Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How to Plan for a Sub for More Than a Day

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that, as a teacher, it is much easier to muddle through a school day when you aren't feeling well than it is to plan for a sub. Still the occasional day comes along when you just can't make it in for reasons beyond your control and your emergency sub plans kick in (see my planning for an emergency sub series for tips on preparing for those days).

However, there are times when you need to be out of the classroom for a bit longer than you would like and you'll want your kids to carry on with the learning they deserve in your absence. Admittedly, that really comes down to the quality of your sub, but you can certainly do your part in making things go as smoothly as possible.

While there is no right or wrong way to go about doing this, I thought I would take the opportunity to share how I prepared for my absence.

The idea of being out of the room for over a week was overwhelming. Add in that I wasn't entirely sure how long I would be out or how I would be feeling post-surgery really muddied the waters. It was for that reason that I over planned. I was very glad I did (but, more on that later in the post) so this system for preparing for a sub proved to be priceless in my situation.

Luckily, as part of my emergency sub plans I have a copy of my procedures and routines manual at the ready along with a template for each day of the week saved on my computer. The template lists our schedule along with the expectations in great detail. For example...

8:25 Students enter the classroom. During this time they will be unpacking and getting ready to start the day. Position yourself in the doorway so that you can see the students in the classroom and at their lockers in the hallway at the same time. The expectation is that they will be unpacked and reading at their seats by the time the morning song ends.

8:40 Read Aloud: Sound the wind chimes to signal that it is time for the students to transition to their assigned spots in the group area. The expectation is that they listen quietly to the story. They are asked not to use the bathroom or get drinks during read aloud or direct lessons. Today you will be reading ______

That way I just need to fill in the book title for that day. Because my schedule is very structured by the day I was able to create a start to finish overview of each weekday with blank boxes for the specific details of lessons, page numbers and assignments. Having these documents on the computer is invaluable. My regular daily plans are obviously not that detailed because I know my routines, but in a real pinch I am able to print the template and just staple my daily plans to it.

In planning for my leave, I actually compiled all of the resources (worksheets, activity pages, read aloud books, packets, etc) and lined them up sequentially by day. I used post-it notes to create tabs between subject areas in each pile and wrote directly on them (math workshop, reader workshop, writer's workshop, etc).

Then I took one pile at a time to my desk, opened up the related day's document and typed in the specifics. Once everything was printed and copied I added an attendance sheet and placed the plans on top of the pile. I had initially used rubber bands to secure the piles together, but decided sliding them into bags was a better option.
As you can see, I added a quick construction paper tab with the date the plans were for. I staggered the placement of the tab so they could all be seen at a glance and placed the bags in order in a bucket.
I then placed the bucket on my desk with the teacher's manuals next to them. This way the sub had everything she needed at her fingertips for the planned leave. But then... 

I went to my follow-up visit with the surgeon feeling great and hopeful that I would be cleared to go back to school a day earlier than planned.

Unfortunately, not only did that not happen, but instead I was surprised to find out there was an additional stone in my bile duct which resulted in a whirlwind that included an MRI, a hospital stay, medical transports to Boston, a team of specialists brought in on a Saturday and an "emergency procedure." Long story short, my leave ended up being longer than I had planned. For that reason I was VERY glad that in addition to the plans I left in my bucket above, I also had written out and prepped plans for this week as well. 

All seems to be well now. I feel fabulous and am planning to return to the classroom in the morning. Yeah!!!

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