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How to Plan for a Substitute Teacher

The school year might be winding down, but I feel like this time of year is when so many teachers are taking time off. Whether that be due to testing, meetings, sickness or because the weather is getting nice… it's always good to be prepared and have a plan for a substitute.

Always be prepared

Before I leave for the day, I always make sure I have my next day’s copies out and easily accessible, my plan book is open and ready and any needed materials sorted out. You never know what is going to happen between the time you leave school and the next morning. Your car could break down, you could get sick, your children may get sick, there might be a family emergency. Life happens. The last thing I want to be doing is calling to explain to a substitute where all the materials are.

I leave each school day thinking, “would someone be able to come in and pick right up where I left off?” I always feel much better if I know that the next day could run smoothly if I couldn’t be there.

Have a sub binder

Having a sub binder ready at the beginning of the year is extremely important. You will want to include anything a substitute might need to know to help run your classroom smoothly. Roster, schedules, passwords, computer instructions… the list goes on.

Here are the main things I like to include in my sub binder:

  • Schedule
  • Where to find things (both in the classroom and in the school)
  • Roster (include student pictures if you can)
  • Behavior management
  • Student Info (contact, 504/IEP plans, medical needs)
  • Procedures and Routines

Leave detailed plans

Some might say I’m a little overly detailed when it comes to sub plans, but I like to leave nothing up to chance. I write my plans as if the substitute has never been in my class before. Maybe this is because I have been on the receiving end of some not so great sub plans and I was constantly questioning the whole day (Did she want me to do this? Are they allowed to do that?) You know how that goes.

I have a master copy template that has the information that does not change from day to day. For example, students coming into class, how to take attendance, cafeteria lunch call, lunch, dismissal, etc. Then I have each of the subjects I teach and I can begin breaking those down. If you have to stick to a specific time schedule, make sure to include those as well. Having this outline prepared ahead of time makes it easy to go in and plug in your specific information for any given day.

Activities for a sub

Whenever I know that I am not going to be in the classroom, whether that is for data meetings, sickness or personal reasons, I like to have easy and straightforward activities for my students to do. Unless I know I am going to be out for an extended period of time, I try to not have the substitute introduce any new content. Rather, I like to use these days and review and catch up. We all know we can always use those kinds of days.

I don’t have the substitute introduce new content for a few reasons. Honestly, after speaking with a few substitutes, they do not like doing it. They are worried they are going to introduce it wrong, that the students will be more confused, etc. It’s a little less pressure on them and on me.

A Final Note

The best piece of advice I can give is to think about what you would like to know if you came into a classroom that you've never been in before. I know sub plans aren't the most exciting thing to do, but you'll feel better knowing your classroom is running smoothly in your absence.

If you're a new teacher, head over here to read my tips and tricks when you're just starting out.

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