Understanding the Role of Substitute Teacher
Why is My Teacher Absent?
A good substitute teacher understands that students may want to know why their teacher is absent. Some are simply curious, others (particularly younger children) might be visibly upset. It’s important that you address the inevitable question in a way that imparts enough information to satisfy the students’ curiosity and reassures those students who might feel a bit uneasy.
As the children enter your classroom, eyes will widen when they see you.
“Where is Mr. Brooks?” one or more students might ask.
As I’ve noted, it’s very important to take control immediately, to introduce yourself in a way that draws the class closer to you, and to have the students see you as a competent teacher and a real person. So, rather than answering the question directly, it’s best to start by introducing yourself. Once that’s done, you can come back to the question.
“You asked why Mr. Brooks is absent. To be honest, I’m not quite sure why he’s out, (If you know the reason and it isn’t confidential, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell the class) but I’m sure he’ll be back soon. You know, I’m very lucky to be subbing for him because everyone tells me he’s a fine teacher, and I’ve heard good things about this class! I know we’re going to have a great day, and I’ll be able to give him an excellent report when he returns.”
An answer like this makes everyone feel good. It satisfies natural curiosity and calms students who might be uneasy with the absence.
How and When Will I Understand my Assignment?
In some cases you’ll have plenty of time to understand your assignment. You’ll get the call about your assignment in advance—sometimes days or even weeks ahead of time— e.g., when an in-service training session or a workshop has been scheduled for certain faculty members. In such cases, the teachers involved will notify the sub coordinator right away and positions are filled. More important, the classroom teacher has the time to provide you with advance notice of the topics to be covered and a good daily plan to guide you. You’ll have time to gather complementary materials (if you feel it’s necessary) by searching the Web for useful information. It’s an excellent idea to have a calendar or appointment book to keep track of your subbing jobs. You must be reliable, above all else.
In other situations, you’ll have much less advance notice. You might get a call the evening before your assignment or even at 6:00 A.M. on the morning of the assignment. The early morning call can be jolting. It will probably wake you out of a deep sleep, so your mind and memory may not be clear. For this reason, I recommend that you keep a pencil and paper on your night table so that you can write the assignment down (school, classroom number, teacher’s name). I’ve known more than a few subs who laughingly admitted that they forgot the school’s or teacher’s name after the morning call came in because they weren’t quite awake. That can be embarrassing!
Once the call comes in and you say yes, get out of bed. It may be tempting to get five more minutes of sleep, but be care ful. You certainly don’t want to oversleep, and the earlier you get started, the more prepared you will be.
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