Insider Tips for Getting Great Subs (and What to Do to Keep Them Coming Back)
Being away from your room is difficult. Sometimes I’d rather come in sick than write up all those sub notes. Choosing the right lessons, having a designated sub area, and leaving concrete projects are important, but today I’d like to give you three less obvious tips to help things run smoothly when you’re out of the art room.
1. Choose great subs
There are a few things you can do to better your chances of having someone qualified cover your classes. If you have an online system, check for a place where you can list your preferred substitutes. These may be people that you’ve met in your building, people you know have an art background, or people that have been recommended by colleagues in your building. You might want to even talk to other art teachers in your district to see if they have some names you can use. If you have a person that you call when you need to be out, have them do a little digging for you. Chances are, the person manning the sub line can tell you who has art credentials, who comes highly recommended, and who would be a good fit for your grade levels.
2. Be prepared for anyone to walk into your classroom.
Even if you know you’re getting an art sub, be prepared for the worst. That person could get stuck in traffic, wake up with a sick child, or choose another job on short notice. You just never know! That’s why I keep five to seven “emergency lessons” in a big folder in my office. These are all drawing based projects that require very little set up and can be explained in just a few sentences. All of the lessons have a teacher sample that go with them. For one idea, check out the first project shown in the video here. Book based lessons are also a great idea to leave for a sub.
You may also want to include an “Art Room Cheat Sheet” for non-art subs who may have never been in an art room containing clean-up procedures, classroom management tips, important numbers, etc. This document can help put non-art subs at ease and will be useful for anyone new to your room. You can download my cheat sheet here, or download one to customize yourself here.
3. Identify a person that the sub can go to for help
Choose someone in your building that can answer any questions the sub may have, and identify that person in your sub notes. This could be someone in a neighboring classroom or one of the other specials teachers. Make sure that whomever you choose knows your basic routine and where to find items the sub might need. You might also want to email your sub notes to your point person in case the sub system can’t be accessed at school for some reason.
With these three tips under your belt, you’ll feel great knowing you’ve done everything in your power to make sure your kids and your sub have a successful day without you. It’s great coming back to sub notes that say, “Please have me again. Art was so much fun!”
What do you do to make subs feel at ease in your classroom?
Do you have any other, less obvious “insider tips” to getting great subs? We’d love to hear about them!