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How To Host A Substitute Teacher

Tips for Helping Your Substitute Teachers Enjoy a Productive and Happy Day


For teachers, taking a day off work is not as simple as just making a phone call to a supervisor. It can take hours to prepare the lessons and materials needed to make the day flow smoothly when you're away from the classroom.

1. Take The Time To Do It Right

It takes solid organization and planning to minimize the disruption that a teacher's absence inevitably causes. Use these tips to facilitate a happy, productive day for any substitute teacher you host in your classroom.

2. Leave Easy-To-Find, Clearly-Labeled Sub Plans

If you've ever subbed before, you know that the worst case scenario is when you can't find the teacher's lesson plans. So put yourself in the sub's place and anticipate what he or she will need in order to have a successful day.

Consider the sub a guest in your classroom. Place the lesson plans, teaching materials, and instructions in a convenient location. I like to use lots of sticky notes to label textbook pages and point out items I mention in my instructions.

Include any teacher's manuals and learning tools that will help the lessons go more efficiently. It takes extra time to accomplish this level of detail and care. But it pays dividends by making your students know they are in competent hands with the sub.

3. If Anything, Over-Plan

When compiling your sub plans, it's best to err on the side of too many plans rather than too little. While you shouldn't expect even the most efficient sub to accomplish an abundance of plans, you can help the sub feel supported and ready-for-anything by providing plenty to do. Often, lessons take less time than originally anticipated. Subs will be able to fill the entire school day with high quality learning, no matter what, if you are give them plenty of options and tools from which to choose.

4. Give the Right Hints

Don't let your substitute teacher fly blind. No one knows your students better than you, so give the sub a heads-up on certain insider information, such as:
  • the name of a particular student who can be trusted to assist and provide reliable information
  • the names of a students who need to be proactively monitored for behavior
  • the name of a nearby teacher who can answer any questions
  • the lowdown on any tricky school policies or scheduling details for that day
Let the sub know about any scheduled fire drills, assemblies, or other special events. Also, make sure there are nametags on the students' desks. Subs can be more effective when they know each student's name right off the bat.

5. Set Realistic Expectations in Your Own Mind

You'll be disappointed if you expect to return to the classroom after an absence to find everything tidy, all the papers graded, and every lesson executed to perfection. Teaching is a very personal and complicated job. So while there are certain basic standards that you should expect, also keep in mind that each individual teacher brings his or her own unique approach to the job.

Extenuating circumstances almost always occur. So avoid nit-pick and take note of every little thing that isn't perfect. Instead, look for what's right. The sub likely did the best he or she could under the circumstances. Think of how challenging it would be for you to enter another teacher's classroom and follow someone else's routine all day long.

6. Reward Good Performance

Most subs are looking for permanent jobs in your district. And we all know that the profession needs good teachers! So, if you come across a particularly capable substitute teacher, make sure to let others know about it. Call the sub's supervisor and give a glowing report. Request that sub to return to your classroom next time you'll be absent. Tell your colleagues about him or her. Ask your principal to observe this sub next time he or she's on campus.

You may even decide to write a letter of recommendation to help the sub find employment. Competency should be rewarded and you've hit the jackpot if you've found a sub you can trust. Your kudos and kind words can go a long way toward making a difference in this educator's career.

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  5. Substitute Teacher Help - Top Tips to Help Substitute Teachers in your Classroom

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