Saturday, September 1, 2012

Making Life Easier for You and Your Sub Part 2: Setting Up Your Classroom Before You Leave It

(This is the second post of a two-part series. Click here to read Part I.)

In all honesty, this picture definitely applies to my outside-of-school life, but woah, buddy, not my classroom! Okay... well... it gets kind of messy sometimes too, my desk in particular. I've been in some classrooms before, though, that strongly remind me of that second picture. Now, I don't judge because it's completely unfair to judge a teacher on how they keep their classroom based off of one visit. For all you know, some major catastrophe just happened in that room, like some kid used an apostrophe to indicate the plural form of a word (the nerve of that kid)!

This will make me cry more quickly than a Reese Witherspoon movie.
It's bad news bears, though, when a classroom is like that all the time, and it is really bad news bears when that is what a substitute teacher sees the moment they walk through the door.

If you like a messy classroom because it makes you feel unfettered, creative, wild, and free, then you go, girl (or dude). I get the feeling, though, that your sub wants no part of that. If anything, bring on the chains! A substitute wants to know exactly where everything is. No guessing games! So, as a courtesy, it's a very good idea to at least tidy up the joint like your mother-in-law just called to say that she's three minutes away and you have a sink full of dirty dishes and a pile of laundry on the living room floor is dropping by for a planned visit.*

Let us embark upon the journey of setting up your classroom before you leave it.

Step 1: For the love of God, please clean up your desk. I absolutely understand and respect the fact that the desk is your little space of sanity. This is your little safe haven where the ickies usually can't get you (unless you have an open door policy). If you're going to be out for the day, the least you can do is share the safe spot with the poor guy or gal who is taking your place. Does that mean that the area needs a complete renovation? Of course not. Does that mean you can't have your paperwork there? No, but make sure it's at least tidy and out of the way. Does that mean you have to make sure there is supplies for your sub on the desk? YES. I cannot emphasize this enough! Your substitute is going to need things and they shouldn't have to look all over God's green earth for them. Here's a checklist (I LOVE LISTS):
  • Any confidential information sitting out on your desk should be stowed away in a filing cabinet or desk drawer.
  • Organize all of that paper lying on your desk. I know you know what's going on, but the sub might not and, before you know it, your system may be unknowingly disrupted. It's best to take care of this. Use file folders, rubber bands, binder clips, or any other means to neatly gather your paperwork. If you have nowhere else to put it, choose one very small area to stack all of this paper so it is out of the sub's way. They've got enough to worry about without scattering your paperwork all over the floor.
  • Get your dirty dishes out of there. If you have nowhere else to stash your coffee mug, at least clean it out before you put it back on the desk. If you have six empty water bottles sitting on your desk JUST IN CASE (not that I know anyone who does that...), get rid of them, or hide them in a cabinet.
  • Make supplies readily available. I talked about keeping some supplies in your Substitute Binder, but it's a nice gesture to make sure there are extra pens, pencils, paperclips, White Out bottles, staples, tape, etc. for your substitute.
  • Make your subsitute feel welcome to sit at your desk. When you look at your desk, ask yourself, "Would I feel comfortable as a substitute spending my day at this desk?" If the answer is yes, you've done your job.
Nothing like a cup of moldy coffee to welcome your substitute.
Step 2: Prepare extra supplies for your students. It will be the day that the sub is there that every single kid forgets their backpack on the bus and comes into the room empty-handed. Chances are that you've left some work for them to do and, if they don't have supplies, that will present a problem. Whether you are a patient, saintly, wealthy teacher who is always willing to gift her precious darlings with as many pencils as they desire or you are a cantankerous thing who demands collateral for sharing your precious school supplies because let's face it you are NOT made of money (*ahem*... that's me...), this is the time to bite the bullet. Keep extra pencils and paper available as student supplies and let your substitute know where he/she can find this. It's also a good idea to have a couple of extra textbooks handy if the students will be working with the text. Just make sure you ask the sub to collect those from the kids before they leave.


Step 3: If you have a routine with using your white board or chalk board, try to maintain that routine. My students can always find the following information of the board in my room:
  • weekly homework assignments
  • daily agenda with the learning objective
  • the day's bell ringer activity
  • the day's vocab word
  • important dates
If you do something similar to this, it's a good idea to prepare this the day before a planned absence. Not only is the sub going to have an interesting day, but it's going to throw your students for a loop when you aren't there. It's a nice thing to provide consistency to an inconsistent day. My kiddos are trained like Pavlov's dogs (I jest... but really, they are). They know exactly how the day is going to run. Why mess up a good thing? Oh, yeah, don't forget to leave a little room on the board for the sub to write down his/her name. I tend to forget this important step...

Step 4: Double check your sub notes with your classroom set-up. If you tell the sub that he can find the seating charts on the podium in the front of the room, where is he going to look? And if they aren't there, this could cause any range of reactions, from this...

to this...

Yeah... you definitely want to double-check to make sure your sub notes line up with "the real world." It would be a bad day if your sub had a meltdown before 8 a.m.

That's all from me! What do you do to help out your sub (and your students)?

*DISCLAIMER: I love my mother-in-law. She is awesome and she doesn't drop by unexpectedly. I've just heard stories about other mothers-in-law. This is not from a personal experience. I swear.