Forums / Professional Learning / When you leave your students in the hands of a substitute teacher, what advice do you have? What are your "pet peeves?" What do you appreciate the most as a professional?

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When you leave your students in the hands of a substitute teacher, what advice do you have? What are your "pet peeves?" What do you appreciate the most as a professional?

Author Post
Elizabeth Jacobs Elizabeth Jacobs 2520 Points

Jennifer Hicks Jennifer Hicks 680 Points

My best adivce is having solid detailed lessons that are as comprehensive as possible. It is already hard for substitutes to walk into foreign classrooms with students that they don't know. We want to make sure we give them the best tools we can to take care of our students. I typically provide at least one typed page with introduction and assignments, a school bell schedule, seating charts, emergency plans, and rosters. I also leave copies of any assignments that the students are completing. My biggest pet peeve is coming back to a completely rearranged desk or classroom. I appreciate when the substitue give me clear feedback about how their day went and any issues that they may have had. 

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Hi Elizabeth, I would like to address that first question in your post title: "When you leave your students in the hands of a substitute teacher, what advice to you have?" I think most schools require teachers to have sub plans that include class lists, seating charts, behavior/class rules and procedures, emergency information, and special needs information. I also made sure that one of my colleagues would be on hand and would introduce her/himself to my sub at the beginning of the day. Just one friendly, approachable person can make a big difference to a sub. If the sub feels supported, then he/she will be better able to make the school day productive for the students. I have seen substitute teachers in our teachers lounge sitting by themselves - I always go over and introduce myself and ask them how their day is going, etc. Substitute teachers do such a great service for so little money! They deserve all the consideration and respect we can give them. Also, I have that "conversation" with my students about my behavioral expectations for them when a substitute is their teacher. Students know from the beginning of school that I have high expectations that they will be their most helpful, cooperative selves when I am gone. Thanks for asking that question. Carolyn

Madison Pottebaum Madison Pottebaum 1760 Points

This is very helpful! As a soon-to-be teacher, something I'm nervous about is being explicit enough for my sub, and making sure they feel comfortable. Your insight is wonderful for someone like me that has no experience with subsitute teachers.

Elizabeth Jacobs Elizabeth Jacobs 2520 Points

Thank you very much, Carolyn! Your answer was very helpful and very informative. I used to substitute-teach, and I also taught full-time, but that was a decade ago. I went back to school for my Master's (chemistry) and worked in chemistry labs and restaurants since then. That is why I posted this question. I wanted to know what teachers expect from their substitutes now; approaches to education have changed, the technology is changing very quickly, and this is a new generation of students (to me at least). I think it's great that you ask a colleague teacher to greet the sub teacher; if I find that the other teachers are busy when I arrive to sub, I will take the initiative to introduce myself to one of them. I am going to start sub-teaching again this fall and I want to teach full-time eventually. I need to take a few classes to finish my license. I don't mind the pay a bit - the experience is priceless. I really appreciate your response. I have had a very positive experience on this website! Have a wonderful night! Thank you!

Patricia Reid Patricia Reid 1850 Points

I can add this to the advice: enjoy the day. I do expect the sub to be able to handle small problems like talking or moving students around if they bother other people. I did like it when a teacher would come and see how I was doing or even introducing themselves and offering to help.Please do not sugar coat the day in the notes you leave for the teacher. If you have trouble with students, write it down. If there was a student that was helpful, leave the name on the note. I also appreciate it when the sub is flexible and will continue a subject if they did not finish it and not just stop and move to the next subject.I also like it when the sub leaves a note stating which students gave her trouble since I tell my students I expect them to be quiet and listen. I do let the students know the consequence if they do not listen.

Jane Rodgers Jane Rodgers 3310 Points

I appreciate it when the sub follows my lesson plan and does not try to show a movie or present a lesson from another subject content area. When I tell the sub to sit the students in alphabetical order, so that they can be identified and held accountable more easily, I expect that she will do this and I will receive the names of those who misbehaved or were helpful and productive. With only 200 minutes of instruction per week, class time is very precious. Subs need to understand that they are expected to teach in the absence of the regular teacher.

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

One of the science teachers in our department's wife is a sub for our district. I generally request her to be the sub when I am going to be gone, as she knows our content, the kids know who she is and her husband is right across the hall if there are any issues. If I can't get her...I pretty much have given up on having the sub do anything productive while I am gone. Another joy of AZ is that the majority of our subs are 60-75 year old retired folks, some are retired teachers others are not. I've found that if they are a retired teacher, they have a better way of doing what I planned and do their own thing, instead of mine...or they pretty much sit there and let the kids do whatever they want. I also have the talk with my kids if I know I'm going to be gone, i've given several detentions over the years. I'm running into problems now with the sub not writing names down. I do like the idea someone said of having the sub seat the students in alphabetical order. I've found that the kids generally sit whereever they want when the sub is there, instead of assigned seats...making my seating chart worthless to the sub.

