating plan! This is a life saver for any substitute teacher! Knowing students’ names helps with classroom management and curbs any undesirable behaviours early on. It’s always satisfying to hear students whisper in shock “How does she know our names?? She’s goooood!”
- Do leave names of students to watch out for. Do you have a student who gets violent when frustrated? Please let us know so that we can give that particular student more space if he or she needs it.
- Do leave names of students who can be trusted! It makes things easier for everyone when the substitute can trust that the student is telling the truth about whether or not the class is usually allowed free time on the computers.
- Do leave short notes about any special needs in your class, without infringing on any confidential details. For example, if you have an autistic child in your classroom that gets angry and agitated if he or she is touched, please leave such a note to your substitute teacher! If there are any accommodations to be made for any student, please let us know.
- Do leave answer keys with the work you leave behind. Yes, we are usually familiar with the curriculum, but when you spend a few days in primary, and then get thrown into grade 8, the math lessons are very different and under stressful circumstances, even the best teacher can draw a blank.
- Do leave details about transitions, especially in primary grades. Something as having snack before rather than after recess can affect the entire day for certain students.
- Do leave the name of a same grade teacher, or a neighbour teacher who can help out if needed and let that teacher know that you did.
- Do leave information about school security and safety. Should there be a fire drill or lockdown, your substitute teacher needs to know exactly what your routine is to avoid chaos.
- Do leave a list of student login information if you assign any computer time, especially in primary.
- Do leave a list of how students get home, again, especially in primary. The last thing your substitute teacher wants to do is put a student on the bus to find out that he or she usually walks home.
- Do leave options if you can! A good substitute teacher can improvise when the need arises, but it would be a lot easier for everyone if the alternate activity was linked to what you’re already working on. As occasional teachers, we can’t come prepared for every little thing.
- Do leave your desk and classroom neat and tidy. It’ll be much easier for your substitute teacher to do the same at the end of the day and your class won’t be a disaster when you return.
- Don’t expect the substitute teacher to follow your classroom management plan exactly how you do it. It’s already a lot of work to remember everything about the lesson plans while managing behaviors remembering to hand out tickets for every third right answer from a student is overwhelming. Instead, ask your substitute teacher to leave a list of students who were exceptional and students who needed several reminders. You can deal with rewards and consequences the next day that you are back.
- Don’t forget to include all of your recess duties in your lesson plan or in your schedule if your substitute teacher is to do them in your absence!
- If you can help it, don’t be away on days where there are special events, or field trips. Student behaviors are usually at their most extreme when substitute teachers are in already, sending them on a field trip on top of that is a recipe for disaster if you don’t have a sub who already knows your students well.
- Don’t leave difficult, uncomfortable topics for your substitute teacher to teach (i.e. sexual education! Yes, it’s happened to me before!). Your students will benefit more from you teaching them these things than hearing it from someone new.
- Don’t expect detailed notes and comments unless you ask for them specifically.
I’m the kind of substitute teacher who always leaves lots of notes and comments on how the day went, but I know that not everyone is like me. For the most part, teachers seem to like this practice of mine. I’ve created this form that I fill out and leave after a day of subbing. Today, I offer it to you, along with a checklist of things to remember to leave for your substitute teacher, as a thank you for letting me take over Teaching and Tapas for this post! Download the substitute checklist and form for free (google doc). Enjoy!