It’s 9 pm and you know that you’re starting to come down with something. “If I go to bed early, maybe I’ll feel better in the morning.” But of course, you wake up and only feel worse. Calling in sick as a teacher is hard, so hard that sometimes we just don’t do it. You have to scramble to put something together for your class(es) and you feel guilty for making colleagues cover for you when they already have really busy days. Having an emergency sub plan in place will make you feel much more at ease when emergencies do happen. Here are some strategies to create productive sub plans curated from members of the Albert team.
At the beginning of the year, outline the procedures for what happens when you’re out. Then occasionally review these procedures with your students so they know what to expect. You might also want to review these rules when you anticipate something coming up (there is something going on with your family, you’re starting to feel sick, etc).
Writing activities are perfect for sub days. Have a few prompts ready to go or use one from one of your favorite edtech platforms. Make expectations clear. Set a time limit and have students respond on paper or online. When the timer is up, ask students to reflect on how they could have improved based on a rubric. Students can turn in the FRQ and the reflection for a grade.
Some schools require that teachers write up to five sub plans before the beginning of the year. While it’s a little bit of extra work on the front end, it’s nice because you know there will at least be something for the sub even if you don’t have time to prepare anything. Having copies ready at the front office means less running around/ sifting through your desk for others on the day you’re out.
Ask a few students who you trust to be “student leaders” while you’re out. Communicate their names in the sub-plan so the sub knows who to rely on. Ask student leaders to give the sub a quick rundown of general classroom procedures and sub-specific procedures. Student leaders can make sure assignments are collected, put in the right place, and give you an honest report when you’re back.
Offer extra incentives for the classwork completed when a sub is there. Double points? Extra credit? More group work time? Whatever you can think of to make the stakes a little bit higher will help motivate students while you’re out. Make a huge deal out of collecting work (even if you don’t get around to grading it), so students are held accountable.
In your first few years of teaching, you might think you have classroom management and culture mastered if your kids do mostly everything you say. But if they listen only because they’re invested in you as their teacher and not in themselves or their own goals, a lot will fall apart the first day you’re out. It’s crucial your students understand how to respect others and how to represent themselves as individuals and as a class. Anyone can do the right thing when someone is watching, but it’s much harder when “Ms./Mr. Whomever” is not around. Communicate to your students why it’s important to respect whoever is standing in front of the classroom, and be sure to review how it went when you return. Ask students to set their own goals and think about how they can improve next time.
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