Jennifer Hicks Jennifer Hicks 680 Points

It is one of the nicest things to have a substitute that you can trust. We have several of those at my school but they are quickly scooped up. I have had similar issues of having subs come in and either do what they want to do or just let the kids do anything. That is a smart idea of having the students sit in alphabetical order but I'm sure that would be a struggle as well. I have tried leaving seating chart with mixed results on my return. I think my worst story of having a sub do their own thing was coming into my 8th grade science classroom and introduce himself as Santa Claus and he left students on the naughty list. It was interesting coming back after that!

Jennifer Hicks Jennifer Hicks 680 Points

It is one of the nicest things to have a substitute that you can trust. We have several of those at my school but they are quickly scooped up. I have had similar issues of having subs come in and either do what they want to do or just let the kids do anything. That is a smart idea of having the students sit in alphabetical order but I'm sure that would be a struggle as well. I have tried leaving seating chart with mixed results on my return. I think my worst story of having a sub do their own thing was coming into my 8th grade science classroom and introduce himself as Santa Claus and he left students on the naughty list. It was interesting coming back after that!

Andrea Godsill Andrea Godsill 1670 Points

I appreciate when a substitute follows the plans as I have them. I put so much effort into getting them ready and am disappointed when I come back to work that is not done. It then affects me moving forward because I have to finish activities that may need to precede our next topic. I also appreciate when the substitute leaves the classroom as it was when they arrived. I like the sign in sheets changed, date on the board changed, name cards put back up, activities for morning out on the tables, etc. It is so nice to come into a classroom that is ready for children. I'm always scrambling to read the notes from the previous day or gather up materials and having the room ready is such a nice surprise.

Greer Barton Greer Barton 20 Points

I'm starting to substitute this week for the very first time so I searched the internet for advice and pet peeves of teachers so that I can do a good job. The pay is pitiful but I'm a stay-at-home who volunteers at the school quite a bit anyway and our school is in desperate need of subs. I went through the 4 month screening process and I'm finally hired. I'm wondering if most teachers know that there is ZERO training on what to actually do on the job. There's months of screening, online test and courses about reporting abuse but no training on how to "substitute teach" or even how to use the technology to take roll. The Board tells you not to arrive more than 5 minutes early to the classroom which leaves no time to appropriately set up and get acquainted with the plans and room. They also tell you that you must leave immediately when the bell rings and walk out "with the students" and turn off the lights. We have been instructed not to stay and tidy up and that any notes or reports should be written while the students are in the classroom. After seeing these requests I'm wondering if teachers know what the Board is telling subs to do. Also they are very clear that you will not be paid a minute before or after the school bell rings so I can see how some subs would stick to the BOE guidelines. I just want to do a good job and support my kid's school. I think teachers should be aware of what subs are being taught to do and that they are not ever actually trained to "teach" subjects, only a few guidelines are given on classroom management. 

Tammi Kreckel Tammi Kreckel 4150 Points

Hi. I recently was laid off from a full time teaching position and have returned to subbing as I continue to look for a full-time position. My question is this," What if the sub doesn't follow the instructions exactly?" For example, I unintentionally did the activities requested out of order, it didn't affect the understanding of the content and we did do all the activities. I had a teaching aide in the room, so I know this was noted. Also, what questions should a sub ask if they see you before you leave?

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

Tammi, communication is important. Leave a detailed note about what happened in each class. I get a lot of..."everything went fine!" and the kids tell me they didn't do what they were supposed to or that the sub didn't give them what they were supposed to. The more communication is better.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Tammi asked, "What if the sub doesn't follow the instructions exactly?" For example, I unintentionally did the activities requested out of order, it didn't affect the understanding of the content and we did do all the activities. I had a teaching aide in the room, so I know this was noted. Also, what questions should a sub ask if they see you before you leave?" Hi Tammi! It sounds like the teacher was very VERY fortunate to have gotten you as the sub for the class. Aides, like teachers come in all "shapes and sizes". Do not worry about the sequence of the lesson plan when you did such a great job of covering everything! Leaving your OWN note about how you covered everything even if in a little different order should be sufficient to communicate how well you did. As for your second question, I think that if you are fortunate (or unfortunate) to meet the teacher before you leave, I would be pleasantly honest about how the day went. If the teacher left great sub plans that were easy to follow, communicate that. If there was something that you found tricky or confusing, don't be afraid to say something in a non- confrontational way. Don't say you had a great day and the kids were great unless it really was and they really were. Best of luck on you job search, and I hope you have many pleasant and rewarding days as a substitute. Carolyn

