But do you know what's worse? Showing up for a job and finding out that the kids should be working on page 137. And nothing else. No information about schedule or what to do if kids misbehave or how to tell the administration you're missing a student during a lockdown.
Below is my non-exhaustive list of all the stuff your sub needs to know. Please leave a comment to let me know what I forgot! To make life easier for classroom teachers, you can download a fill-in-the-blank sub plan from my TeachersPayTeachers store here. That version is designed to be printed and filled in by hand. You can also purchase a totally digitally-editable version here. I will be updating those documents as I discover new and helpful information that I left out! I will be glad to send my customers updated versions as I push them out. The really handy thing about my sub plan document is that you can fill out the first few pages once and then have them ready for each subsequent absence (and leave them on file with your office for emergencies) and then just customize the last few pages with the activities for the next day you're absent.
Without further ado, my list of things to (please!) make sure your sub knows:
- Your classroom number (include a school map, please!)
- Adults to contact for help (help with understanding plans AND help with misbehaviors)
- Whether or not you have the same students all day (do ESOL/SPED/Remediation/Speech teachers pull students? Do you trade classes?)
- Who is in your room when - consider leaving 2 copies of each roster (one to send back to the office when taking attendance and the other for reference during instruction and during evacuations)
- How and when to take attendance
- How and when to take lunch count (if necessary)
- Information about snack - do you have one built into your schedule? Do kids bring theirs in from home or is it provided by the school or teacher? If provided by the school, what are the procedures for going to get it--or is it delivered? If students bring from home, are there guidelines about what is appropriate and what isn't?
- How to acknowledge/reward students who are well-behaved (class cash? PBIS points? Move a clip? Flip a card?) and the materials to follow through
- How to acknowledge/reward the entire class for good behavior (scoop of popcorn? Snaps? Paperclip? Add a link to a chain?) and the materials to follow through
- Your system for warning an individual student regarding minor misbehaviors (this is my biggest pet peeve--when I know how to reward well-behaved students, but I have no recourse for poor behavior except referrals. I'm not going to write a referral each time a student talks, but I need to know your system for handling minor disruptions after a couple of warnings don't help. Flip a card? Move a clip? Name on the board? Tally minutes off of recess?)
- Referral policy - please provide hard copies of paper referrals and info on how to use them. Send student with paper to the office and call ahead? Or call and ask for an administrator to come to your room? If you don't usually use referrals, what are my options for major disruptions or excessive repetition of minor disruptions after multiple warnings?
- A list of special students - they might have allergies or medical diagnoses. Please let me know what behaviors and/or symptoms to watch for and what to do about them. If individual students have their own behavior plans, please let me know those details.
- Information about how to respond in an emergency or emergency drill (along with the location of your emergency backpack/bucket/flipchart)
- Information about the door to the hallway (or outdoors if your classroom is in a portable). Do you keep it locked or unlocked throughout the day? Open or closed?
- How students ask to use the restroom (or don't!) and any rules about when they're allowed to ask
- Your pencil policy - are students allowed to use the sharpener throughout the day? Or should they use it at a certain time? Or do you need me or a helper to sharpen the pencils in the dull cup so that students can trade throughout the day?
- Your hall pass procedure if you have one
- How you get your students' attention before giving directions or beginning instruction
- Information about duties (morning, dismissal, recess, lunch, etc.)
- Information about Indoor Recess (in the gym? Or in the classroom? What things are off-limits if it's in the classroom? Should we play a whole-class game or do students entertain themselves?)
- Information about technology - some subs are total technophobes while others could lead IWB trainings across multiple platforms. Can I check out a laptop from somewhere to use your IWB? May I hook up my laptop to use the LCD projector if I return all the cables to their rightful places when I'm done? Is there a document camera I'm allowed to use if I know how? If I am not allowed to use the technology at all, where may I write (some classrooms use an IWB so exclusively that there is nowhere for a sub to present content if he/she can't use it)? You may think that the worksheets you're leaving won't require the sub to present any content. In many instances, though, classes run more smoothly if the sub begins with a mini-lesson (even if he/she has to create it on her/his own on the fly) than if they just pass out a worksheet and tell the students to be quiet for 42 minutes. Other times, teachers notice that all the students are struggling with problem #6 and they will want to walk the students through that problem or a similar one. It helps IMMENSELY to be able to do that. Not only do the students learn more, but it also gives the sub some credibility with the students when they see that he/she actually knows what he/she is talking about and wants to help.
