Sunday, February 3, 2013

Planning for a Substitute

Hot honey-lemon made with fresh squeezed lemon,
fresh grated ginger, and honey
in the cheeriest of all mugs.
I am grateful to my substitutes. I am thankful that they arrive on time or early and take care opening my classroom for students. I am often lucky in the substitute department. The folks that cover my classes follow the plans I leave, organize student work and often leave the classroom cleaner than how they found it. Substitutes do hard duty in high schools. Can you imagine?

My students are kind, wonderful kids. I tell substitutes that right up front. I believe they need to know they are stepping into a classroom where students are cared for, where students will make their day, if they let them. One of my eleventh graders, for instance, baked cupcakes for a substitute I had in November. Seriously. It was the substitute's birthday, so she celebrated her. Those are the kinds of students I have this year. They amaze me every day.

Figuring out what students can do without me feels like a balancing act. Much of it tends toward practice of things we've already done together: annotating, questioning text, collecting vocabulary, reading, responding. We've been investigating elements of argument (appeals, fallacies, propaganda techniques) in my ninth grade classes and analyzing those same elements in my eleventh grade class. We've been working around a fast food, nutrition theme, so students have done quite a bit of reading, annotating, and response writing since I've been out.

How do you keep students working forward while you are out of the classroom? What sorts of assignments or activities keep students engaged in meaningful work? Do you leave the substitute instructions for using technology that's in your room? I've been wondering about how to enable a substitute's use of the document camera, laptop and LCD.

I'm hoping to have my voice back and be well enough to get back to class on Tuesday. Today,  I have a frog-ghost voice, a voice that implies football fanaticism, a voice I'm trying to bring back with hot lemon juice and honey. I'm grateful that this kind of sick only happens every five years or so.

Here's what my students are doing tomorrow.


  1. These plans seem very comprehensive, Lee Ann. A long time ago I spent being a substitute & it was easy no matter what I had to do when students had a good relationship with their teachers. I really could tell. The students just moved through the time I had with them listening to what I needed to tell them (from the plans) & we had a good time. I nearly always brought some kind of treat, like mints or some small thing that helped me have a break with the students, & try to get to know them a little bit. As for my school, all the teachers have a full time assistant so they carry on with the students when the lead teacher is absent. Students do so much independent work that on the rare occasion when both might be gone, others in the school (like me, the lit coach) might be called on to take over. And-so sorry you're sick & your throat/voice is bad. Best wishes to you!

    1. Wow, an assistant in every classroom! I wonder how much more we could do in high schools if we had that kind of staffing model.

  2. I hope today does the trick for you! Here is one of the few advantages of this job - don't have to worry about a substitute. I am sorry that I didn't make a better effort to get to know the subs so that I knew who to request. That is something I will keep in mind when I'm back in the classroom. (Of course, I am now in such a small community that everyone knows everyone else.) I think letting the sub know right away how great your students are is a fantastic idea.

    Get well soon! Lee