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

Adjusting to a Substitute

This has been an odd year for me in terms of time away from the classroom. For the past four years, I have been on various committees and inquiry groups and task forces that have met during school hours that I have had at least one full-day or half-day absence a month throughout the year. That changed this year when my district’s administration made the decision to move most of the meetings to after-school hours, cut back on the frequency of said meetings, and the inquiry group I had been a part of was disbanded when funding requirements changed. As a result, I have had very few absences, other than my once-a-week special education collaboration meeting and my once-every-three weeks Response to Intervention meeting. In fact, I have had two sick days and one personal day for the entire year.

As a result of all of this, my class has not had to adjust to substitute teachers very often. Even with our fine arts/library schedule, those teachers have not been gone very often, either, and so the students have gotten very comfortable with the same teachers being there all day every day.

That changed this week. Our dance teacher has been with the fifth grade students at the Krannert Art Museum as part of their Week at the Museum (KAM-WAM) integrated arts project. The students go to the library each Monday so this was the third day with a substitute teacher for dance. The first day was a bit rocky. Some students had to be removed from the class and others had to be moved away from peers. I remember talking to the substitute about it (a retired teacher from our district) and he expressed concerns about what the rest of the week would be like.

Yesterday was totally different, though. I went to pick them up and they were quietly working on their assignment. They lined up and he said, “So, should I brag on you to your teacher?” The students cheered and he told me how great it had gone. (At least one student who had been sent out of the room the day before I approached him at the start, apologised for his previous behaviour, and promised to do better. And he did!)

Today was a repeat of yesterday. I was so happy! The students seemed to have all adjusted to the fact that they were going to have a different teacher for dance this week, they were okay with him being different from the teacher they were used to, and they realised that the expectations were still the same. Tomorrow will be their last day with a sub and I am fully expecting it to be another awesome day. I am looking forward to reporting to their regular dance teacher that they really pulled it all together and had a fantastic week!

This also makes me more comfortable with a few upcoming absences. I am confident that my students will be able to handle themselves responsibly, treat the substitute respectfully, and accomplish all the things that they will be asked to do.

How do you adjust for changes in your regular schedule?

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