Patty McGinnis Patricia McGinnis 25645 Points

I am fortunate in my district because a number of former teachers are available to substitute; since they already know the building and the staff this makes for a stress-free day for them and I know that lessons will be followed. If substitutes do a great job, they are frequently requested (we are allowed to request). They become familiar with the building and begin to know many of the students, which helps to ensure that valuable learning is occurring. Like others have mentioned, communication is the key. I have experienced everything from no note or "everything was fine" to several pages that carefully documented the behaviors and attitudes of students and the progress of the lesson. One particular note I remember was signed by the substitute who also left her business card and phone number. That little extra struck me as being very professional. When I return, I always my classes about the substitute and the lesson. The students freely share their thoughts regarding the person and the instruction. I find this useful information and will use it to either request a specific person or to avoid a particular sub. Our building surveys the subs regarding their experience; teachers also fill out a form about the substitute. Subs who repeatedly get low marks are not invited back. The system works quite well.

Kendra Young Kendra Young 17180 Points

My pet peeve is also coming back to work not completed. This is especially true if I leave a note explaining that it is important that it be finished so I can move on when I return. I don't mind if a substitute adjusts while she's teaching, in fact, I expect it. But I do not like coming back to find that students were allowed to talk for the entire period or to do "busy work." We had a designated "sub greeter" on our team who was responsible for making the sub feel welcome and checking on her throughout the day. Another thing I did was to either leave some chocolate or a dollar for the vending machine as a way of thanking them in advance for taking care of my class.

Floyd Loving Floyd Loving 2385 Points

Sounds like some of you are truly blessed when it comes to substitute quality. Which is true if you have time to be selective where I work, but if you have a true emergency and have to rely on the sub system to place any sub in your room, you were not very realistic to expect the class to move forward.

James Arimond James Arimond 22395 Points

First, you MUST provide updated class lists for all periods. Accurate seating charts remove students' ability to use anonymity in defying the teacher and acting out without repercussions. Leave more work than can be accomplished in the class period. Upon return to class, consequence misbehavior and praise/reward appropriate behavior displayed during your absence.

James Arimond James Arimond 22395 Points

One final thought: they are not "subs." They are teachers. Referring to substitute teachers as "subs" (sub is Latin for "under.") strips these teachers of the professional title and the authority necessary to be effective in the classroom while you are away.

Cheska Robinson Cheska Lorena 5075 Points

Q: When you leave your students in the hands of a substitute teacher, what advice do you have? What are your "pet peeves?" What do you appreciate the most as a professional? I worked as a guest teacher in several school districts before I landed my first full-time science teaching position this August. There are several things that both parties --guest teacher and classroom teacher-- can do to ensure successful learning in the classroom. Here are some of the things I did when employed as guest teacher: 1) Introduced myself as "Guest Science Teacher", not as "Sub", at the beginning of class. When I did this, students knew right away that I know the content so I can help them with questions. That means they have no excuse to goof off and not do work. Usually, the teacher leaves review material behind for individual work. After going around the room, I can tell who can work individually and who needs more help with the material so I end up with smaller review groups with whom I can re-teach or rephrase the material in different ways. 2) Always have extra copies of an End-of-Day Feedback form. I had a GT binder that comprised school map, school schedule, emergency plans/routes, and feedback forms. My template goes by periods, and includes information on absent/disruptive/helpful students, housekeeping items, check-boxes for general mood in each period, what was covered in each class and whether or not work was completed and why, and details on particular incidents. My name and phone number was printed in the signature, but I also attach a copy of my business/social networking card (name, picture, Twitter account, and link to LinkedIn resume). 3) Stay out of the classroom and find friends in the lounge room during breaks. Usually the departments eat lunch together. I've looked at the staff list and searched for the science teachers, department chair, etc and introduce myself. I've also introduced myself to the teachers next door and across the hallway before school starts, and let them know I'm new and may need help later during the day. Making friends with the office staff is also very helpful. Some things that classroom teachers have done that have helped greatly while I guest-taught for them.... 1) **Photo** seating charts of students; alphabetical lists or diagrams are helpful, but students take advantage of anonymity and sometimes switch names so they can sit where they want. 2) Detailed lesson plans and expectations; vague instructions and cluttered rooms are tough to navigate with, especially when you have 10 mins to start the first class and set everything up. 3) Assigned responsible student leaders in each period who distribute and collect work, and whom I can ask when I need to ID a specific student for my notes or ask where things are put away in the classroom.

