As I sit down to write this post, I have a 12-day old baby boy sleeping on my chest. Brooks Nash Clark arrived December 28, 2018, and we couldn’t be more in love. The baby snuggles and cuddles are in no short supply, and I can’t get enough of his adorable face.
But, today is also the second day of my maternity leave. I have nine weeks away from my students. While I am so grateful and appreciative for the time off (I can’t imagine being away from Brooks), I had no idea how to prepare for a long term sub.
As a high school English teacher, I have two different grade levels to prepare; plus I advise Student Council. And since this is my first time preparing for this length of leave, I was very intimidated and nervous planning about 45 days worth of teaching for someone else. So, I went to the most reputable source around to help: Google. I wanted to get some great plan or strategy to help me plan my lessons, so I searched “Maternity Leave Prep,” “How to Prepare for a Long-Term Sub,” and “Long-Term Sub Tips.”
I read several interesting blog posts and articles, but nearly everything I read was geared toward elementary school teachers. While I did find some of the tips and advice helpful, I wasn’t super satisfied with the results.
As a self-proclaimed control freak (And did I mention perfectionist?), I want everything to run smoothly and seamlessly while I am away. With little to guide me on how to prepare for a long-term sub, I simply had to wing it.
Here’s how I prepared for a long term sub:
A couple of blogs suggested color-coded tubs for each week’s handouts and lessons. This seemed logical and organized. “Hmmm,” I thought, “How can I make that work for me and my kiddos?” I decided to use technology as the main method for creating my sub plans. More or less, I wanted to create online “tubs.” Thus, I created a Google Drive folder for each of my preps. Next, I created a Google Doc within the folder for weekly lesson plans.
The weekly docs helped me map out the weeks without getting overwhelmed during the process. Each Google Doc required just five days worth of lessons rather than trying to tackle big chunks, I worked with smaller pieces to plan.
I know the weekly structures of my classroom: grammar, vocabulary, reading, and assessments. I plugged those assignments into their respective days on the Google Docs. It essentially created the outline for each week and create consistency for me, my sub, and my students.
Next, I evaluated the content each class needed to cover. I gathered all the handouts, assignments, videos, etc needed and began to organize them by week. I have most of my materials saved electronically, so I simply shared the online folders with my sub. However, in my true perfectionist manner, I also printed everything he needs. I labeled weekly file folders with assignment titles for easy access and copies.
The pacing was the most difficult piece to plan. By using Google Docs rather than simply typing and printing my plans, I empowered my sub to make any pacing changes. I know how long lessons usually take me, but everyone is different. What may take me a day to cover, may take my sub two days. To help with this, I also built in some “catch up days.” I instructed him that if he needed to use them to get back on track he could, but if he is on pace, he can use the time as independent reading days.
This whole process took several weeks of planning and preparation. In fact, I spent nearly my entire fall break working on this project. Once I felt everything was nearly ready, I walked away from it and did not look at it for a couple weeks. I wanted fresh eyes to help see any issues.
When I returned to the plans a few weeks before my impending leave, I made last minute changes and tweaks based on what I know about my students.
Last, my sub spent several days in my classroom observing me and helping with daily routine tasks. This created a comfort level for me, my students, and my sub. He got to know my students, expectations, and structure of my classroom. This was the most beneficial part of the preparation process because I was able to relinquish control once I saw my kids were in good hands. I am very fortunate to have a sub who truly cares about my students and wants to follow my plans successfully.
As school started this week and I woke up to feed and change Brooks rather than drive off to work, I breathed a little easier knowing my kids are receiving the instruction and care they deserve while I am away. I am confident my sub and kids up will be successful while I cuddle my new little man at home.
This is just my one experience. I would love to hear some feedback on how you prepared for a long term sub. What worked? What could be improved? What would you do differently next time?