Substitutes in the classroomI'm sure most of us have horror stories we could share about the things that sometimes go on when a substitute teacher is in charge of the classroom, but what I'm hoping...

Substitutes in the classroom

I'm sure most of us have horror stories we could share about the things that sometimes go on when a substitute teacher is in charge of the classroom, but what I'm hoping for here is some more constructive ideas. What do you leave for a substitute?

I used to leave tests for subs to administer, but in spite of detailed written instructions about walking around the room and so on, I've had several who passed out the tests, plopped down at my desk, and opened a book or newspaper, never to look up again until the bell rang. Can you say CHEAT?

I don't feel I can leave labs or other hands-on activities for an uncertified person to supervise, there's too much liability. No matter how thorough my written instructions are, I can't do anything about a sub who does not read them.

I've pretty much been reduced in recent years to leaving videos. I make a big effort to create worksheets and activities that students can do before, during, and after the video to reinforce information and help assure that some actual learning takes place. However I have had several subs who "missed" passing out the worksheet (odd, since it was copied and paper clipped to my instructions), one who decided my video was boring and dug around in my stuff to find one that she deemed more "entertaining" to show instead (I wonder if she ever figured out why my school never called her again?), and one last year who told the kids she didn't know any "technology" and had no idea how to put the tape in the VCR (thank you, kid in the third row, for taking over for her that day).

Any thoughts or suggestions, other than trying to not miss school?


Expert Answers
brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sometimes I get very qualified substitutes and sometimes not.  On one occasion I had a sub who hurled obscenities at the class until the Superintendent showed up and escorted him from campus with a no trespass order.  You often just don't know what you're going to get, unfortunately.  So I leave plans that a layman could follow as well as a fully competent teacher.  I structure the day.  If there are assignments that day, I make them due the same day so that the sub has less potential for discipline problems.  And I always leave my cell number, which they have used on more than one occasion.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is very hard, because as other editors have remarked, what is difficult is that subsitute teachers can be very good or they can be a nightmare. Mostly, unfortunately, I have found the latter to be true. This can be even worse if a class is taken by another teacher who is annoyed about losing a free period and then lets them do what they want to do whilst catching up with marking. Apart from not being ill, I just try to recognise that I will have to go over or make up work lost and that I can't count on substitute teachers. If my class have learnt anything, it is bonus.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Usually I leave enrichment work. Subs may or may not be qualified to teach. Therefore, I make sure I leave work that the students have already mastered as a way to refresh their minds or enrich their ideas about the topic. Maybe a three step project to keep them both quiet, busy, focused, and applying all the skills that they already know. It would not be fair to the sub to feel helpless in the situation that she is going to encounter, so if she can help facilitate while the students guide themselves by doing something they already know how to do, everyone wins.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We struggle with letting anyone else handle our students. Perhaps it is because so much toil goes into creating an experience for our students that is challenging, engaging, and experiential. I think the trick to having subs in the classroom is learning to let go of the schedule and have those 1 or 2 sub plans prepared that are stand-alone lessons.

Additionally, it is important to make sure that what occurs while you are gone doesn't create more work when you return. So if there is a quick quiz, make them grade them before you return.


Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am a college instructor, so I do not have a lot of experience with subs, but I do have CHILDREN who suffer with subs from time-to-time.

Overall, I would say chill out. Yes, leave something enriching but interesting as well. Everybody enjoys a bit of a breather and it certainly won't hurt them much to miss a day every so often of your actual presence.

I don't ever recall having a substitute who was memorable. The only thing my son ever says about them is they were nice, or more often, mean.


bigdreams1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Other than leaving step-by-step instructions on what to do, I think your best bet might be arranging for a responsible student in the class to kind of be the "assistant" substitute. Pick a kid who knows your procedure and inform the sub that if she has any questions, that this student can help you do things like:

1. work the technology in class

2. Inform you on classroom procedures

3. Update the class on where they are at in the textbook/curriculum..etc.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am quite fortunate to have one sub who covers my classes (as you might have guessed, I'm not gone much), and she is quite aware of my expectations and procedures. She is able to maintain a similar level of classroom discipline and she hos the freedom to take what I've planned and be a bit creative if the need and opportunity arise. Given those circumstances, my days away are not complete losses for me or for my students.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
What I leave depends on who the sub is. I like to leave nonfiction expository texts that go along with whatever we are working on if I don't know the person. If I know the sub, and the sub know my routines, sometimes I will leave tests or other important things. I don't like leaving tests with a sub because I want to be there to explain the directions and answer questions. Sometimes I'll leave writing assignments too.
literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I leave very detailed notes for my subs. Given I work in a small district, I typically know exactly who is coming in for me and what they are (I hate to use the word) capable of doing. Normally my students work on reading packets, take tests, or have a study hall. I simply cannot let go of the reigns enough to let someone else TEACH my classes.

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