Constructing a Substitute Folder
Parts of the Folder
Before I begin, allow me to first identify the multiple parts to a substitute folder.
- Greeting to Substitute
- Daily (Bell) Schedule
- Material Locations
- Contacts/Reliable Students
- Drill Directions
- Lesson for the Day
- Attendance Sheet
- Seating Chart
- Word from the Substitute
Being a substitute can be a dangerous job. Sometimes, you might walk into a classroom that is equivalent to the proverbial "madhouse"--whether the teacher is present or not. As teachers, it is both important and considerate to provide our substitutes with the proper tools for managing our classes while we're gone. Though nearly impossible to do so, a substitute folder/binder aims to give the substitute all the knowledge and tools necessary for a successful and problem-free day.
Opening your substitute folder, the greetings page obviously greets the substitute with warm words from you, the teacher. Additionally, it explains the make-up of classes, states the free period (if any), and provides your contact telephone number if emergencies call for its use. Above all, the greetings page also thanks the substitute for being willing to temporarily serve in your place. Here's an example:
First, I would like to welcome you to my classroom and thank you for being willing to serve in my absence. I teach two classes of French I, one class of French II, and three classes of twelfth grade English. Inside this binder, you will hopefully find everything that you will need during your time here. My students should know what I expect of them when I am absent. If you experience any problems, please contact me at ###-###-#### and leave me details. Once again, I thank you.
Mr. So and So
Sample Bell Schedule
II. Daily (Bell) Schedule
Next up, I like to include the bell schedule and its variations (in case there's a scheduled school-wide activity). This way, I feel that the substitutes have more peace of mind since they can monitor how much time they have with a group of students and can avoid the rushed turn-in that NEVER turns out well.
Do you keep an updated substitute folder?
III. What You Need to Know Page
Teachers sometimes organize their rooms completely differently from each other. Therefore, substitutes have to quickly figure out each particular system of organization. To facilitate this process, it will help to include a "What You Need to Know" page that comes complete with locations of materials and expectations of students. I include these expectations to limit the likelihood of students' taking advantage of the substitute's unfamiliarity with the classroom ways.
For the very rare occurrences, I also include the location of disciplinary forms.
IV. Contacts/Reliable Students
Despite your knowledge of classroom ways, sometimes, it's still relieving to know that you have people who can help you. That's the purpose of the Contacts page. It gives the names of the administrators and also the names of nearby teachers who are willing to assist with questions and issues. Additionally, this page gives a brief list--separated by class period-- of students who can be relied on. Should the substitute need to send a form to the office, this list suggests students who are least likely to take advantage of such a unique opportunity to roam the school.
Moreover, I briefly list the procedures for emergency drills--a time for potential chaos for teachers and substitutes alike.
V. The Day's Lesson
Of course, I include the lesson for the day--even if the directions are written on the board. If there are special conditions for certain classes or students, I include those here.
VI./VII. Attendance Sheet and Seating Arrangement
As the seating arrangement facilitates quick attendance checks, these two documents go hand in hand. If given proper time to prepare for my absence, I make the point to fill in the students who will be out on a school-sponsored activity. This way, the substitute won't have to worry about marking these students absent. Let it be known that I often change the arrangement of my desks--to a double arc, a circle, groups of two or four, etc. However, the students realize that on test days and substitute days the arrangement will revert back to the straightforward rows.
VIII. Word from the Substitute
This final section is the most important for me as the teacher. Here, I learn about my students' behavior and their ability to complete the assignment. This substitute's comments give me reason to commend or chastise my students. The comments also serve as feedback regarding the substitute's efficacy and the success of the assigned classwork. For these reasons, I urge open honesty.
Which takes more guts: being a teacher or being a substitute?
Taking Care to Prepare
Granted, some substitutes have been in the game so long that they seem to need no help. But, I can bet that if they were given the option of having such a resource as the substitute folder, they would take it. Inexperienced or not, substitutes deserve to walk into someone else's classroom with a sense of control and understanding. Give the substitute folder a try. I'm sure that your substitutes will appreciate it.