Happy Subs!

Photo by marco fileccia

Just when we believed that Covid would become just another story, Omicron arrived with its devastating power to wake us up and tell us that normality is still far away.

Never before, or at least that I can remember, have we needed our substitute teachers so urgently. Some school districts have been luckier than others and have been able to get enough substitutes to remain open. Substitute teachers have acquired indisputable importance and now we see them closer, more part of our educational community. That is why it is worth helping them to have a good experience while they replace us in our classes.

Schools in general have suffered from the lack of available substitutes. Teachers and administrators have had to cover different classes to maintain the much desired “normality”. Despite the difficulties of these times, we have been lucky to have Barb and Bob, a married couple of retired teachers with more than 50 years of combined experience in the classroom. 

I work in a small school and both Barb and Bob are always willing to fill in for any teacher at any level. In fact, there have been days when they have had to fill in for some of us in three different divisions, going from Math in elementary school to Spanish in high school. This is why administrators, teachers and students love Barb and Bob.

I know that not all substitute teachers will have the same experience in education and perhaps not the same willingness as Barb and Bob to do this job and that is why I have asked them about what aspects they consider to be the most important for a substitute teacher to be successful in their difficult task. 

Here are their tips:

1- An email to the sub and students that spells out the expectations for the class so the teacher and students both know how the day should go.

2- As far as plans for the day go, anything you feel they need to work on. With this in mind we like to see an assignment that will closely take up most of the classroom time.  This assignment must be turned in by the end of class and we want proof from them that it has been submitted.

3- In working on assignments we need guidelines from the teacher that are also explained in email.

4- Preferably they work on it individually, but if the teacher prefers small groups that’s fine. Where they work on activity, do they have teacher’s permission to work in the hallway etc?

5- Also in the communication to students ask them to show respect to fellow students by following “your” class expectations of please keeping your extra talking to a minimum and at a low level so as to not disturb others.

They close their advice with this very wise suggestion: “In the end please choose what you are comfortable with since these are your children away from home.”

Barb and Bob made me realize that even if we are away, we still have a very strong influence on what can happen in our classes during our absence.  Communicating expectations and work to students, not just to the sub is key.  The idea is for our students to still hear our voice through the sub.  Thank you Barb and Bob.  I want to be just like you when I grow up!


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