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Challenging class? 9 substitute teachers share how to leave truthful notes

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Substitute teachers are no stranger to leaving notes documenting the day for the absent teacher. However, what’s the protocol when the class behaves badly? How do you leave notes that are accurate, while also describing the challenges in the classroom? 

One sub turned to Facebook in the hopes of getting some advice for such a case.

They asked:

Luckily, the subs of Facebook were full of support and good answers

Some suggested the positive route:

“Just be honest and tell it how it was. I list students that were helpful and students that were misbehaving. Sometimes if a class is really bad, I will tell the teacher which kids were the only good ones.”

— Kylie Stenstrom

“I only complain about something if it’s really bad. And when I do have to, I keep [it] as short and simple as I can. And I make sure the note starts with good things and ends with good things. I toss anything bad in the middle. So they see it but it doesn’t have to be the first and last thing they read from me.”

— Mary Wells

While others were all about honesty:

“My go to is saying they have big personalities”

— Kayla Lambert

“Just say that. For comedic purposes I usually start by saying “Yikes” with a frowny face.”

— Imerah Yazmeen Burnett

Some even offered templates of what to leave the teacher:

“‘The students had trouble making good choices today even with reminders and redirection.’

You can be specific and I find it’s useful to say what you tried. I always try to point out the well behaved students by name as well.”

— Heather Shoemaker

And if it comes to it:

Whether you’re a veteran sub or tomorrow is your very first day, know that we’ve got your back through it all. If you’re looking for more insight on how to leave good sub notes, how to teach at more than one district, or even what a typical day of substitute teaching looks like, you can find the answers at

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