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Outside the Box Blog: To Be Prepared

Outside the Box Teaching Ideas

To Be PreparedTo be or not to be (prepared that is), that is the question. Thanks to Shakespeare and his iconic quote, I am now on a new quest to be prepared at all times. Ok, maybe not at ALL times but at least most of the time. I owe this new desire partly to Shakespeare and partly to an unfortunate incident. Last week on my way into work I was involved in an auto accident. Needless to say, I was not going to be in that day or as it turned out, the next couple of days.

This situation begged the question; just how prepared am I? I thought for sure I was one of those teachers who seemed to have it all together. I quickly discovered I wasn't as “together” as I thought. It is easy to have detailed plans laid out and wrapped in a neat little bow when you KNOW you are going to be absent but what about those days when things just happen?

Every week my lesson plans are electronically sent to my principal with the objective clearly stated and the “duties” of the students detailed. I make a mental note (or a written list) of what is needed for the week, what is coming up, what “extras” need to be done. All of these things plus the day to day things such as attendance, our schedule/routine, lunch/recess duty, where things may be, and any extra work, are not written in the plans. How would a substitute know these things without the assistance of others? He/she wouldn't.

Substitutes are assigned to a classroom often with no lesson plans, no sense of the classroom, and no idea what the daily routine entails. It can be a bit overwhelming; I know I have been there. The sense of unpreparedness is felt by the students I am sure, and we all know students love substitutes, especially substitutes who just learned they were substituting a couple of hours before school began. This is the perfect opportunity for students to switch things up, get out of normal every day assignments, and of course misbehave.

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To be more prepared for the curve balls life throws at me, at least in my classroom, I have decided to create a substitute kit and keep it behind my desk. Of course my principal will have the lesson plans to give the substitute when needed but inside this kit will be things I know will make his/her day a little easier. I plan to include: a binder, extra reading book, extra supplies, a folder, and a thank you card/note.

Inside the binder, the substitute will find the following information.

  • A seating chart and map outlining the class. On the map I will include where items are located that are not labeled.
  • A teacher list and directory so he/she can ask for assistance if needed.
  • A class list
  • Attendance/lunch record sheet
  • Any allergies that need to be noted such as peanut allergy
  • Our class schedule
  • Daily routine including dismissal
  • Fire drill procedure
  • Class rules
  • Map of school/location of other classrooms/teacher's workroom (especially nurses office as it seems there are MANY reasons to visit nurse when substitute is present)
  • Special classroom helpers
  • Specific directions regarding behavioral issues
  • A few sheets of notebook paper for notes regarding work, behavior, or reminders I will need when I return.

Inside the kit will be an additional reader to read aloud to the students. My students love for me to read to them. Should the substitute finish our normal reading book, I want to have one on standby. Reading aloud also calms the class, allows for students to work quietly while listening, and helps to fill “empty time”.

A small container with extra pencils, stickers, erasers, rulers, and other supplies will be handy for those students who suddenly lose materials needed to complete daily work. Somehow that always happens when there is a substitute!

A folder with extra worksheets, group activities, or drawing paper is added to assist with the “I am finished now what do I do” moments.

I also plan to include a kcup or tea bag with a mug. I know you are probably thinking that is not exactly a necessity, but it is a nice gesture. A substitute is doing my job for the day. It is not an easy task. Not all substitutes are professional teachers waiting for that full time position to open up. Leaving a thank you card/note and perhaps a little treat is a simple way of showing gratitude for someone stepping into your shoes for the day.

While I am sure there is no way to be 100% prepared for all unexpected things, I know by having this kit handy, I will feel less stressed when at home or away. In addition this will help my substitute to feel prepared and ready for the day. Not only will they have my lesson plans from the principal, but they will also have a folder of things to do in case the children get done early, or things don’t work out as planned.

As teachers, we know how difficult it can be to be out of work for one day, even if it is unexpected. By having these ideas put into place, it will help you feel a little less anxious about your class so that you can focus on getting better, getting things done or in my case laying on the heating pad. Did I mention that I don’t like black ice? Well, that’s another discussion….