Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about sub plans, the making of them and their delivery or not. Way back in earlier times, before NCLB and benchmark exams, when I had to have a sub I would often leave a movie that somehow pertained to what we had been studying. I’d make a graphic organizer that asked the students to identify character, setting, main events, with maybe some sort of a reflection or comparison at the end. I didn’t really worry about having the sub continue with the thread I had started other than that. The students could watch the movie, yet be held accountable for something without expecting much from the substitute.
In recent years, I’ve changed my ways. I leave thorough sub plans that involve the sub actually teaching something. Or if not teaching, at least guiding the students through whatever it is I’ve left for them to do. I seem to have forgotten the way of substitute teachers, and my students in relation to them. It’s really more about my students than the subs, I suppose. They go bonkers when I’m not there. At times they go bonkers when I am there, but not as much as when I’m gone. They just lose their balance when I leave, it seems. So I come back to a classroom that is kind of torn apart and work that is not done because apparently no one understood what to do. I usually find notes from the sub, covered with names of who was sent to another teacher’s classroom, explanations of work not done because how could anyone get them to do anything the way they act, and occasionally a name or two of the kids who behaved well, but mostly not those because there aren’t many of them.
Then the aftermath unfolds. They spend at least one day after I’ve been gone acting out. Showing me how they behaved for the sub. Punishing me for leaving them. Telling me in great detail about how mean that sub was and asking why I didn’t just get that one who plays the guitar. They like that one. Sometimes I want to shout, “Hey! It’s me! I’m not a sub!” Except, hello? They should not be treating a sub that way and I should not expect them to, except that…well, they just do. I feel like slinking around campus for a day or two after I’ve come back, in case their sub is on campus again, or in case (Oh, please no!!) my colleagues were forced to cover for me on their prep periods. Oh the humiliation of that. Except they also teach the same kids, so they sort of get it, except the eighth grade math teacher who is used to teaching college and hasn’t actually taught seventh graders before. They’re terrified of him. Pity these guys when they find themselves in his Math class next year! Payback! I can hardly wait.
Have I created completely codependent little monsters? It seems that way sometimes. Or maybe I’m just expecting too much. When I’m going to be out, I tell the students that I’ll be gone, why I’ll be gone and what I’ll be leaving them to do. I bring them in as co-conspirators, sort of. Except, well, you’ve already read how well that works. Not at all, really. I can’t imagine coming in as a substitute teacher and trying to teach a lesson to thirty-one unknown twelve-year-olds who think I’m mean or stupid or funny looking or all of the above. Why should they buy into me, and do what I say? It takes time to bond and build a rapport. So what’s the answer? Just stay at school? That’s my best answer, of course. But what about the days that I have to be gone? When I’m sick or have to be at some really scintillating mandatory meeting? There are always going to be days when I have to be out of the classroom. I hate wasting a really good lesson plan on one of those days, knowing that it will not be really completed, yet won’t be fresh enough to reuse it when I return. So therein lies my dilemma. I have to be out next Wednesday, which is why I’m pondering the subject. I’m considering a return to the movies.
What do you do about sub plans? I would really like to know.