The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Preparing for a Substitute Teacher

I am going to be gone tomorrow. One of my best friends is getting married in Seattle, Washington, and it just so happened that I was able to arrange things so that I could go. I’ll be flying out of Chicago tomorrow afternoon with two other friends while our wives take an extended weekend vacation in the city. We are all looking forward to the trip, but that means that I had to prepare my class for having me out of the room for a day.

All week we have been talking about classroom expectations, rehearsing procedures and discussing what works and what doesn’t. I had a brilliant idea this morning when I had the class sit down and line up again after the first try resulted in talking and jostling in line. There are quite a few students who tend to grumble when I have them sit down and try it again the right way. Then I had my flash of brilliance.

I wrote a simple math equation on the board and asked them if it was correct. The equation was this:

10 + 10 = 16

Of course the students said it was wrong. I said, “But it’s close! Isn’t close enough good enough?!” To which they said, “No!” So I rewrote it:

10 + 10 = 19

Again we had the discussion that close enough wasn’t good enough. So then I asked, “If close enough isn’t good enough for math, why should it be good enough for our routines for behaviour? Shouldn’t we be exact in everything we do?”

There was a moment of silence. Then nods and mental lights going on. So then we tried it again. And everyone did it the right way. It was pretty cool. Sure, we’re going to have to practice it again and again, but they are starting to get it, and that’s what keeps me going.

Later on in the day we talked about the expectations for having a substitute teacher. Now, of course, I expect the very best of behaviour every day; I can’t expect the students to do less than the best, right? But I also expect the very best of the best of the best when I am gone, and I let them know that. I also let them know that the younger kids in the building look up to them and mimic their behaviour. As an example, I told them that as we came in from recess, the third graders were in the hall, also. My class was talking, and then the third graders started talking. I asked one of them why they were talking in the hall and she responded, “Well, the fourth graders are talking.”


My class definitely paused at that thought. I also told them about the second graders who are trying to finish their restroom breaks in five minutes or less because our class is doing the same.

I wrapped the day up by asking them to rate their behaviour in class on a scale of one to five, one being “Needs Improvement” and five being “Great.” We have five basic expectations in the classroom and I just happen to be a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, and particularly a fan of the character Faith. So I suggested that we should strive to have each day be a five-by-five day.

As my final preparation for having a substitute teacher, I left a message on the board for the class and then wrote positive messages by the class expectations and the RESPECT board we have to encourage them to have a great day. I have no idea who the sub tomorrow is going to be, but I hope that the class really does have a five-by-five day!


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