It’s morning — you’ve just checked in with the front office, coffee in hand, feeling good about the day to come. You reach your assigned classroom and start scanning the sub plans, but there is very little information, or worse, the absent teacher has left nothing left at all.
What do you do? Here are some ideas.
Talk to other staff members
Seek out a member of the absent teacher’s team. Most likely, their schedule will be similar, and, hopefully, their plans for the day can be synced with yours. Make sure you ask the cooperating teacher if they know of any special changes to the schedule — assemblies, visitors to the school, parent volunteers, etc. Another teacher in the building might have a set of emergency sub plans they can give you, so don’t hesitate to ask around for help!
Consider letting the site administrator know if you do have poor sub plans. They may either have a copy of the sub plan or could direct you on what to do. Plus, the admin will more likely to understand any challenges that may arise from the lack of sub plans.
Scan the bookshelves
A classroom teacher’s bookshelves can be an awesome resource to find engaging work for your students. Look for textbooks, binders, worksheets, and student magazines, such as Scholastic News. Hopefully, you will have time in your day to quickly make copies for a lesson. If not, kindly ask someone in the front office to help you. Chances are, they will feel bad that your sub plans are poor, and they will be willing to help!
Seek out a librarian or technology instructor
These resource teachers should have a sense of what students are working on in each grade level. They might be able to give you suggestions on what books, websites, and movies would interest the students in your class. The resource teachers can also help you with any passwords you might need to access school logins for student websites like IXL, ALEKS, and BrainPop.
Engage the students
Don’t hesitate to ask the students what they are working on. Start your day with a morning meeting to get to know the students, then ask them what they are learning in each subject area. You can also give students time to share their work with you. For example, if they have writing journals, ask for volunteers to read some of their entries.
Always have a plan b
It’s a good idea to have a few extra resources in your pocket (or work bag) to help you if you are really struggling to find content to fill your day. If you are teaching in a primary classroom, make sure you bring a couple of engaging picture books. Middle or high school? Have some fun review games up your sleeve that you can use with any subject matter, like Grudgeball.
Take a deep breath. You will get through this day! Try your best to stay cool and confident. Students will often pick up on when teachers are stressed, and it can make the classroom environment unpleasant. Don’t hesitate to use calming techniques to help you through the day. Check out these additional ways for substitute teachers to beat stress.
Even if your sub plans are not the best quality, you can still have a fun and engaging day for the students and yourself. Don’t forget to leave notes for the absent classroom teacher to let them know how the day went.