Be Nice to Your Subs!

I have been subbing recently at my son’s school while I enjoy my year off from teaching full-time. It feels great to be in the classroom again and interact with students, not to mention how happy my son is to see me around at recess and have lunch together.

I do want to say something though… I am shocked at the quality of subsitute lessons plans I have been getting. So far I have subbed twice in two different grade five classes and one time in art class.

I had to improvise a bit with one of the grade five classes because the kids had already done an activity that was scheduled in the lesson plan plus I had to find a lesson in the science book which was, and I’m going to quote now..” the page next to the picture of the animal cell and I can’t remember which page it is..” Good thing I’m a teacher huh?

As for the art class, this was the lesson plan I had to do with Kinder, Gr. 4 and Gr 3 : “Let the kids do anything in their notebook using crayons, pencils or markers or a picture for the Halloween contest” . What about the rules and requirements for the contest?

This is not acceptable, I’m sorry.

Since art is my area–I went ahead and did my own thing and boy did we have fun that day! Take a look…

UPDATE NOTE: Let me define ‘my own thing’ : The abstract art was done in their notebooks, Kinder had no notebooks and grade 3’s were given a choice as to work in their notebooks or do the lesson we did below– I don’t want to give the false impression that I totally changed the lessons. I just creatively made them more interesting 🙂

Abstract drawings in Gr. 4- cool!

Roller coasters with paper in KG- this was a hit!

Picasso Inspired Witches in Gr. 3- fun!

Better than doing just ‘anything’ in a notebook, don’t you think?

My point is this–be kind to your subs!! Subs shouldn’t be expected to know where everything is, finish off projects for you, or even start new topics! A substitute teacher is there to sub for you, not replace you. He/she is doing you a favor and deserve a decent lesson plan for the day.

Here are some suggestions I will offer that I do at the beginning of a school year. Although this is art related, use it if it helps you in another subject area because you can adapt it for sure.

1. Create one substitute folder with that title clearly written on the folder

2. Create an Sub Lesson Plan folder ( with that title on it) with the following and by grade level:

– Daily Schedule

– Typed out – not handwritten(!) lesson plan(s) for each grade level you teach with handouts clipped to the lesson if needed. Remember to write in in step by step fashion so your sub doesn’t have to guess what you want them to do.

– Clean up policy and behavior expectation along with any classroom management technique you use such as names on the board, light system etc.

Sounds like a lot of stuff? You’ll be grateful when you don’t have to scramble for lessons because you will be away. 🙂

What Kind of Lessons to leave for a Sub?

Fun lessons that don’t need too much prep and are not messy. Keep away from the paints, paper mache, carving, etc.. unless it’s really necessary. Assume your sub is not an art teacher. The same goes with music, P.E and any other specialist subject.

Collages, still life drawings, musical pictures (draw to music), group pictures, etc. are all ideas to get you rolling. Can you think of any other sub lessons to share here with us?

Once the emergency folder is filled just take out the lessons as you need them.

Say  you will be away one day. Take out your empty Substitute folder you made. Collect the lessons for each grade level you would have that day. Put them in order so the sub doesn’t have to look for it. Make it easy for them 🙂 .

Include your schedule and your clean up policy.

Add your contact number or email in case your sub has a question.

Leave a thank you note a little chocolate, candy or tea bags. After all the sub is helping YOU out and gratitude is priceless!

Finally, remember to replace the lessons as you use them up.

It doesn’t really take that much to be nice to your sub huh?

I hope this helps you and if you think this post might help someone else, please pass it on. It only take a simple click on the share buttons below.

If you need emergency sub plans that are easy to follow and your students will love, check out my e-Book below because it will be your life saver. More importantly, your students and your sub will be grateful!


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7 thoughts on “Be Nice to Your Subs!

  1. I know exactly how you feel but also teachers have to realize that not every absence can be planned on so a folder with some plans in it are a very good idea, both for the substitute and the classroom teacher.Leaving the contact information is priceless. The substitute has to be prepared too because awful things can happen to a teacher just like anyone else, accident, death in the family etc. The folder is great for both sides. Good substitute teachers are always in demand!

  2. Let me just say right up front that having subbed before I understand what a hard job it is and many of your points were quite valid and helpful and I will consider them when writing future lesson plans. One thing that stood out above all was that you did not follow the teacher’s lesson plan. As an elementary Art teacher who has 7 classes and more than 150 students come through my classroom everyday it is VERY frustrating to leave simple and easy to follow lesson plans only to have the sub not even remotely follow them. Although I realize it was probably frustrating and boring to you to have such a lame lesson plans you should have at least stuck to working in the notebooks with the supplies provided. You could have still have been creative and put your own spin on things while still using the materials the teacher said were okay to use. Being a sub requires you to be versatile and adjust the lessons which you obviously can do. It does not however give you the right to do whatever you like because you didn’t think the teacher’s lesson plans were adequate.

    • Hi Tami– I totally agree with you that substitute teachers should stick to the plans. Just leave good ones to follow! The abstract drawings by grade 4 you see in the first picture were done in their notebooks- so I did follow the plan of doing ‘something’ in the notebooks. The Kinder class had NO notebooks so I quickly had to find materials for the kids and plan on the spot. I offered the grade 3’s the choice to draw in their notebooks or do the Picasso inspired witches using construction paper. You can see from the photos which was the winning choice. I am sure the art teacher could use these collages as part of her Halloween contest. My whole point with this post is to remind classroom teachers or specialist teachers, to leave adequate lesson plans so the subs don’t have to improvise on the spot, scramble for materials, or try to decipher what the teacher wants him or her to do- especially if they are not trained teachers. That’s not fair to the substitute or the students for that matter. I did put a creative spin on things and only did so because I am an art teacher with many years of teaching experience. It would have been much easier to just go with the mediocre lesson plan but that’s not who I am. Now, had she left good quality lesson plans, you would not be reading this post!

  3. I hate being gone, sometimes it isn’t worth it to be absent, because I have to spend so much time getting ready for a sub. Even if I leave a sheet of instructions, the materials are often ‘set up’ for another lesson that I am in the middle of so I have to clear everything out and put the correct materials in obvious spots for the sub. This means I have to sharpen pencils, cut paper, and take unrelated visuals down from the board. I even hang up the visuals that go with the lesson.

    Perhaps I am a little anal, but I try to write it in my lesson plans if I am going to be gone so that I know what I am leaving for a sub well in advance. In the rare case that I need an ’emergency’ sub, I still go to school either late at night or early in the morning to prepare the materials (even if I wake up puking!).

    I’m always happy when I get a sub that has been in my room before, because I know they are familiar with my procedures, but on the rare event that I get a sub that knows nothing about the building, I go to extremes to label materials with sticky notes, draw maps of the building in my lesson plans and be as thorough as possible in my instructions.

    I love the idea of leaving a treat for the sub! I’m always looking for good sub plans, that don’t require a lot of prep…I teach K-4 (mostly K art).

  4. Pingback: For those occassions when school must be missed. « stickynotesofmylife

  5. I remember reading this post years ago while I was teaching art full time. Now, as a retiree, I sub occasionally. Boy, did you hit the nail on the head! I have come across some purely awful sub lesson plans. I have decided to now only sub on prearranged dates AND I tell them that I will bring in my own plans. That makes most of them happy and I know for sure that I have an appropriate lesson.

    • It’s sad isn’t Jan? Maybe leave a coy of your own lesson you take as a sample for the administrator?? Admin unfortunately don’t differentiate emergency lesson plans they require their teachers to prepare in advance.

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