Magazine article Techniques

Preparing for a Substitute

Magazine article Techniques

Preparing for a Substitute

Article excerpt


"I'M WARNING YOU," THE VETERAN EDUCATOR ADVISED the first-year teacher. "Whatever you do, just don't let them touch you. If you do, you'll be sick all the time."

She wasn't talking about some disease-ridden vermin. She was talking about the students. The new teacher knew her more experienced colleague as a kind and caring teacher who was devoted to her students, so the advice surprised her. In spite of trying to be careful, however, the new teacher was plagued by a year of everything from mild colds to severe strep throat.

It's still early in the school year, but with the stress that teaching brings, along with the classrooms full of germs and viruses, you know that illness is bound to strike at some point. Moreover, there will be planned days when you know you have to be out for conferences and other professional development events. According to the Substitute Teaching Institute at Utah State University, 77 percent of teachers miss school to attend professional development classes.

You need a plan in place for the unexpected days you will be out, as well as the scheduled days off. If you don't, the person who will suffer the most for your lack of planning is the substitute; but you might be the next one to suffer if you have trouble getting subs in the future. One substitute teacher notes on the Web site Guest Teacher, "If I have a really bad day, I jot down the teacher's name, and if they ever offer that class again, I refuse and state exactly why."

In all fairness, however, that particular substitute teacher also lets the teacher and/ or school know if a class was especially good. If you know in advance that you will be out, prepare your students by first reminding them that the normal rules of the classroom will not be suspended just because you are not there to enforce them.

In a May 2006 article in The Seattle Times, teacher John Foley says, "I always tell my students to be nice and respectful to the substitute teacher, and they usually greet my directive with smiles. The smiles are not pleasant. They're the sort of mirth less grins that probably greeted shipwreck survivors in the Cannibal Isles."

The best thing to do for your sub is to make sure your students are kept too busy to devour the substitute. …

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