Floyd Loving Floyd Loving 2385 Points

I think it is right to recognize subs as teachers. I also think anyone who looks at them collectively and not as individuals is mistaken, but anyone who is robbed of dignity because of a label like sub is not likely to be successful as one. With that said, words are powerful and should be chosen carefully. I can see where connotations could be attached to a word (sub) that, when used in front of students, could undercut authority and be counter productive, but used in a forum of teachers with some common experiences the usage seems efficient. I mean I have seen individual subs that I would class above me in skill and knowledge, and I have seen some show up deranged. In my state the standards for teachers are higher than they are for subs, so subs are sub, not as people, but as a class or category. You will find fewer instances of sub teaching from teachers than subs because teachers have to jump through more hoops. Hoop jumping never guarantees anything, but it does have a filtering effect. Sometimes filtering good, sometimes bad, but definitely attaining more homogeneity. Ask the actuaries. :)

Ron Cruz Ron Cruz 175 Points

A lot of good suggestions. I wish I would have joined yesterday.

Beverly Beinlich Beverly Beinlich 2450 Points

Having been a "sub" I would encourage teachers to always have a few days teaching plans available-nothing worse than have great organized first day than coming back the next day, to the same students and flop because you are not sure where to go with the lessons.

James Arimond James Arimond 22395 Points

I agree, Beverly. Having emergency plans can allow students' learning to continue despite their teacher's unexpected absence.

 Dawn Nishimoto 3015 Points

Good substitutes are in high demand at our school. What I want in a substitute is someone who shows up on time, follows my lesson plans, and has good classroom management. I had a sub that left me her business card which I thought was pretty cool. It had her contact information, her education background, and professional experience.

Pet Peeves-When subs don’t read the lesson plans or don’t follow directions, come to school late, or leave rubbish on my desk.

Making Sub Plans-I teach math and science so I use the Science Daybook Series. I use these lessons because the teacher directions are easy to follow and students work in their journals (no copying necessary). For math, I pull lessons from Everyday Math. I have a “Sub Binder” with my sub plans, class lists, seating chart, school procedures, etc. The binder is an efficient way to keep all this stuff in one place for the sub to easily find. The best part is I only have to change out the sub plans and everything else is ready to go.

Renee Hashimoto Renee Hashimoto 1595 Points

Christie Ruffin Christie Ruffin 170 Points

I am a substitute teacher, and I just have a few comments that I'd like to contribute. I find it helpful when teachers are very specific with instructions about the "small things" that help the class run smoothly. This is especially important for younger elementary school students because they rely heavily on routines. It's best to try to run the class very close to the way the regular teacher would. Also, if a teacher knows in advance he/she will be absent, it's great to designate a student helper to assist the substitute teacher with "how we normally do things" or locating supplies.

Juraj Duracka Juraj Duracka 1390 Points

I agree with Christie, the best thing that teachers can do is to pay attention to those little things the substitutes should know about. I am a teacher candidate who is still learning to develop my own lesson plans. From my professors I keep hearing that well written lesson plans should be easy to follow - for me or for anyone else who needs to take over for some time. I just have to add that in the time where schools often opt out from science and SS instruction because they focus so much on reading and math, I appreciate when the substitute teachers keep the science instruction going.

Kathleen Chachich Kathleen Chachich 2825 Points

While being a substitute I have had a variety of experiences. Everything from highly detailed lessons to I come in an have nothing and the teacher next door is scrambling to try to help me have something to do with the students. It is very stressful especially late in the school year where the students may not be as motivated anymore. Also, I agree that class lists or seating charts are very useful to maintain control. I think also that a lot of the success or failure of a substitute depends on the first moment. If I present myself as confident and authoritative from moment one I have a much better time. If I let anything slip right at first it tends to be a much more challenging day. Students will test their limits so be kind but firm. Also, yes please please leave more work than you think could ever possibly be done. Having a classroom of near 30 students saying now what while you fumble about or reading a kindergarten class 100 books and asking them questions gets boring for both you and the students. For substitutes, get there early so if you have well prepared lesson plans you can read over them and get familiar with the classroom. If you are not prepared being early can give you time to remedy and figure out what you will be doing.

Floyd Loving Floyd Loving 2385 Points

I have taught online for the last 4 years, and in my setting that has basically eliminated the need for subs. For years before that when I had to be out, I would make sure that a sub understood that there should be zero tolerance for disrespect and insubordination. If a student would not follow their instructions, they were to immediately call the counselor, VP, or principal to have the student removed. I had the luxury of a small school, a phone in my classroom, and pretty effective administrators. The subs who followed this protocol did not have any problems once the students understood they had to obey or face admin.

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67955 Points

I think it is so important for teachers to treat their subs with respect. With the current economic climate, virtually all substitute teachers have teaching credentials in my area, and often are better prepared than the classroom teachers. Many of the guest teachers (a much better term in my mind) are experts in a technical field, trying to establish themselves in a second career, but with an incredible background of experience. In contrast, young teachers just exiting college are much more likely to get hired as the "real" teacher, because of their cost, energy, and the expectation that they will be molded in the image of their district. Many guest teachers actually have advanced degrees, and would like to be able to share that expertise. But as districts continue to pare costs, the selection process becomes more impersonal. Maybe we need to think of a better way to assign guest teachers. I know I would rather have another science or social studies teacher cover environmental science than a music or English teacher. But that is not usually the case anymore with automated systems like Aesop, etc. What are your thoughts?

