Swapping Content for Cuddles: Prepping for a Long Term Sub

Leah Clark Uncategorized

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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?


Leah Clark

Phoenix, Arizona

I joined the teaching profession after spending several years in luxury retail. While the free clothes and handbags were definite job perks, I felt burned out and tired of long hours, weekends and holidays. So, I went back to school to become a teacher and have never looked back. I love my job!
My teaching philosophy is simple: Do what’s best for kids. While it’s not eloquent, this humble phrase directs every decision I make about teaching and students. As a Language Arts teacher at a central Phoenix high school, it’s my honor and passion to create opportunities for students to communicate, collaborate, create and connect with one another and the world around them.
When I am not grading a stack of essays, planning a new lesson, or chaperoning a school dance, I love riding my yellow Huffy bicycle around town, sampling a new restaurant, and traveling to Flagstaff with my husband.

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Comments 7

  1. Jaime Festa-Daigle

    CONGRATULTIONS! There is nothing more amazing than staying home with baby and coming back to school from maternity leave. I loved both. I loved reading about Google Docs and how things have changed since I went on maternity leave 15 years ago and left my LTS with a crate and manilla folders full of six weeks of work. That is so cool. I loved bringing in Lane to see my kids toward the middle of staying home when I was going a bit stir crazy. Brooks will let you know what your next steps are!

  2. James King

    As a former long term sub – I appreciate how you leaned into technology!

    When I did it (twice, actually) the teachers were so organized and very methodical. Day by day was mapped out for me, and I loved that. However, both relayed on paper-packets. Those are harder to adjust.

    I remember my teacher calling and wanting to change things, which was fine of course – but the digital set up you have almost lets you stay connected with your class if you need or want to do so!

  3. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    Love your title! I did not know you were expecting. Congratulations! It sure looks like you were WAY more on top of it than I was when I had my kids! I am sure all will go well, and you will be able to concentrate on the cuddles. And if not– well– children (the students) are resilient and the time you did/do have with them will have a lasting impact.

    1. Leah Clark

      Thank you! We are loving every second with our new little man! I keep telling myself, “My kids will be alright.” They were super patient during my pregnancy with my scatter brain and physical exhaustion. I know they are in great hands, but I can always fix stuff when I get back!

  4. Treva Jenkins

    Cute picture!!! and I’m so happy for you. Congratulations!! I can’t begin to imagine the work it takes to prepare for a long term sub. I get so much anxiety just leaving my little scholars a few days when I’m out for professional development. I love how you outlined your steps to prepare for your sub, especially the pacing; that’s always a tough one (even on a normal day) to prepare for because it really does depend on the assignment and activity and you really never know until the kids are actually working. The most we can do is use an estimation and always plan for if they complete ahead of schedule. Again, I enjoyed your blog and wish you and your new bundle of joy the best and many blessings :)

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