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Prepare for your worst with these surefire sub plan tips. Oh, we’ve all been there. It’s 3:30 in the morning. You wake up with a scratchy throat, a burning fever. There’s a small tornado where your stomach used to be. Despite pledging your allegiance to disinfectant wipes and excessive amounts of h

Dec 31, 2015

Prepare for your worst with these surefire sub plan tips.



Oh, we’ve all been there. It’s 3:30 in the morning. You wake up with a scratchy throat, a burning fever. There’s a small tornado where your stomach used to be. Despite pledging your allegiance to disinfectant wipes and excessive amounts of hand sanitizer, the flu has found you. And yet, that’s not the worst realization of your morning.

You’ve got to get ready for a sub.

And so you pull yourself out of bed. You drive to school in your sweats (with a bucket riding shotgun just in case). You sneak by the morning maintenance crew and spend the next hour prepping your class for a substitute. Lesson plans. Copies. Updated rosters. Backup activities. Emergency contacts. Notes (threats) to the students on the whiteboard. The truth? It’s usually easier to just go to work sick.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A little forethought will save you a whole lot of sick-day stress. Here are our three must-haves for emergency sub plans.

  1. The binder. When you know ahead of time that you won’t be there, it’s easy to set up your desk for a substitute. For the days you aren’t ready for, keep a designated sub binder. Give it a cover that’s makes it easy to identify, and let your neighboring teachers know where you keep it in your room so that they can help a meandering substitute. Include information like your daily and specials schedule, procedures for class dismissal, class rosters, attendance forms, and medical alerts. A campus map and directions to the staff cafeteria and bathroom are also smart additions.

  2. The plans. Emergency lesson plans should be open in that they could be used any day of the year, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve got to be generic or that they shouldn’t be engaging or challenging — we all know that bored kids equal behavioral issues. Include detailed lesson plans for each class or subject that you teach (I like to keep mine in separate folders for easy organization). Include answer keys for handouts and directions for where to keep turned-in work.

  3. The tub. Stick it all in a crate or “sub tub” and put it in an easy to find spot for guest teachers and other teachers on your team. Include extra books, handouts, and activities in the back of the tub in case the substitute is left with extra time.


Looking for more sub-planning inspiration? Look here, here, or here.

Take the dread out of sub planning with these easy fixes. The extra work upfront will save you tons of time and anxiety — the best gift you can give yourself when you’re already feeling your worst. Trust us, you’ll thank yourself later.

Heather Sparks is a writer, educator, and mom of two. An Arizona native, she holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in gifted education from Arizona State University.

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