It’s no lie that we as teachers, are constantly exposed to germs by our sweet angels (aka our students). No matter how much hand sanitizer or Clorox wipes you use, sooner or later those germs are going to have you feeling a little under the weather.
Or you may have to make your annual doctor or dentist appointment on a school day, and let’s face it, we all end up needing a “personal” day.
Whatever the reason, you will eventually need to take a day off and to be honest, you should. You have those personal days and sick days for a reason.
Leaving your students in the hands of a substitute may have had you stressed in the past. However, stress no more because I have some great tips that will leave you confident and fearless the next time you need to take a day off.
Don’t Change Your Whole Routine
When discussing sub plans with a coworker she mentioned that she was struggling to find activities that would keep her students and the substitute busy the entire day. I began thinking, why do we always feel that we need to create or find activities for a sub day? Why not just keep our regular routine?
I’m sure your class has a daily routine that you’ve work hard to put in place. If I asked your students what time is math, when do you have reading, or what do you usually do during writing, would they know? If yes, then you have established a solid routine with your students. The great news about establishing a routine is when leaving them with a substitute, you can stick with your routine.
Sticking with your daily routine, helps your students know what to expect. Which means their behavior will most likely follow suite. Changing your routine for a sub can cause chaos in your classroom. Students that aren’t sure of what’s happening throughout the day will have more questions, and more confusion, which is not a good combination for the substitute.
It’s perfectly okay if some of the activities in your routine change, but keep your routine.
For example, if your students do reading centers during the week, then still have them do reading centers. But, you can have them work on a different reading activity in their center than usual. But a substitute can easily handle reading a curriculum story, magazine, or book club book with a small group of students.
If you do math centers, you could have the sub teach the small group a new math game. That way the game could then be played the following week in a center. For whole group reading or math, leave the sub the lesson number you want them to teach and the teacher’s editions for your curriculum. Easy cheesy!
Have Detailed Sub Plans Ready
We’re teachers, so we are always prepared, right? At least we are most the time. So here’s a little tip that will go a long way. Have your detailed sub plans ready to go. Even if you’re not planning on taking any time off. It’s a good idea to have it done before you get sick, or called to jury duty. Then you don’t have to worry about hours of prepping.
Take some time to sit down and think about your typical Monday though Friday routines. Then type them up! Create a document for each day of the week. This way if you have certain days you pass out spelling lists or give a math fact test, it’s all covered. Be sure to include specific times for each subject or activity. The more detailed the better. For math and reading lessons, leave the lesson number blank. When you need to take a day off, all you need is fifteen to thirty minutes to finish off your plans. Add your lesson plan numbers, maybe your read aloud title, and any other specific details you may have left blank.
Once you’ve created these detailed sub plans, save them to your desktop for future use. You may even want to let your buddy teacher know where to find them and what they entail. If your absence is unexpected, at least your buddy teacher will know where to find your sub plans. The only thing they would need to do is write in your lesson numbers and hit print.
Switch Up Your Behavior Incentives
Sometimes that super sweet class isn’t so sweet for your sub. Or your challenging class, can sometimes even be worse. So how can you motivate your class to be the angels that they are for the sub? Try switching up your behavior incentives!
Do something a little extra special with your behavior plan. Add some incentives your students haven’t seen before and tie them to rewards they really want to earn. Have these incentives only available to them when there’s a sub.
One fun idea from Teach.Create.Motivate is a class BINGO board. The BINGO board has pictures on each square. The board is displayed somewhere in the room where students can see it. Students earn the BINGO cards, with the corresponding pictures, throughout the day for good behavior. When your class gets a BINGO, they can earn fun incentives like a popsicle party, extra recess, or other fun rewards.
Another great idea from The Whole Wheat Class is to display a letter to the substitute that explains each time the sub sees good behavior from the class, she can add a petal to a flower that is drawn on the letter. The flower starts without the petals. When the class has earned enough petals to surround the flower, they earn a class reward like a STEM project or Dojo points.
If you know about your absence ahead of time you can let your class know about the incentives and rewards they can earn while you’re out.
Tell Students Sub Day Expectations
Just like we are constantly telling our students what our expectations are when walking in line, taking a test, playing on the playground ect., you want to be sure your student know the expectations for when you have a substitute in your classroom.
Explain to them that it’s not easy being a guest teacher. It can be hard coming into a classroom and not knowing the names of students, where to find supplies, or the class routine. Tell your class how important it is to be a good host and give them examples of what you would like them to do.
Let your students know if the sub asks for help, to make sure they are being respectful helpers. Also your students need to know it’s okay if the sub wants to do things a little different. Empower your students to want to be great helpers, let them know you really need them to step up. Remind them of the positive rewards you have in place and also the consequences of inappropriate behavior while you’re away.
It’s always good to have some “go to” students written on your sub plans. This can help the substitute know who specifically to ask questions if they are uncertain of something. It avoids the sub having to ask the class and get a variety of responses.
In the end, your class is like your home and it’s tough to have a stranger come in for the day. I hope these tips help prepare you for having a substitute, while calming your nerves as well.
Have a Not So Wimpy day!