Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

Dealing with Substitute Teachers

Posted on: December 9, 2009

This is a rant, but I am really looking for what the rest of you do.  Let me tell a quick story.

I was out yesterday, I knew I would be out, so I gave work to my physics classes on Monday, they knew the assignment was to be done in class when I was out on Tuesday.  Honors did as instructed, although the sub was left instructions to share the solution manual with them if they were stuck.  He did not, they were frustrated because he didn’t bother to read the entire 50 word instructions I left him.

The sub decided it was okay for my other physics class to watch a video I left for my physical science students.  He told them they can watch the video and just do the work for homework.  None of them were at all prepared for today.  I was furious, not just at the kids, but at the adult that was paid to be there.  I sent an email of the event to my principal, but I know what she is going to say – we can’t find people who will come in, they all want lots of notice.

I think the next time, I’m going to leave a box of crayons.  I mean really, why bother?


4 Responses to "Dealing with Substitute Teachers"

I’m a student teacher. Thank God, my only experiences with substitute teachers have been very smooth. Two ideas:

+ Ideally, there should be a conversation between the teacher and the substitute. This would require that the teacher is available to speak on the phone at the start of the day. Even if they call you from their cell phone once they’re in the classroom, you’ll have the opportunity to clarify what you expect and let them clear up any confusion. Sure, this isn’t guaranteed to work, but I might try it sometime.

+ Leave a video or voice memo that the substitute teacher _must_ view. allows you to make video messages for free. And I just discovered a start-up that does the same fore video and voice messages. … Better yet, leave an audio/video message for the students to watch. That way, there is no room for vacillation. A video lets you show explicitly want materials you hope to be used.

I was a sub early in my career and from that side, emergency lesson plans were usually sparse, but I always did my best to follow what the teacher wanted. Often subs have no knowledge of the subject, they can be certified in any area.

Your ideas are great, although not practical in most schools. Subs rarely have computer access or time to even get on the system. We never know in advance who will be covering for us; sometimes teachers have to give up their prep period to cover for other teachers (we hate that). Subs don’t make more or less if they follow our plans or just let the kids talk, they have no incentive to actually teach beyond controlling the classroom and avoiding problems.

Trust me, my directions were very clear and simple. It was the sub’s desire to be the kid’s buddy rather than do the job at hand. It’s not easy being a sub, I know that, but someone who wants to be a teacher should think about the lesson and their future classroom.

True. I suppose I was directly addressing the substitute teacher’s unwillingness to read all the 50 words you wrote. Thanks for bringing things back to systemic, rather than logistical level. I’ll keep this in mind this week when my cooperating teacher is out for two days.

I had something very simmilar happen.

I was miserable, but I knew that I could at least handle part of one period. I came in and went through the instructions of the lab that the students were supposed to do while the sub was in the classroom watching.

Did he do anything when I acctually left? Absolutely not.

Like you said the people who are available to come in on short notice are probably unimployed, and why are they unimployed? 1-Lazy 2-Not the sharpest crayon in the box.

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