How to Plan for a Substitute Teacher


If no one has told you how to plan for a substitute, the day after your first absence can be an unpleasant wake-up call. Here are four things to keep in mind, plus a short list of the paperwork that goes into a basic sub plan.

When planning for a substitute teacher, here are four things to remember

1. No one will teach your students, your way, in your absence.

Most subs won’t teach a lesson for you even if you leave a fabulous, clearly written plan, so don’t use up a great lesson on a day you won’t be there to teach it.

2. Let the kids know what you expect from them when you’re out.

Threaten, promise, or plan a quiz for the day you return to encourage good work and behavior. Expect to get somewhere between 25 and 75 percent of what you asked for. If possible, ask the teacher next door to check in. When you return, have some plan to deal with students who gave the substitute problems.

3. Substitutes won’t always be as responsible as you want them to be. It’s still up to you to do the right thing.

Do not leave anyone in your room with no clue who your students are or what to do with them. If you do this, good substitutes who know their rights will refuse to come back to your class. The ideal sub plan involves quiet work kids can do without much help. It uses materials that are easy to find or that are laid out in advance, and backup work in case kids finish early. If you want this stranger to keep your class calm, cool, and collected, give him or her the tools to do so.

4. If a substitute does a great job, let them know. And try to get their contact information.

Trust me, other teachers do this.

What to put in your sub folder

Most schools require teachers to make emergency substitute folders and leave them with the principal’s secretary. Even if it’s not required, it’s a good idea to prepare a folder with the following things inside:

  • An up-to-date class list for each class you teach.
  • Any relevant seating charts.
  • Information on how to take attendance.
  • Information on what to do in case of an emergency or severe discipline infraction.
  • Three simple lesson plans with backup activities and directions for finding materials.
  • The name and location of another adult who can answer questions.

Are you reading this because you’re about to take your first “mental health day?” If so, you may want to use the form below to sign up for the Disillusionment Power Pack.

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