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Discussion: The Unhappy Supply Teacher

by Janet Lee Stinson

Unlocking your door, the day after your day away from school. You see it. The red ink stained piece of lined paper on your desk. You can tell the supply teacher was not happy. Now it’s your turn to respond.

How do you deal with the day after a bad day with a supply teacher?





Janet Lee has been an English teacher/Department Chair, Nipissing University Reading Part 3 Instructor, Student Success Literacy Consultant, and Nelson Literacy 7-10 instructional writer and media specialist. Janet Lee recently presented literacy resources at The Great Moon Gathering in Fort Albany, Ontario. She enjoys maintaining her blog This Side of the Mirror-A Journey Through Reflection to communicate with teachers and address current issues in education.


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  • Antonietta Turner

    Have a talk with the students involved. Were there external forces at work? Then do some digging – ask other students. Be mindful how you address the class in the morning – do you really want it to start your day? I remind my students before hand regarding our class expectations to teacher – or visitor in our classroom. If the student cannot handle being in the class with out you – they could get dispersed to another class for the day. Apology letters work well too!

    • Julia

      Those are all good suggestions for confronting troublesome student(s) head on! It is important to make the students accountable for their behaviour whether or not you are in the classroom.

  • Sandra

    When I was in the classroom, I kept an evaluation form for students to fill out whenever I had a guest teacher in for me. (“Guest” was a more welcome term than substitute; I used it deliberately to promote respect for this teacher who was willing to work with my students.)

    Questions included the following:
    What was the name of the guest teacher who worked with you today?
    Do you think s/he will want to come back? Explain your answer.
    What should I have explained to the guest teacher before the day began?
    What are some of the things that worked well?
    What suggestions do you have about what I might do next time to prepare for a guest teacher?
    How did you feel about your participation? For each of the following Ps rate your attitude and work habits for today.
    (S = superb, I = incredible, W = wonderful, G = great.)
    Were you prepared? Did you have what you needed for each activity: notebooks, pencil, other supplies?
    Did you do what you were asked promptly?
    Were you productive? Did you finish your work to the best of your abilities?
    Did you have a positive attitude towards all activities and other students in the class?

    The feedback was invaluable. Responses helped me choose successful tasks to use if I had be be away from the school again. My class knew that they would be completing the form at the end of the day and I believe it encouraged them to reflect on their contributions to the success of the class that day. It made them accountable. Guest teachers often took a copy of my form away with them at the end of the day, and they invariably came back if invited!

    • Janet Lee

      Wow, Sandra! That is a great idea!! You gave your students a voice and responsibility in a situation that sometimes makes students feel powerless. What a great way to open the lines of communication. Can you share some surprising things you learned because of these questions?