Don Dean Don Dean 200 Points

I also use the term "guest teacher" and prepare the students (I am lucky to usually know absences in advance). Unfortunately, in math or science, it's impossible to get a guest teacher who understands the content, so I plan activities in their comfort zone, short, interesting readings or a compelling video. Depending on the teacher's experience, s/he may be able to lead a discussion, but I never count on it. ALWAYS make students responsible to deliver something in writing, from summaries of their readings to "top 10 things you never knew", etc. I once had a science teacher leave a temperature lab when she was absent - complete with hotplates and glass (mercury!) thermometers! Don

Penny Ghinaudo Penny Ghinaudo 3710 Points

I always leave plenty of relavant work for my students and a little extra in case some students try to pretend to do the assignment and just turn in junk. That way the sub always has back up provisions. My biggest problem has been the sub who comes in and ignores the work that I have left and preaches to my students. When I say preaches, I mean "hell, fire, and brimstone." Now I am as religious as the next person, but my high school science classes are not the place for ministers to find congregants. I wish the districts would screen these people better.

Kathryn Mattila Kathryn Mattila 2625 Points

When I need to have a sub for the classroom, I always leave work that students know and is review. I also leave a little extra in case there is extra time. I leave detailed instructions for the subs and leave all the information that they could need. One of my biggest pet peeve is when teachers do not write down names of students who were not following the rules. Students need to be held for their actions.

Penny Ghinaudo Penny Ghinaudo 3710 Points

I have had a couple of really good substitutes in my time. There are some that even have a science or math background that will attempt to engage the students in a way that the actual teacher would on a normal day. This is especially good when a substitute has been around the community for a long time and all of the students know him/her. It makes the discipline problems much less and the chances that the students will be cooperative and learn that much greater.

Floyd Loving Floyd Loving 2385 Points

I agree, when a sub or guest teacher is part of the community, things tend to go smoother and a sub that is willing to be firm and hold students accountable will make everyone's job easier and be more effective. When I saw a new sub unwilling to be firm, I would prepare to need to leave my class and restore order, and many times had to do just that.

Floyd Loving Floyd Loving 2385 Points

With the present economy and job market, I am surprised there have not been more incidents of subs loosing it in a frustrating situation. It must be very stressful for those non-retirees actually trying to break into a permanent position. It speaks well of the group as a whole that for the most part they walk into potentially chaotic situations and bring their skills to our classrooms.

Rebecca Austin-Datta Rebecca Austin Datta 3530 Points

Q: When you leave your students in the hands of a substitute teacher, what advice do you have? What are your "pet peeves?" What do you appreciate the most as a professional? I was a 'regular' substitute in small country schools for several years. I always brought my own grade-appropriate science/math/natural history lesson plans with me, and had worksheets and hands-on activities in a wheeled suitcase that lived in the trunk of my car (a class set of magnifying glasses and rock specimens are especially effective). It was unusual for teachers to leave detailed lesson plans, and I REALLY appreciated it when they did so. I would always recommend substitite/temporary teachers to bring a wheely bag full day of lesson materials planned and ready - empty handed substitute teachers are leaving themselves open to a day full of stress! Now that I am a fulltime teacher, I take care to leave detailed lesson plans that are complementary to the current work. I do not expect a non-chemist to teach or review chemistry concepts, I just require that they monitor behavior and motivate the students to work through the 'extension work' I leave. Preparing a 90-minute class worth of valid extension work can take a whole Saturday, it is time consuming but both my subs and my students appreciate it. It also means that the class text books do not get covered in graffiti, which was a problem last year when I left lesson plans that required using text books. I like to return to find a list of names of those who were especially helpful/respectful to the substitute, as well as those who were less than civil. I like to see that each student has handed in 90-minutes worth of work... I was disappointed recently when a young man submitted just the skeleton of a comparison table, and the sub had no idea what that student had been doing for the class period. My pet peeve was returning from a 2-day absence due to mandated CHAMPS training to find the desks covered in graffiti, and because the subs did not enforce the seating chart, I had NO idea which of my 110 students were responsible.

Keith Godlewski Keith Godlewski 2810 Points

I agree with many of the comments, enjoy your day! I believe most subs are not required to be certified in the area of content they sub for, so expecting them to assist students should not be the case. You should expect them to manage the classroom and be assured that the students are attempting to do the required work. Detailed notes left for the sub will most likely result in a better experience for the sub, as well as the students. It is also imperative that you assign meaningful work! A quiz or graded assignment always help ensure that students will be working and the day will not be lost.

