Substitute Survival

I am a list maker. They keep me focused and organized.  Every May, right before the end of the school year, I would make a summer to-do list.  I wanted to ensure I had good work-life balance and took time to rejuvenate over the summer; however, I also wanted to accomplish some tasks that would make my life easier once August came around and I was back at work.  

Year after year, one item that never got checked off my summer list was to create several emergency sub plans.  I am fortunate that I have always been very healthy and hated being out of my classroom for several reasons, one of which was because I dreaded writing sub plans!!  It never really bothered me that I didn’t complete my emergency sub plans, year after year it never mattered that I didn’t get them done.

Six years had gone by and for all six years “Emergency Sub Tub” remained on my checklist unchecked.  It was the end of January 2013, I went home from work after a fairly normal day feeling just fine. I had been home about an hour when I had to be taken to the emergency room, I had found out I was pregnant two weeks prior and was having a complication.

I was in the emergency room from 7pm-2am.  Around 9 o’clock I realized I would not be able to work the next day, even if everything was okay with me and the baby, (which it was, I now have a healthy almost 5 year old!!!) I would be emotional and exhausted, I would not be the teacher my students deserved.  Upon this realization came more stress and fear – I didn’t have any sub plans prepared for tomorrow, I would need to start working on them. My husband, the sense of reason, told me there was no way I was working on sub plans, I would need to call someone else to help out, I didn’t need to worry about sub plans now.  

Of course he was right, but all I could think about was that I should have finished my Emergency Sub Tub over the summer, then I wouldn’t even have to think about any of this.  I called a good friend from work who did everything for me not only for the following day, but the day after that as well. I had guilt about this as she had her own work to do, and although she is an amazing teacher, she didn’t know my students, I did and I should be preparing their lessons.  

Needless to say, I didn’t wait for Summer to create my emergency sub plans.  I used the two days after my emergency visit, in which I was directed to stay in bed, on my computer accomplishing this task!!

Compiling several days worth of emergency plans can seem a bit daunting (which is probably why it stayed on my to-do list for 6 years haha), but here are some helpful tips and suggestions to help you accomplish this task:

 

  • Type them, please do not write them – If you are like me, this seems like a funny suggestion, however when I was a building principal and had to step in from time to time when we could not find a substitute I was shocked with how many sub plans were handwritten.  This often made it difficult to read, plus as you create these sub-plans it is easier to make tweaks and reuse them if they are online.
  • The basicsProvide a map of your building, daily schedule, a little information about the school is always nice to have too!  For example, where the teachers lounge is, where they can find an adult bathroom, who is a knowledgeable colleague the sub can look to if they have questions, the name of the principal/secretary.  These are little things that make a sub feel welcomed and wanting to come back to your building.
  • Classroom proceduresObviously it is a necessity to leave emergency procedures (fire, tornado, etc.) but you will also want to leave the basic discipline procedures, classroom routines/expectations.
  • Outline of the dayIt is easier for the students and thus the substitute if they stick to your normal schedule while you are away.  If you normally start your morning with a question of the day, do that while you are out, don’t go rogue leaving them with tasks and a schedule they are unfamiliar with as it will cause confusion. Create an outline for your sub plans that follow your normal schedule and fill them in with tasks/activities they can accomplish.
  • The activitiesYou don’t need to know exactly where you will be in the curriculum to create emergency plans!  Make your sub plans theme based, have an “oceans” day, revisit lessons from chapters prior as a review, have them write a letter to you with their explanation why you were not at school (this is always so funny to read when you get back).  Keep it educational but light, asking a guest teacher to walk into your classroom and teach new content is difficult for the sub and your students
  • Plan and over planPlease leave more activities to do than could ever get done in a day.  There is nothing more stressful than not having enough to do with students during a day.
  • Above and beyondI also printed out my principal’s weekly letter each week and threw it in my emergency sub tub as this letter contained schedules for the week that might be different from the norm (picture schedules, bus drill schedules, MAP testing, PARCC schedules, etc.) and provided the sub with any pull out/intervention schedules.  There were years where my classroom felt like a revolving door, between reading specialists, social work, speech/language, special ed. Teachers, OT/PT….kids were in and out all day. I printed each of their schedules and highlighted times in their schedule that impacted my classroom and threw it in the sub tub, this was just a nice way for them to see where the students were during the day without me having to type out each intervention time Monday-Friday.
  • Location – Put your subtub in one location and tell your secretary and colleagues where they can find it in case you can’t make it in to set the tub out.

So, as the Summer winds down I urge you to use some of these suggestion to create emergency sub plans.  I hope you never have to use them, but in the case that you do it will be one less thing you need to worry and stress about while you tend to your personal matter.

Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning
(t):630-444-3044
(c):630-675-4447
(e):kalgrim@kaneroe.org

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