“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
Substitute teachers step in when full-time teachers need to be away from the classroom and their job is to adapt quickly, providing students with the leadership and instruction they need. The ongoing shortage of substitute teachers has made life challenging for assistant superintendents and school leaders, and highlights the importance of providing substitute teacher resources that make substitutes’ jobs easier.
At Alludo, we partner with school districts around the country, and one of the things we have done is to help them create substitute teacher onboarding programs with activities and professional development tracks in our content catalog. We’ve created this list of 10 substitute teacher resources and included a substitute lesson plan template to help you support substitute teachers in your district.
How Should Substitute Teachers Prepare for Their First Day?
The best and most effective substitute teachers prepare for their first day in a new classroom to minimize disruption and help students learn. Here are some steps that subs can take to get up to speed:
Prepare an introduction. One of the most difficult things about being a substitute teacher is meeting a whole class of students at once and getting them to trust and respect you. Preparing a brief introduction that includes some fun facts about you can help, as can adopting an authoritative tone that lets students know that you expect respect.
Brush up on the subject matter. Substitute teachers are educational jacks of all trades, so it’s always helpful to brush up on the subject you’ll be teaching before you enter the classroom.
Bring a few games or activities. Even if the regular teacher leaves a substitute with a detailed lesson plan, there’s always a chance that lessons won’t take as long as anticipated. Substitute teachers should bring a few age-appropriate games and activities that they can use to fill time as needed.
Collaborate with school staff. It may be useful to chat with other teachers and school staff to get information about a class before students arrive.
Prepare an emergency lesson plan. While most teachers prepare lesson plans for substitutes to use, that’s not always the case. Preparing an emergency lesson plan is a good way to reduce stress about an assignment because the substitute teacher will know they have something to fall back on.
Preparing for a substitute teaching assignment doesn’t need to take hours, but experienced substitutes often have a bag of tricks that they know they can use when they need to.
10 Resources to Set Substitute Teachers Up for Success
Teachers and administrators should provide resources to help substitute teachers do their jobs. Here are 10 essential teaching resources (excluding lesson plans, which we’ll cover in the next section) that we believe are essential.
#1: Map of the School
Your substitute teacher welcome packet should include a map of the school with important locations marked. Some examples include the classrooms where they’ll be teaching, the teacher lounge, restrooms, cafeteria, library, gym, playground, nurse’s office, and emergency exits.
#2: School Emergency Procedures
Every substitute teacher should receive a complete breakdown of school safety procedures, including details of what to do during a drill or lockdown. Substitutes need to know about all emergency protocols. The breakdown should include where to find classroom keys and specific instructions about what to do during a lockdown.
#3: Relevant Student Behavior or Issues
Every student is unique and some present more of a challenge to teachers than others. Teachers can help substitutes by providing their insights about student behavior and advice about how to manage students who may need extra support and attention.
#4: Students with Special Accommodations
Substitute teachers need to be informed ahead of time about any special student accommodations, including IEPs. They should never be caught by surprise by behavior or requirements for a student with neurological differences or learning disabilities.
#5: Health Concerns
On a related note, substitute teachers should also be advised of any health concerns for students in their classes, including allergies, diabetes, asthma, and any other medical condition that might require the teacher’s attention.
#6: Names of Teachers and Staff
When a new substitute teacher arrives, they should be given the names of the school principal and vice principals, custodian, and other relevant staff who may be resources for them. Many schools also create a buddy system that partners substitute teachers with permanent teachers they can go to if they have questions.
#7: Information About Additional Responsibilities
It’s common for substitute teachers to be asked to take on additional responsibilities such as monitoring the cafeteria during lunch or monitoring recess. Substitutes should be informed of these responsibilities either before or when they arrive to make sure they’re not taken by surprise.
#8: Access to Games and Activities
While we believe it’s helpful for substitutes to come with some games and activities, schools can help out by providing them with game suggestions and resources. Some popular options include Hangman, Bingo, or Heads-Up.