Brittany Hatcher Brittany Hatcher 1395 Points

I have now been on both ends of this dilemma. I started as a substitute pretty much fresh out of high school and really wanted to do an awesome job because I had heard so many teachers talk negatively about substitute teachers. I remember signing in one morning and having a teacher yelling at the bookkeeper down the hall about a substitute that she had the day before and that nothing had been done correctly. As a classroom teacher, it is very important to leave very detailed lesson plans including a schedule, rosters and even a seating chart if you have one. As a substitute, it is important that you respect the teacher’s authority in that classroom and abide by what is left for you. It is difficult if you are a retired teacher not to just come in and do things the way that you want to do them. I do however; prefer an experienced teacher in my classroom as a sub rather than somebody who has no classroom experience. When I went through the sub class for my county, they pretty much told us how to dress and what not to do and then said go for it. If my parents had not both been teachers and still in the school system, I probably would not have even felt comfortable enough to go into the classroom. I think that a lot of the time, teachers just assume that all substitutes have received some type of formal training which is not the case. I appreciate the more experienced subs and the retired teachers because of their classroom management and because a lot of the time they are knowledgeable of the content materials. Never take the good ones for granted!! When it comes to pet peeves, I agree that I really do not like when a sub does not leave a detailed account of what went on during the day. I do not like coming back to a group of kids all upset because of something that happened and I have no feedback from the sub about the situation.

Timothy Selgas Timothy Selgas 480 Points

I am only in my third year of teaching but understand the importance of a good substitute. My advice to a substitute is to stick to my lesson plan. I will have EXTRA structure in the lesson plan. Plus my students are well aware of my expectations and my follow up. INFORMATION FOR SUB - Detailed Lesson Plan - Classroom Roster - Classroom Rules - Name of 1 or 2 Leader / Students I do have high expectations for the substitute. A professional educator will be able to follow

Kelly Amendola Kelly Amendola 10320 Points

I read your post last night and re-worked my lesson plan. I was so nervous leaving my kids in the hands of a sub. Luckily I had a sub that knew all my students so she was okay. Thank you for leaving what I should give my sub.

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67955 Points

Kelly, you are so right about the substitute teacher knowing the students. In my district, we now use an automated placement agent, and this makes it hard to know that the sub you get is the one who knows your students. Although teachers try all sorts of strategies to get specific subs, they often get a sub who is out of field or is unfamiliar with the school. What kind of experiences have the rest of you had with automated sub placement? How are you dealing with the impersonality of the systems?

Faith Allen Faith Allen 10 Points

The posts above are great. I have been struggling with subs in my past two years of teaching. At my current school I now generally know who the substitute will be. Especially with the conference in mind this year I will have to think of lesson plans that will not just be review of previous materials for the students to complete with the substitute.

Tammi Kreckel Tammi Kreckel 4150 Points

As a new substitute with an automated system, I have started to email an introduction letter prior to the date I am substituting. This allows me to provide the teacher with my abilities, certification and my level of familiarity with the school. Initially, since I was unfamiliar with the school, I mentioned that I was new and willing to follow lesson plans. I always include my contact information in case the teacher would like to contact me prior to the substitute date. Sometimes, I get emails, other times I don't. This also gives me the opportunity to clarify any information or acronymns that I am unfamiliar with. I've had two or three teacher's who appreciated the emails.

Janice Novello Janice Novello 6985 Points

I went to our state science conference and had a sub for two days. When I came back, my back activity table was covered with posters that had been taken out of their protective tools and all bunched in a pile. Posters were hung up in odd places in the classroom and more than a several went missing.

Brittany Hatcher Brittany Hatcher 1395 Points

We are not really having a ton of issues with automated sub placement at our school right now. Our county has gone through a ton of budget cuts and we actually do not have any new subs coming into the system. Many of the subs that we are currently using are retired teachers which is working out well because they already have great classroom management (for the most part).

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Jennifer asks, "What kind of experiences have the rest of you had with automated sub placement? How are you dealing with the impersonality of the systems?" I am not sure if yours is like this, Jennifer, but don't systems allow for teachers to still ask for specific subs and give those individuals first choice when that teacher has to be out of the classroom I found it to be an effective way to fill my occasional subbing needs. I don't remember if we could put in the names of individuals we did not want to have back in our classrooms. Does anyone know if that is a possibility?

