On Substitutes

I’ve been out sick for the last two days, and writing sub plans was a miserable experience.  I know some of it is the fact that I was sick and just completely uninterested in work.  I pretty much spent three days on the couch drooling on myself.

The other part is that I’m still not sure how to make a sub day worthwhile.  Part of it is finding a good sub, but that’s pretty tough right now since I’m new to high school, and a good sub in middle school is not the same as a good sub in high school.  It’s also just difficult to know what a sub will actually get through.  I’ve had subs finish my plans in 20 minutes, and I’ve had them only get through half my plans.  There’s also the case that a sub will say they got through everything well, but the kids disagree and are totally confused.  (This is definitely something they don’t teach you in grad school.)

The common default is show a video.  That way the sub can’t really mess things up.  Ok fine.  You know what they’re getting, but are they actually learning?  My default in AVID was to run a peer study group (PSG).  That’s because it’s 100% student directed, and the sub doesn’t even need to be in the room. The students have issues to bring to the table, and they also have a vested interest.  Best of all the students write a reflection as part of the PSG so I get an additional 30 sub reports.

What do you do in a content class though?  This year so far I’ve mostly gone with read book and take notes.  It’s not the most interesting day, but since the students will have a quiz on the material, and they’re getting class time instead of homework there’s some motivation to do the work.  It’s not a great plan but it gets the job done. 

The hard part this time was the two days in a row, and then coming back into a block day.  The whole week has to be built around our block days (2, 4, 6 on Wednesday, and odd numbers on Thursday).  It’s extremely hard to go into the block days with no real knowledge of what happened on the previous two days.  I guess it’s one of those lovely eternal problems of teaching.  I can’t help but think that someone has figured out a real solution to the sub issue though.

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1 comment
  1. Ben said:

    I have asked myself these same questions for a lot of years. One of the only things that appeals to me in the common curriculum idea is that I never have to write sub-plans if I do it… I just make sure to bookmark where I am and an appropriately trained sub can pick up and drop the bookmark where they leave off… of course… that requires the use of common curriculum… which is not something that you or I are known for.

    Lets face it, one of the single most important things for motivating/encouraging the students to learn is a connection to the teacher. Subs always have had and always will have a tough time. Sure, there are some that do great… just like there are the 90 year old alcoholic smokers that have another 12 years of life in them. The fact is that most subs won’t put half the effort into the class as you did to make the sub plans while drooling on your couch.

    Bah humbug… screw the plans! I have emergency plans that are essentially the same every time I’m gone. They involve the sub asking the class what they’re doing and taking notes. I want to see that my sub can write clear notes based on the explanation given by the class. The class in turn needs to make sure they articulate clearly and explain. Then it’s work time/study hall.

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