- Codes, keys, & passwords - if students are using iPads or Chromebooks, please make sure your sub knows how to unlock the cart. If your sub should be using PowerSchool or Synergy to take attendance, please make sure he/she has the correct login information. If your sub is supposed to use a laptop & LCD projector to show a video, please make sure he/she has your username & password.
- Information about traveling in the hall - do you have a specified line order? What about helpers? A line leader? A door holder? A line watcher? Subs will likely fuss at all of these people if we don't know about their jobs (Why are you cutting!? Why are you running ahead of the line?! Please get behind someone!)
- Classroom jobs - if your students are supposed to water plants or sharpen pencils or feed the gerbil, please make sure we know who and when. It's especially important that we know the details of any helpers who leave the room. Lots of students like to "invent" classroom jobs that require them to leave the classroom when a sub is present...
- What to do with completed/incomplete work - should we collect it for you? Leave it in a pile? Put it in a tray? Should kids keep the math worksheet in their red math folder whether it's completed or not? Or do they put the completed ones in the tray and put their incomplete work in their Incomplete Work Folder for later? Do the Reading worksheets go somewhere else?
- Information about dismissal - do we need to sort kids by transportation method? Car riders go to the red hall, bus riders go to the gym, day care van riders go to the cafeteria, walkers go to the office? And which kids are which? Do I have to follow the list you provided unless I get a written note from a parent or can I let the kids go where they say they're supposed to go? Or do we walk all the kids out the front door? What time do I do all those things?
- When/how/where to eat my lunch - am I able to eat a school lunch if I took this job at the last minute and had no time to pack a lunch before I flew out the door? And if so, how much does it cost? Do I need to order in advance? Do I need to pick it up before a certain time if my lunch doesn't coincide with the students'? Is there a fridge I can keep my lunch in? A microwave I could use? I try to pack a lunch the night before that needs not be refrigerated or microwaved, but if I get a call at 6:30 to be on campus by 7:15, I'm grabbing the microwave dinner out of my freezer and I'll need both!
- Drinks - is the water in the classroom sink safe to drink? Should I fill my water bottle out of a water fountain or is there filtered water somewhere? Is there a place on campus where I can purchase a soda?
- Your school's quirks - please let your sub know about attire in advance if at all possible. Most subs know not to wear jeans on their first trip to a new school, but if it's a special day (jeans day, school spirit day, pajama day, dress like a book character day, wear red day, hat day, etc.) please let him/her know in advance if possible. We like to fit in! If your sub shouldn't write percentages on papers or is forbidden to deny recess in whole or in part, please let them know. If the sub will be expected to enforce a dress code, please let them know what the rules are and what things in particular to look for (one school's policy was to have kids walk at recess if they didn't have a belt--it helps when the substitute knows to be watching for that).
- What to teach and when - it helps if your lesson plans also have times written/typed in. Yes, it's possible to be effective if the schedule is on one document and the lesson plans are listed by subject on another document, but if you're able to set it up so that the times are listed in the same place as the plans, that helps more than you think it will. I went to a job once where the teacher left me nothing but her plan book open to the right week and a stack of worksheets. I had to go next door to get her schedule from another teacher because the times weren't posted in the room, either. I ended up taking her kids to recess an hour early by accident. Volunteers and specialized teachers came to pull students while we were out at recess. It wasn't the worst disaster in the world, but it could have been easily avoided.
- Where to find materials for the lessons as well as the location of and code for the photocopier
- Silly, but if your light switches are not located right beside your door, it can be helpful to leave a note about that! Once I subbed in a building where an entire grade level team was out for the same training. It took me five minutes to find the light switch because there was no one around who wasn't also a substitute to ask! Five minutes might not seem like a big deal, but I'd rather use that time to pre-read your roster to make sure I don't mispronounce your students' names.
What have I missed? I haven't spent much time in middle and high schools, so if there are things that are specific to those grade levels that I need to add, please be sure to tell me in the comments below!