Sunday, August 26, 2012

Making Life Easier for You and Your Sub Part 1: The Sub Binder

Can someone please tell me what a Blimpie is and where I can find one? This looks yummy!

Substitute teachers either have the worst job in the world or the best. I've done my share of subbing and, from my personal experience, how the sub job goes really depends on the teacher for whom you are covering. It seems that the better prepared the teacher is for the absence, the better off the substitute will be. It's a rough day when you walk through the door and there are no seating charts, no rosters, no plans, and no pencils within sight. Now, please keep in mind that my subbing experiences were only in high school settings so I really have no idea what an elementary sub must go through. I imagine it's awful, but that's only because the thought of spending a day in an elementary school classroom makes me feel like this bear:

"Oh, God, help me!"

I had to take a personal day on Friday and I'm going to be out for professional development on Tuesday. I feel the need to defend myself and say that I only took four sick days last year, one per quarter. I really don't miss much. Missing two days this early in the year is a little scary, but it had to be done. Last year I had an emergency folder of sub plans on the off chance that I very unexpectedly was unable to come in to school. This year, I've expanded on the idea to create a substitute binder. I feel strongly that the more information a substitute can have about my class, the better off they will be. And, as I'm sure many teachers do, my sub plans are pretty work heavy for the kids, but I never give them busy work. They can sniff out busy work a mile away, so during a planned absence I adjust the plans I already had for the day so they are still standards-based and useful. Today, I'd like to share my sub binder info with you.


The Low-Down Page: The front cover of my sub binder is the quick reference page for my substitute. I have a quick little note thanking them for covering my class, but then I follow-up with this information:
1. At-a-glance class schedule with prep period, lunch period, and school duty
2. A list of three reliable students in each of my class periods (you never know when you will need a student to go to the office for you or something)
3. Who to go to for help and where they could be found (teacher-next-door's name, names of the nurse, secretaries, etc.)
4. Bathroom break procedure for students (so they can't try to pull the wool over a sub's eyes) and where the sub can find a staff restroom nearby
5. Student work procedures (again, no sneaky tactics by chatty students)
6. Directions from my classroom to the office, the cafeteria, guidance counselors, etc.
7. How to make the SmartBoard work properly for announcements during 3rd period

The Seating Chart: Yes, I have a seating chart in my high school classroom. I've had a seating chart since Day #1 and I swear by it. The students must strictly adhere to the seating chart. The seating chart for the sub lists the students' given names and the names they go by, so no embarrassing situations where the sub calls a kid by their hideous first name when they really would rather be called by their middle name.

A Roster: In addition, I have a roster in alphabetical order. Offering both a roster and a seating chart will allow the sub to take attendance however he/she sees fit.

Plans: My lesson plans for the day are broken up by class period for easy reference. Each plan has the class period and the course listed (ex: 1st Period - English 9H). There is a boxed-in area on the page where the sub can write down the names of absent and tardy students. Then, my planned items are in chronological order. Here is an example:
1. Bell Ringer and Vocab Word - Students should create the daily vocab card and work on the bell ringer activity. It is already written on the board in the format they are used to. Please allow approximately ten minutes for this activity.
2. Read "To Build a Fire" - Students should read the short story, found in their literate book on page X. They should read silently to themselves and, while reading, they should work on their literary templates for the reading. This is a lengthy short story and the work will likely take most of the period.
I also make sure there is a list of other things they can do if they finish early (silent reading, work on a project, etc.).

Paper, Post-Its, Pencils, Etc.: There is nothing worse than going into a classroom where you can't find anything. There were so many times that I subbed for a teacher and couldn't find a pencil to take attendance or a piece of paper to leave a note. I always make sure to stock the sub binder with loose-leaf paper, a pad of Post-It notes, and a couple of pencils and pens. It's easy to tuck these things in a pocket of the binder. It's also a nice idea to have some paper clips clipped onto the pocket or attach some binder clips to the side of the binder so they don't have to go digging through your desk (more on this later).

Emergency Information: Many schools provide this for subs as soon as they walk through the door, but I'm cautious by nature. My emergency preparedness packet that I get at the beginning of the school year usually stays with my sub binder. This includes information for fire drills, tornado drills, etc.

Emergency Lesson Plans: Sometimes you just can't plan an absence. Weird stuff happens. It's called life. I try to make sure I'm prepared for an emergency day where I can't be at school. I have a red folder with emergency lesson plans. The cover of the folder says, "If there are no substitute plans in this binder, please use these." For my emergency plans, I have listed a short story from the literature book that I don't have in my other lesson plans. I have reading comprehension questions to go along with it. This could be used in a pinch as a lesson plan. That way it is kind of busy work, but there should still be some value to it since it is reading comprehension. This lesson info goes in red folder, which has been three-hole punched, and the red folder goes in the very back of the binder.

Can you think of anything I've missed regarding information a subsitute needs? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please comment and share your substitute plans/ideas!

Check back in a few days for Part II: Setting Up Your Classroom Before You Leave It.

Happy teaching!