Tips to Set Up Your Substitute for Success

Author: Gretchen Huesmann

Ten Tips To Help Your Substitute

A sudden illness or family emergency does not have to disrupt your classroom routine. Simple pre-planning can enable a substitute to step in with ease. Here are ten tips to help your substitute succeed in your absence.

The Schedule

Create a space useful for a guest to assume teaching duties. Then post your schedule in an easily found location. When substituting, I immediately search for a displayed schedule to obtain an overview of the day. Additionally, a posted schedule supplies a predictable timetable for your students and assists parents or staff seeking to locate your class.

The Desk

An orderly desk communicates an organized classroom. Conversely, a cluttered desk, overflowing with papers and books, suggests the substitute may have to search for information and dig for lesson plans. Take a few minutes each day to tidy your workspace in case of an unexpected absence.

Lesson Plans

Lessons relying solely on technology might set up your substitute for failure. Consider keeping lessons tech-free unless your sub is familiar with your system.
When planning for scheduled time-off, formulate clear lesson plans with a detailed schedule. Prepare all materials, including extra copies. Label subjects and indicate which coursework should be turned in and what goes home. Always over-plan, assuming the substitute will have time to fill. Identify priority work over extra assignments. Plan a set of emergency lessons for unexpected absences.

Instructor Manuals

Keep teacher manuals in one labeled area. As you complete a lesson, insert a sticky note or paper clip to indicate where instruction has ended and can resume the next day.

Substitute Binder

Compile a substitute packet at the start of the school year and update as needed with the following information:

1. Class Roster
The best class lists include a pictorial seating chart, even for older students as mischievous students sometimes share the wrong name. Indicate which pupils are trustworthy and will provide accurate information. List allergies, epi-pen locations, or other health needs. Add only necessary information about students who are challenging, but include successful strategies, if possible.

2. Behavior Management
Explain your reward and consequence system. Are prizes involved? How do you communicate behavior with parents? Sharing these strategies boosts a guest-teacher’s confidence and ensures consistency for the students.

3. Map
Share a map of the campus with specific directions for emergencies. Include special instructions, especially the school’s armed-intruder directives.

4. Digital Systems
If lesson plans are digital, include passwords and access codes with detailed directions. List passwords for student computers or tablets with instructions.

5. Phone Numbers
Provide phone numbers for the office, principal, administration, and a helpful colleague. Offer your own number for questions, if desired.

6. Transition Norms
List all classroom routines and rules. Are children escorted to special classes? Do you limit how many can use the bathroom at one time? Do you have a special attention-getting signal?

Finally, include your dismissal process. Indicate who goes where at the end of the day. The subsequent peace of mind becomes the cherry on top for the substitute knowing everyone departed safely.

Whether planned or unplanned, your absence does not have to lead to disaster. With minimal effort, your classroom can be ready for a substitute at a moment’s notice. For more tips on creating an inviting atmosphere, read the blog Keys to a Warm and Inviting Classroom.

About the Author

Gretchen Huesmann is a teacher, speaker, and award-winning author. She has taught in seven U.S. states for over three decades. When not in the classroom, Gretchen enjoys mentoring and encouraging educators. She is a member of Word Weavers International and enjoys writing non-fiction for adults and children’s fiction. She and her husband of 33 years have raised 4 children and reside in Florida.
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