Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I am such a perfectionist; I just hate being absent. 

I have to say that I am almost never absent. In the 7 years that I have been teaching, I can count the number of days that I have been absent. If I am absent, it's not because I was so sick and weak that I needed to crawl home. For those cases I would stay at school. If I am absent, it's because:

1. I'm going to a conference or job fair: I missed 1 day this year for a conference, and 1 day 4 years ago because I needed to attend a job fair.
2. I need to catch a flight for a wedding that is out of town: I miss 1 day every 2 or 3 years for this.
3. I'm getting married myself: I am taking 2 days off for my own wedding this year. Hopefully this is a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing.
4. My doctor absolutely isn't available in the entire month except during work hours, and the situation is urgent. I've missed about three or four half-days for this in all the years that I've been teaching.

However, sometimes we need to be absent and we need to have substitutes. And I HATE THAT. I cannot seem to substitute-proof my lessons. I try to give them all the details: all lesson material, with extra copies and neatly labeled answer keys and instructions on what to write on the board and how many answers to check. I try to make the lessons SO easy to run that a non-mathy person can still do it, and I even talk to the kids in advance and prep them for the activity. If there are support teachers in my class, I brief them in advance, send them all the lesson material, and make sure they know what should be happening in case the substitute teacher is unclear. In the end, I come back and the kids are like, "The sub didn't write anything on the board. They didn't do anything." Last time, I made spiffy pencasts and tested them on the computer under another teacher's login, and everything, and the substitute teacher didn't have access on their own login account, and the whole thing was a fail even though in my mind, all they had to do was to hit Play. That was not their fault... however, moral of the story: I cannot substitute-proof my lessons!!

ARGH. So, tomorrow I'm out for a half-day. I planned it so that I'd miss only one single-period PM class, thereby minimizing the damage. I've made all my answer keys and even color-coded them and everything. Keeping my fingers crossed that whoever takes my class will defeat all odds and make me proud.

What do you do to substitute-proof your lessons?


  1. I have started typing up my directions for the students and have the sub put them under the document camera for all to see. I make sure I put what needs to be completed, where they need to put assignments at the end of class (group folders or their own binder), and what is for homework.

    I also have my classes color coded, and do a different folder for each class so that if different people end up covering my different classes each class has a "fresh start".

    With that being said, I am rarely absent for the same reason!

  2. Last year, I pulled out a student from each group the day before and gave them my handout. I quickly talked it through with them, and told them to go home and do it that night. Then the next day they were the "teacher" in their group and walked the rest of the group through it. My accountability was that I would be choosing one paper from the group to grade, and that they all would get the grade of the person with that paper. It worked because I trusted them not to copy. This year my kids have slightly more questionable moral principles and I haven't tried it. I just leave something that I don't care about, and it gets done or it doesn't.

    It is really frustrating to me that we can't be out for a day here and there without it being a big deal. I teach in San Francisco, and subs often don't even show up, which means we end up having to cover for each other on our preps, which makes nobody happy. This is an extreme situation (I assume subs show up most places), but it should be reasonable to miss a day if you are sick. Most jobs you don't have to come in if you are sick. To me it's another example of how teachers are asked to do too much.

  3. The only good solution is for your school to change its policy. At the public school where I teach, we gave up having short-term subs long ago. Kids don't seem to learn any more from a sub than they do from having a free period, and the latter approach lets them decompress a bit from the stresses of high school.

  4. @Katie Actually I totally agree that our job is just different! Case in point, my doctor had suggested that I take a morning appointment and she'll just write me a medical note to excuse my tardiness to school. It's not that simple!! But, then again, I guess it really is that simple in most other jobs. I wonder if people write tardy notes for the President.

    @Everyone I got lucky today and one of our own covered for me, and it was the kids' math teacher from last year, so everything worked out great!! yay. That's definitely a rare occasion though, I have to say. I rarely get so lucky to be assigned a math teacher as sub, unless I personally appeal to them (as I have done in the past, when I had to chaperone a school trip and therefore had to miss several days in a row).

  5. I use the record feature in SMART notebook to record my lesson using either notebook or my document camera. It is a little time consuming but eliminates the excuse that "the sub didn't know ANYTHING." The kids know the drill and can basically run the class if I am not present. They also are very focused on the lesson bc they know they have to pay attention. I teach as if I am in the classroom and question students throughout the lesson. Funny thing is, they usually respond and are completely amazed when I correct a wrong response (nevermind that I have taught for years and can pretty much pinpoint where certain mistakes will be made). I also allow students who were absent to use these recordings as it usually is more helpful for them to see/hear the lesson rather than mindlessly copy someone else's notes.