This is my first post since making Feedspot’s Top 200 Education Blogs, which was the cherry on my Teacher Appreciation sundae of a week. After spending a week feeling appreciated, I also had time to reflect on those who make what I do possible. This post is dedicated to all substitute teachers out there, who I will now call guest teachers.
Sub Plans: Shifting The Focus to Students, Always
I’ve been out of my classroom more than usual this year. Besides the round of sickness that dropped me flat in mid March, I have presented at more conferences, proctored the ACT and our state exam for English 2, doctor appointments, and you get the picture. That being said, I do not like to be away from my classes. Ever. But it happens. So while preparing sub plans last week, I had an epiphany. Some of you probably figured this out a long time ago, but it took 23 years in the classroom for me, so in case you haven’t had it yet, let me share it.
Teacher, Teacher, Can You Teach Me?
Substitute teachers are sparse in my community. Our list seems to dwindle each year from those we can choose from, are available, and can do what we need them to do. My “go to sub” can run my technology and is in my Google Classrooms so she can see what I’ve assigned, we share a Google Doc where I have the day broken down, and she can put in comments after each class. She can run my projector, Smart Board, DVD player, you name it. My students are 1:1 Chromebooks, so I have a lot of flexibility in what I leave for them to accomplish while I’m away from there. I teach 5 different subjects too, so I keep my sub hopping. Unfortunately, she isn’t always available.
Can You Tell Me All I Need to Know?
Since getting subs can be very difficult, my usual mindset when preparing the plans for my sub are to keep the sub happy. I lay down the behavior expectations with my students in advance. After all, a sub hasn’t built the relationships with the students like I have. They don’t have the training, or the experience usually. I worry they won’t want to sub for me again if my students misbehave. But this past week I realized something. I’ve been going about this all wrong. As I typed up my plans, things students have said to me upon my return to class began floating through my mind. She didn’t talk to us. He just stared at us all hour. She was mean. She didn’t smile. He didn’t know we could sit there. She wouldn’t let us talk while we work. You get the drift. Many of you may be hearing the same things from your students. That’s when it hit me. My focus was all wrong. It should not be on the substitute teacher, or guest teacher, as Attiya Batool, a teacher in the recent #2pencilchat, mentioned one of her subs requested to be called in lieu of “substitute.” Guest teacher it is. My focus should not be on my guest teacher. It should be on the students. Always.
Teacher, Teacher, Can You Reach Me?
So here’s my new instructions to accompany my guest teacher plans:
- Smile at my students. Greet them cheerily. See if they need help. Smile as you assist them.
- Know that my students are good kids. All of them.
- It’s okay if they talk while they work. If they aren’t working, smile at them. Ask if they need assistance or if another area in the room might be more suited to helping them focus.
- Yes. I let them sit there. It’s okay.
- I did not leave busy work for you to give my students. It is meaningful and important work.
- You (and my students) can contact me any time today. I will check my text and email frequently.
- Leave me a list of compliments you would give my students, either individuals and or the whole class.
- Enjoy the time you have with my students. They are fun.
Or Will I Fall When You Let Me Go?
So while you plan meaningful learning experiences (thanks for that term, Kasey Bell!) for your students during your absence, don’t forget the new list. The non-negotiables. So let’s shift our focus from our guest teacher to our students. As Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney always say, kids deserve it.