Period subbing in a secondary school setting in the state of Arizona is sort of inevitable right now. When I first started teaching, we had a few consistent middle school substitutes but they are becoming extremely rare. There are weeks when I feel like my only role is a prep hour substitute. Substitute teachers are amazing humans and my respect and admiration has grown so much for them.
Here are some thoughts that came to mind one week as I subbed each and every prep hour I had:
- Will I be able to find that room number in the 3 minutes I have to get there before class begins?
- Can I pronounce all of their names correctly without the room full of giggles if I don’t?
- Will I be able to read the 12 point font on the sub plans that I get to see as soon as I walk in the door and manage the 30 plus middle schoolers at the same time?
- I’ve been up since 3 am when I received the email that I would have to period sub and my anxiety is out of control.
- Will I be able to get my lesson and materials ready for the lab in my science class the next day without having any prep and meetings after school?
- It has been weeks since I’ve graded anything. But I really don’t want to take it home and miss out on family time. When can I grade?
- Will I be able to eat lunch, go to the bathroom for the only time I have to myself in the day, fill up my water bottle, and work on my Google Slides for tomorrow in the 20 minutes I have for lunch by the time I get the students out of the hall to lunch since I don’t have prep today?
- Will my brain be able to rest at all today? I feel overstimulated.
- Will I be able to run back to my classroom in the 4 minute pass period to reset up my own classroom for my own lesson?
- Can I manage my pulse taking care of 30 plus new- to- me students for an hour?
- Wait, I’m subbing for PE? Spanish? Sign Language?
- Will I hopefully see some of my past 6th graders in the 7th or 8th grade class I’m subbing for today?
I could keep going, but those were all genuine thoughts I had that week at various times throughout the day. I left it on a positive note with the last one, but as you can see most of these thoughts make me very anxious. As a teacher we cherish any amount of time we get to plan, prep, and grade at school and not at home. I also get so nervous to teach new classes I’ve never subbed for and don’t feel confident in.
To give you hope if you find yourself constantly period subbing as well, I have a few tips I’ve picked up to at least make the subbing a little easier.
- Give up on perfection for you and the students you are guest teaching. I’m fair and consistent with my expectations, but I don’t ever expect the class to go perfectly. I don’t have all of the answers or knowledge I need to teach some of these classes and that’s okay!
- Walk in with a SMILE! If you go into that classroom full of rules and a grumpy attitude, you’ve already lost the classroom management game.
- Get to know them and form a relationship with them! Chances are you are going to sub more than once for that class throughout the year. You might as well make it as positive an experience as possible.
- Have a little prep sub basket ready to grab on your way out the door. In my basket I have extra paper, pencils, sticky notes, a schedule so I know what time to release them, and I usually put my laptop in there before I walk out with it. Be ready for anything!
- Ask your students to help make the process earlier! The class before I have prep period subbing helps me to close my doors as we are on the way so I don’t have to worry about leaving my classroom wide open when I’m not there. My class after I have to period sub helps to set up our classroom for the lesson, while I set up the laptop for the lesson.
These tips are to maintain our sanity as we are forced to give up our prep time. It is definitely not a solution to the problem that many are facing as we have to trade in our prep time to substitute in other classes. Do you have to sub during your prep time? Is there anything that makes it a little easier for you?
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