What Kind of Note Should I Write?
When you reach the end of your school day, always leave a note for the regular classroom teacher. The purpose of the note is to inform the teacher about what happened during the day and what needs to be done for follow-up. It has been my experience (as a full-time classroom teacher and as a sub) that the best notes are short, positive, and informative.
When the regular teacher returns to his classroom, there are many things to do and not enough time to do them before the first student walks in the door. For that reason, try to keep the note fairly short—no more than one or one and a half pages. Above all, keep your comments clear and concise, with a focus on major issues rather than minutia.
It’s a good idea to start with a compliment, followed by a description of the good things that happened during the day. Any true catastrophes can be noted and minimized after your positive statements are made.
Each classroom teacher takes pride in his students, no matter how difficult they are. He is proud of his classroom layout and the books and tools that are available for learning. When you criticize the behavior of the class or criticize the learning environment (particularly if you do it stridently and often), you insult that teacher. Try to find the right positive words to describe your day, even if the words are putting a good spin on a generally difficult day.
Be sure to be informative by letting the teacher know which content areas you covered and what topics you were not able to present. If students had a hard time understanding a concept or couldn’t complete an assignment, be sure to note that. If all material was completed, state that as well. If the classroom teacher left a plan that contained a list of “to-do” items for you to complete, it’s a really good idea to put a check next to each item that was completed.
Before you sign your note, convey your willingness to talk if necessary. “If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call me at 555-1234 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.” And if you enjoyed your day, be sure to indicate that you’d be happy to sub in that classroom again.
What are Some Examples of Good Teacher Notes?
The actual teacher note that you write should be customized to reflect your subbing experience on that day. However, it may be helpful to see some typical notes. An example of a positive note for a truly great day would be:
Thank you for leaving such detailed plans for me. Your students were very cooperative and helpful. I just love your class! I left you a list of the children who were especially helpful.
We completed all the material in your plans and even had some extra time. I read the children the Arthur book as a reward for their excellent behavior.
We really had a great day!
If you have any questions I can be reached at 555-1234. If you need a sub in the future, please ask for me.
An example of a positive note for an unpleasant day might be:
I hope you are feeling better. Thanks for preparing a good set of plans. They were helpful.
In general we had a good day. We covered most of the work; however, the students did not finish the math assignment. I left those papers on your desk.
You have some great students. Tiffany and Esteban were particularly helpful. We did have a few problems, but we tried to iron them out. Anthony, Enrique, and Keisha had some trouble staying focused.
If you have any questions, I can be reached at 555-1234 or andrea@ domainname.com.
Both of these teacher notes are brief and to the point. In some cases, it may be necessary to describe specific situations or to indicate areas of accomplishment or problems that were encountered. However, be sure to keep the teacher note as short as possible.
Are There any Statements that I Should Avoid in my Note?
Any written document establishes a permanent record. For this reason, even a short teacher note should be constructed to reflect well on both you and the classroom teacher. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to follow these guidelines as you construct the teacher note:
- Write with humility. Never give the permanent teacher suggestions or tell him or her what you would do in a particular situation. This is simply not your place.
- Avoid sounding “whiny.” If you had a hard day, remember that for you it was just one bad day. The permanent teacher must face these difficult students daily.
- Be sure not to include information that is confidential. You can’t be sure who else might see your note and what they might do with the information in it. If you feel uneasy about including a statement or comment about a child, leave it out of your note.
In general, your note should report, not editorialize. Avoid expressing an opinion, particularly if it reflects negatively on the class or the teacher.
Should I Fill out a Substitute Teacher Report Form?
Many teachers leave substitute (sub) folders that include a Substitute Teacher Report Form for you to fill out. It’s been my experience that these forms tend to be superficial and generic, but if one is provided, fill it out. However, be sure to add your own personal comments to the form and add your own note. The form usually looks something like this:
Substitute Teacher Class Report
The class: (check all that apply)
Was courteous and helpful?
Worked hard on assignments?
Other (please explain):
The following students:
Were helpful (explain)
Did something special (explain)
Were disruptive (explain)
The lesson plans were:
The assignments we did not complete were:
What Else Should I Do at the End of the Day?
After your note is written, be sure to clean the board, straighten up the teacher’s desk (try to leave it as you found it), and pick items up off the floor. Usually students will be more than happy to help you with this. Straighten up the student desks also. Most schools like to have the chairs up so that the custodian can sweep the floor easily. Leaving the room in good order is your way of showing that you respect that classroom.
After you’ve completed a day of substitute teaching, it’s only natural to be tired. But before you call it quits for the day, it’s imperative that you take the time to write a teacher note. The teacher note is probably the only way that you’ll actually communicate with the regular classroom teacher, and for that reason, it’s important that you write it with care. The following guidelines will help:
- Keep your note brief, informative, and positive. Focus on your overall impressions for the day and note any major issues. Always try to begin with a positive comment.
- Indicate what you’ve accomplished. You should note which planned activities were completed and which were not. Be sure to write about any problems with academic subjects that may necessitate reteaching or reinforcement.
- Always be discreet. You never know who may glance at your note, either intentionally or by accident.
- Complete all sub forms that are provided. But be sure to add your own comments.
- Leave a clean and orderly classroom. When teachers are out for a day or longer, they prefer to come back to an orderly classroom. Leave the classroom just as the regular teacher left it. Have students help you clean the room at the end of the day.
The teacher note is a reflection on you as a professional. It’s your chance to communicate with the full-time classroom teacher. It’s worth spending a little bit of time and thought to do it right.