Ever find yourself asking this question? You return to your classroom having been away from work for the day and glance over the carefully-crafted lesson plan for the results of the activities you left. But, you find yourself at a loss when there are no notes, no comments and no clear picture about what your students accomplished in your absence.
Your first inclination is to ask a student.
“What did you do when Mr. So-and-So was here?” The trusted child, unassuming and honest, says “I don’t know. He told us some stories, we went outside to play around, and then we did a cartooning activity.”
You push harder. “Did you read and talk about the story from Nelson Literacy?”
“Was the class behaving well?”
There is a dichotomy of effectiveness when you leave your classroom in the hands of another. The truth whispered amongst many teachers is that it is far more work to be away from school than it is just to come. Preparing lesson plans, arranging resources, fine-tuning a seating plan, writing notes about student behaviours to expect and reward/management systems that are in place, routines not related to teaching (collecting food orders and money, permission forms, duties, teaching and educational assistants, scheduling) and many other things must be left in an easily-identifiable spot for a supply to find.
Don’t get me wrong. I know how hard it can be to work as a supply teacher. I have been one.
I have been a supply teacher in some of the weirdest situations. Whether it was blocking doors to prevent students leaving or teaching classes that have more support staff than students, a day in the life of a supply teacher can be anything but normal.
Regardless of how challenging the circumstances, we do trust in our supply teachers to get the job done. It is difficult for a supply teacher when the students don’t know them. It is even more difficult when you have only left something ‘mechanical’ for them to teach.
Here are 4 easy things to do in preparation for a supply teacher:
1. Write a clear lesson or day plan
2. Leave a seating chart
3. Suggest two students who can be leaders and helpers
4. An offering of chocolate or a “thank you” gesture for coming in.
Keep an open mind about the situation your supply is entering and be realistic about what can be accomplished in your absence. Empathy can go a long way in understanding the world through the eyes of a supply teacher.
What expectations do you have of your students during your absence? How do you prepare for an absence?