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67955 Points

Carolyn, It depends on the district. The district can enact policies that make it challenging to request a specific person. My pet peeve is the "preferred sub" list. Usually you put a name or two on the list, and then those people get first shot. Unfortunately, this usually amounts to a few minutes for a sub in a few days, and go to the general sub population. The subs who are working all the time (and who are often requested) are usually not able to respond during the day. Makes it challenging. If you are on the good side of the secretary, that individual usually is able to plug in a specific person, if they want to! Also, most districts are using huge sub pools (300+ in a district with about 15,000 students), so some days, subs grab whatever they can just to get a job - so high school teachers do elementary, and vice versa. The filtering is not up to what it should be. Of course, when there is a chemistry department meeting, it will be tough to come up with a dozen science subs! So it really is a mixed bag. There are some real pluses, like response time. Subs can respond by smartphone now, and a lot work across multiple districts, so theoretically there is better placement. It also may be a better solution for those that are just starting out, since retired teachers don't get all the calls!

Mohamed A. Bereteh Mohamed A. Bereteh 50 Points

It is common knowledge that students are happy to have a substitute in class. They think it is a free day for them. Some also assume that the sub knows nothing about what their teacher would expect them to do, and so immediately the Sub enters the class, they begin to make voluntary suggestions about what should be done or not applicable to them. To make a productive day in class that can benefit the students, it is a good practice to make the working tools in class available to the substitute teacher which must begin with an effective lesson plan for the day. There should also be an emergency lesson plan in case the primary teacher is taken off duty unexpectedly. If the lesson plan is clouded with too much text details, it can be difficult for the Sub to follow or much of the class time will be wasted in managing the class while at the same time implementing the teacher's instructions. In my opinion, students behavior is getting worse when students escape discipline even after the Sub has made this clear in his or her substitute notes. A TA (Teacher's Assistant) can be a plus in the class in providing guidance for the guest teacher. Most students are disrespectful to Subs when they know that they can go away with their bad behavior without any reprimand. Schools are still in the learning process to find a solution or mechanism of intervention for good behavior Experience has thought me that courteous behavior should begin with the primary teacher and the credit worthiness of the classroom assignments.

Apartment Patino Mario Patino 1295 Points

Since using a learning management system (in my case Blackboard) and flipping my classroom, I no longer the challenges of loosing a class day to a substitute teacher. Students have ongoing projects which require them to work efficiently when I am in school and when I am absent. I can monitor their learning from a distance and make adjustments as needed.

Mohamed A. Bereteh Mohamed A. Bereteh 50 Points

In my opinion, monitoring students without the presence of a teacher can pose a greater challenge. However, if the outcome of the goal you have set for the students works well, then it means the work load is less, and that technology makes it even more difficult to create jobs for any substitute. It may be a source of another pink slip dilemma for teachers, as I see it. I think projects are designed for particular outcomes, but can hardly replace the instructional classroom assignments. More online teaching techniques have improved considerably, and have become more effective with the guidance of a teacher, on both ends.

Tola Ogundipe Ganiat Ogundipe 555 Points

You've raised a great point, Mohammed.

One think I've come to accept is that not everything will return to how they used to be or how we used to know them. The pandemic has changed something's for good. We got a calendar update from my district that we would not longer have snow days because when we have snow, we will switch to remote learning unless they get reports of widespread internet outage.  So, the way we educate is going to change with or without our approval.

However, one thing that everyone seems to agreed on, to different degrees, is that technology does not and cannot replace human inputs in the classroom. We might come to have more tech tools in our individual or collective toolboxes, but we will still need subs (maybe not as many - well, we were already having sub shortage in my district and districts around us prior to the pandemic) in K-12 to help keep students on task and help them navigate when classroom teachers cannot be their. 

Parents all over the world now understand now more than ever how much their children need teachers - to educate, correct misconceptions, give human warmth to what their children are learning, help their children develop social skills, ... and the list goes on.

So, even though our normal has changed forever, the importance of education and educators have become more apparent - in my opinion. 


Apartment Patino Mario Patino 1295 Points

Mohamed, you raise valid concerns related to classroom management. Since flipping my classroom, I can actually monitor learning taking place outside of my classroom. Blackboard allows me to monitor usage while providing me with reports on what resources the student’s use, time of day they log on, and how much time they spent online. This information is more informative than issuing a standard homework assignment and not knowing what happens to the assignment once it leaves my room.
I share the BlackBoard report with my students so they can analyze their usage so they can make changes to academic behavior. Students use monthly data to make learning goals and improve 21st. Century Life Skills. Prior to this, it was hard to influence change in learning behavior without any data. The data also provides me another resource when I meet with parents about academic performance. I can make a direct correlation between students who use the online resources and those who don’t. Students how have met or exceeded learning standards spend 20-30 hrs /month as compared with students who are approaching or below standards who spend less than 20 hrs/month. I also use this data for grouping and differentiation.
The use of technology doesn't replace the teacher; online technology is only a tool that a teacher can use to enhance learning and teaching. I have become more efficient in how I use my time with students and also have provided more opportunities for my students to develop self-directed learning skills. As far as your concern with teacher quality, I couldn't agree with you more. The use of technology isn’t a replacement for effective instruction; it is just a tool which can enhance the impact of learning but should never be considered a substitute for a teacher.

