You have to miss a day.
Don’t worry – it happens. But for teachers, having to skip a day in the classroom can be problematic, no matter how exciting the activity you are going to might be. Getting the substitute teacher for the day isn’t the problem – there are usually lots of people in the queue waiting to step into your classroom in your stead. The thing that can keep you up at night is the other variable – the students. How will they behave? This question will top your list but will be followed quickly by another couple: Will they be able to complete the work I leave? Will they make me look good? Don’t discount any of these concerns because they are real and very natural to consider. After all, the way students perform on tests, verbally, and behaviorally directly reflects the way you run your classroom, so being concerned for them and for yourself is a package that can’t be separated into individual parts.
What can you do to be sure that your class puts their best foot forward? Here are a couple of steps to follow when preparing your class for a substitute:
1. Respect the class from day one and require that it be reciprocated
Laying the ground rules long before you ever need to call upon them is paramount. That doesn’t mean that your class will always listen and behave, but it will go a long way to establishing trust and understanding of the rules and consequences. This early approach will keep them in line when someone new steps into the classroom temporarily.
2. Realize that they miss you
Really, they do. They are used to the way you teach, discipline, and reward. Having someone else in the room might be stressful, even for the most self-sufficient students there are. Keep this in mind when you prepare them for your absence.
3. Let them know what the substitute will cover
The students will respond better if they aren’t surprised by the material that the substitute will cover while you are out. While you don’t have to let them know every single nuance of how their day will go, making them aware of some things ahead of time will go a long way to calming their fears about the unknown.
4. Talk to them
Let them know how long you will be gone and why. Go over the ground rules again – bathroom, food, etc. – and make sure they know you are also priming the sub with that info.
5. Give your sub good notes
This is often an afterthought for teachers when they leave the classroom, but it is one of the most important aspects of successful coverage. Detail what the classes do and when, what is next on the list if they choose to preview a little, and most of all, what students might give them a run for their money and why. Your sub will thank you for it.
6. Reward them for good behavior
A piece of candy, 15 minutes more recess – these are just small tokens, but they mean a lot to the students. Let them know that you appreciate their good behavior in your absence. Because you really do – more than you care to admit!
Having a successful substitute day is possible! Try these steps and watch your students make you proud.