Eight Ways to Prepare for a Sub
1. Procedures Procedures Procedures
I once had a teaching friend who had a schedule opposite of mine which allowed us to cover each other’s classes. Every time he taught my class, he complimented me on the fact that my students came in and met the expectations as if they didn’t notice he was there instead of me. He was so impressed with how well my students knew what to do with their homework without asking, how they knew to begin working quietly and what work they were to do and where to do it. I always answered him that I emphasize teaching and assessing procedures at the beginning of the year. We often discussed the amount of time it took to do all that. I assured him and I assure you that you will get that time back two-fold.
There is nothing more important to the classroom function than procedures. It is also important that you are consistent in following through with the procedures. If you stay consistent with the procedures and behavioral expectations when you are present, students are more likely to stay in the habit of those expectations when you are gone. They will behave as a well-oiled machine. Looking to beef up the way you teach and assess your classroom procedures? Try this method here.
Ask the sub to leave feedback on all things- good and bad. Follow up with written referrals, home calls, detention, etc. for the students who misbehave. Likewise, it is equally important that you follow up with the students whose names were left as being particularly helpful. A short note, a piece of candy, a HW pass, etc. go a long way with positive behavior for a sub.
3. Use a Sub Tub or a Sub Binder.
4. Carrot vs. Stick.
Choose the carrot. (This is more for secondary teachers with multiple classes.) Of course you need to deal with students who do not follow rules and meet the guidelines set forth for them, but there will be fewer of those students if you use a carrot, not a stick.
I learned this strategy from a sub several years ago and it has been one of my favorite tools in my toolkit. Before you are gone, when you are going over the procedure with students for what to do when you are absent, teach them the rules for a class competition. Rules are: the class that is the most helpful, most polite, on-task, well-behaved class according to the sub wins a prize. The sub has final say. Leave a note on the board that the “Class Competition is ON!” and students will hold each other very accountable. They encourage and remind each other so politely…it’s almost weird!
In addition, I have had subs praise this technique and thank me for this, telling me how hard it is to choose the best class. It makes me so proud to come back to a note like that as opposed to one filled with negativity.
5. Clear expectations.
6. Give meaningful work.
For example, here are some suggested activities for Secondary Math:
7. Classroom jobs.
Assign or select a sub helper. If you already have established classroom jobs, have a sub helper as one of your assignments. How you select this student may be up to you- students can apply, you select from a jar, you select based on student’s ability to fill this role, you select based on seat location/proximity to teacher desk, etc. However you select this student, make sure to emphasize the importance and responsibility of the job. Again, be clear with the expectations for this role and even offer an incentive for a job well done. If you don’t already have classroom jobs, consider having a student or students who would be great for this job.
8. Have your teacher friends check in.
Would you like additional tools to help you prepare for a sub? I love this blog post from Math Giraffe on how to build your emergency substitute kit!