Donna Martin Donna Martin 4025 Points

As someone that has been a sub in the past, I know how difficult it can be. I always leave an updated seating chart since it is easier to deal with a student when you can call him by name. I also let my students know that if the sub leaves their name for any reason I will not accept any excuses from them. I appreciate a sub that will leave a proper note and not one that says all was great, just to have another teacher tell me that my class was awfully loud.

Rochelle Tamiya Rochelle Tamiya 4095 Points

Usually when I need a substitute, I call them directly instead of going through the system. However there are times that the ones I know are all "taken". In any case, not only do I "prep" the sub, but most importantly, I prepare my students. Usually, I tell the substitute that my students are great students who can sometimes be talkative but they are great people and that he/she will enjoy them. My lesson plans are very detailed (time, period, etc..) keeping my instruction part of the plans to a minimum. Often, my lessons are not changed for a substitute (when I know that I'll be out in advance) but instead, if I can get their email in advance, I like to give them the lesson ahead of time. I tell the sub to feel free to write the names of students down if need be but to remember that they are the teacher in charge. My students on the other hand are given the talk to....1) RESPECT - substitutes are humans too - "treat them as if they were the one person you love and respect the most in your life" (I often ask the students who misbehave with a sub: "how would you feel if that were your ____ teaching you that day? Would you have acted the same way?") 2) PRIDE - your behavior is a reflection of not only you, it is of your family and me as well, 3) MAKE ME PROUD - I tell my students that I NEVER tell a sub how bad the class is/can be, I only speak good thing about them, so MAKE ME PROUD, don't make me eat my words ;0)

Vivian Montalvo Vivian Montalvo 10 Points

I have been a sub before. Have high regard for them. My situation is kind of different. I am a seasoned teacher that was caught up in the hiring freeze. Meantime, a sub covered my class for months. She will returned as my assistant, which I felt was great, but which has wigged out all my peers. Apparently she was well liked. Any advise?

Brittany Alao Brittany Alao 580 Points

My school requires us to emergency sub plans just in case we have to be out unexpectedly. The main thing is to be as organized as possible and very clear with your instructions.  For the times that I plan to be out, I normally leave printed worksheets for my students to work on or I assign work for them in Google Classroom. I try to leave more than enough so that the sub will not have to make up anything additional for the students to do. I have experienced that subs who are retired teachers like to come in and try to tweak things or assign things that I did not give instructions for. That is a pet peeve of mine. As far as behavior management, I usually leave a behavior log in which the sub can write names of students who have been disruptive and leave a comment of what they did. 

Zach Millan Zach Millan 639 Points

I make sure that my lessons and instructions are as detailed as possible to prevent any clerical errors for the sub. I also let students know of my expectations before I leave (if I'm able to), however I can leave these notes in the sub plans as well to let students know that I expect better than good behavior. One pet peeve I do have is students believing they can move the desks in class when I'm gone, so I've had many days where we are beginning class by fixing desks! If your school has the ability, I keep a favorites list of subs I've worked with in the past and request these subs when I'm gone!

Charissa Barnhill Charissa Barnhill 2434 Points

I agree with leaving clear instructions for the sub and clear expectations for the students. It is important that you leave work that students will be able to do and not claim they didn't know how to complete the task at hand. It is always good to have a buddy teacher that will check up on the sub and answer any questions they may have. If I have my class sitting in a seating chart, I will leave the seating chart with the substitute for taking roll so they are aware of where each student should be sitting. 

Jessica Jones Jessica Jones 465 Points

At the school where I work we have to have sub plans readily available in our classrooms. This is a great way to not have to worry about scrambling to find things for the kids to do if you have to be out all of a sudden. Also, where I work, teachers are pretty much teaching the same things so they are very helpful when it comes to making sure things are running smoothly in classrooms if you need to be out. I would have to say a pet peeve of mine when it comes to substitutes is the fact that they tend to 'baby' the students. Students love that and take full advantage of it. 



Lawrencia Young Lawrencia Young 500 Points

My best advice would be to leave a detailed instructional lesson plan. The lesson plan should be indicated as if you were going to teach it yourself. Make sure your students are well prepared the day before you plan to be out so they know what is expected of them while you are gone. When the lesson plan is well planned out and detail it leaves no room for confusion on the sub and students. Both of them would be able to work together and make sure everything is run smoothly without any hiccups. A pet peeve of mine would be for me to put so much effort into my lesson plan only for the sub to turn around and allow the students to do whatever they want. I would hate to come back the next day and find out my students were given a 'free' day because the sub didn't want to be bothered or teach the lesson 

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