#9: The School Library
Administrators and staff can encourage substitute teachers to use the school library as a resource when they need assistance. Librarians are knowledgeable about what items are available and may even be able to make suggestions.
#10: Professional Development and Onboarding
You can set substitute teachers up for success by providing a system for new teacher onboarding and professional development. Providing substitute teachers with professional learning opportunities may encourage them to become permanent teachers—something that’s essential given the ongoing teacher shortage.
With the help of Alludo’s professional learning platform, the resources above — and many more — can be made readily available to substitute teachers well before they even enter the classroom. You can create a substitute teacher resources section that can be managed, updated, and easily accessible in just a few minutes.
What Should a Substitute Binder Include?
To make sure that substitute teachers in your district have everything they need to connect with students and do their jobs well, we suggest putting together a binder that includes many of the resources we’ve listed above. In addition to these items, we also recommend encouraging teachers to create substitute lesson plans for when they have a planned absence.
Here are the things we suggest including in your substitute teacher binders:
A daily schedule that includes all classroom and non-classroom activities, including cafeteria and playground monitoring.
General classroom rules and policies, including expectations of students and teachers and details about drill and lockdown procedures.
An updated student roster that includes preferred student nicknames and pronouns. If any students have names that may be difficult to pronounce, you may also want to include phonetic pronunciations.
Classroom seating charts if seating is assigned.
Contact information (if possible) so the substitute can contact the permanent teacher if necessary.
A detailed lesson plan. (More on this below.)
A few extra activities in case the class finishes with the lesson plan early.
Having these items all in one place provides substitutes with a catch-all resource that they can use if they have questions.
Substitute Lesson Plan Template
In most cases, a substitute lesson plan should be a simplified lesson plan that a new sub can review and understand quickly. It should have these characteristics:
Details of the lesson
A narrative/explanation of what needs to be done
Easy-to-read formatting that includes highlighted major headings with more detailed information beneath each topic. Many include sample problems.
As a rule, it’s best to avoid introducing a new topic or concept, since that puts a lot of weight on substitute teachers. Here’s a template that teachers can use to create easy-to-use substitute lesson plans.
Lesson Focus and Goals:
We suggest highlighting important elements of the lesson plan and providing additional details wherever they are needed. Teachers may want to include different types of learning activities to hold students’ attention. For example, a substitute lesson plan might include watching a video, reading, and completing an art activity related to the topic.
What Should a Substitute Teacher Do When There Is No Lesson Plan?
While many teachers take the time to prepare substitute lesson plans, it’s not always possible. When that happens, substitutes may need some guidance. Here are our suggestions:
Consult other teachers and collaborate on what to do. (This is where having a buddy system is helpful.)
Ask students what they have been studying and for whatever context is needed.
Fall back on prepared activities and games.
If there is no lesson plan, substitute teachers should leave the permanent teacher some information about what they did and what their experience was like.
At Alludo, we specialize in creating dynamic online learning environments that may be used for substitute teacher onboarding and professional development. Our content catalog includes many topics that are useful to substitute teachers, including instructional tools, resources, and activities related to classroom management.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that implementing effective substitute teacher onboarding can lead to new teacher hiring. That’s what happened at the Yucaipa Calimesa JUSD, which began using our system for substitute teacher onboarding and watched onboarding evolve into an onramp for hiring new teachers and building capacity.
Provide Substitute Teachers in Your District with Resources and Onboarding with Alludo
Substitute teachers are most effective when they are provided with the resources, support, and guidance they need to adapt quickly to new classrooms and connect with students. The 10 resources we’ve listed here, together with our substitute lesson plan template, will help your district build a reliable network of experienced and effective substitute teachers.
Do you want substitute teacher onboarding to be part of your district’s recipe for student success? Alludo can help! Click here to get your free trial of our learning platform, Madagascar, with our content catalog preloaded for you to review.