When the Teacher is Out Sick

The past two days I was out sick, and had to have subs. The first day, the sub handed out the paper I asked him to teach them and went back to my desk and drank coffee and read the newspaper, like any babysitter. He left a note saying they were terribly rude and disrespectful. Hm, that is no surprise. They definitely like to be kept busy, and to be given attention. He just called and called for help and sent kids to the office. Lots of them. I never send anyone, so the folks in the office definitely knew something was up. So that was the first day. Pretty much a wash.

Then yesterday, I had a different sub. This one arrived half an hour or more late. He walked in with a big smelly sandwich in hand and lots of loud energy. One of my colleagues was covering until he got there. Within an hour, this sub had sent a number of students to the office, called a female student an A$$, and was sent home. The young woman who came in after him had no problem at all. Whew! Makes you wonder doesn’t it?! Not really. You just have to be there with and for them. They definitely need a lot of attention. Notice I didn’t say coddling. They just need the adult in the room to be present and aware.

Today they were almost cuddly, they were so glad to see me. Nothing much got done, but oh well. There’s always next week.

THE CAVEAT: I know it is hard to be a sub. I would not choose that job for anything. Ever. However, I have noticed that some subs manage to follow the lesson plan and actually teach the students. It must have to do with attitude. Or intent, I don’t know. Maybe it’s about liking kids and wanting to actually be there with them. Not just subbing until you find a real job. (Am I being mean? Sub-judiced? Oh, I hope not.)

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6 thoughts on “When the Teacher is Out Sick

  1. Kathryn says:

    As both a classroom teacher and former sub I have seen both sides of this coin. Subbing is pretty awful, but I also think that sometimes the way we run our classrooms can contribute to the negative interactions with subs.

    My middle schoolers definitely need attention (just like yours) but I also try very hard to have every day of class be as independent as possible. I don’t keep my students busy- instead I push them to keep themselves busy on a daily basis. When I am out I try to prepare them and go over my expectations, but mostly I make sure that I leave a plan that allows students to self-direct and takes much of the responsibility from the sub and gives it to the kids. I also have a behavior rubric for the sub that the kids know about. They receive extra credit for A+ days with a sub as well.

    I’m glad you’re feeling better, and definitely love the way kids appreciate you so much more when you’ve been out for a few days.

    • lynnjake says:

      Thanks for the comment, Katheryn. I have to say that normally when I have to be out the week is planned around my absence, so that the day I am gone the students are ready for an independent practice about whatever we have been doing in the previous days. They normally know I will be out and what they will be doing in my absence. I leave detailed sub plans, and often the sub is expected to guide the students through a lesson. I never ask a sub to introduce something new, but normally they are fine with guiding the students through the project of the day. I like the idea of a behavior rubric for the sub. I’d love to see that, actually. It sounds very helpful.

      In this case, when I was out with an unexpected absence, my last two groups of the day, the eighth graders and the 7th grade ELD class which is a little more advanced and has an equal distribution of boys and girls, did fine in my absence. It was the less advanced ELD class, which has 24 boys and 9 girls, that had a hard time. Although they were glad to see me, they are always difficult to manage. The subs that do well with them are those who are there to actually be the teacher for the day. It seems like they are often women, for some reason. At any rate, it’s an ongoing learning experience.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

  2. dkzody says:

    Fresno no longer hires subs who do not have a teaching credential, hoping that will help with classroom control.

    • lynnjake says:

      I wonder if it helps. I don’t think our subs all have credentials. I think they all have to pass the CBEST, but not have credentials. We have a hard time getting subs in our district, so I suppose that is why they aren’t all credentialed. The credential sounds like a good idea to me.

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