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Castle Learning's Guide To Preparing For a Substitute Teacher

December 2, 2019

/ by

Jeff Hersh


Great teachers are known for giving every ounce of energy they have to make sure their work is of the highest standards of excellence. Sometimes, however, this outstanding output of mental and physical fuselage comes with a cost. When teachers are exhausted, the weather shifts,  and flu season starts, there’s a chance a teacher will get sick. And it happens suddenly.


Even when a teacher remains healthy, there are always potential schedule changes that pop up. Conferences, meetings, and even emergencies force the most dutiful teacher away from the classroom with little warning.  


An Emergency Substitute Teacher Kit ensures the teacher’s classes will stay on task and not miss a beat with his or her absence.  


Here are the must-haves in your kit to help the guest educator continue your model of excellence.  A binder filled with all of the following will be an ideal way to share all the need-to-know information with the substitute.  




First and foremost, welcome the guest teacher into your classroom and thank them upfront.  You want to give them a sense of warmth and confidence as they enter this new teaching situation. The letter should let them know where to look for all important information like office phone numbers, emergency exit plans, names and room numbers of other teachers who can help, your daily schedule, and contact information so they can reach you if needed. They probably won’t, but it’s helpful to know you are there if they need you. 




Keep an updated seating chart for all your classes in the binder. This will allow the substitute to take charge of the class and use students’ names to help keep them on task and accountable.  It will also help with attendance. Substitutes have to move quickly and having this chart will make the day easier to navigate. 




Leave the assignment and instructions for the day’s lesson.  You may have a modified version of the one you were planning to allow the substitute teacher to collect work, keeping students mindful of their accountability. This is also the place for “emergency lesson plans” in case you will be out longer than expected. These are general stand alone lessons and assignments that can be implemented by an educator and still reinforce skills you’ve been teaching your students throughout the year.  




You hope your students will be wonderful for whomever is teaching, but just in case, make sure to leave incident report sheets so the substitute teacher feels comfortable with any discipline that needs to happen.  




An unfamiliar substitute teacher will find it helpful to have a short summary on each student. This lets you alert your sub to important facts or warnings about your students.  It can be about their attention struggles, how they can tend to get “chatty,” or how they are conscientious and would make a great helper. It’s up to you. Keep the notes on students as constructive and neutral as possible. 




This final piece of the kit will ultimately be the most useful to you when you return to the classroom. This is a place for the substitute teacher to fill you in on everything that happened during the day. It can allow them to rate your classes’ overall behavior and focus on the task assigned, celebrate the students who went above and beyond, and update you on the progress made on the classwork. This is their chance to answer your initial welcome letter from the beginning of the kit, and is a crucial piece of dialogue between you and your substitute.  Remember, you’re a team and this is where they can break down the action you missed.  


What do you like to leave for your substitute teachers?


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