30 March 2013

Emergency Sub Plans - Do You Have Any?

If you're 1:1, and you're doing it right, you shouldn't need emergency sub plans. Post a plan for your students on Edmodo, in Dropbox, their email, or in a Google Drive folder, and let the learning continue!

For everyone else less fortunate...

This is my 5th year teaching - of the 5 years, I've had "emergency" sub plans (for days when you're out last minute and don't have the time or will to put anything together) for one of those years. Kind of.

Top 5 Reasons NOT To Have Emergency Sub Plans

  1. Unless you redo them once a month, the chances of them fitting well into the current week's learning objectives is probably pretty slim
  2. More courses = more emergency sub plans to prepare (unless you want ONE generic plan for every course, no matter if its Algebra 1 or AP Stats; see no. 1)
  3. Having prior plans prepared requires prior preparation
  4. You hate your co-workers and want to push your lesson-planning onto them
  5. You hate your students, and want to completely waste their time for that day(s).
The ONLY Reason You Should Need to Have Emergency Sub Plans

I've finally started to learn it this year - when you're taking time off for your family, you need to be WITH your family - mind and body. I was very fortunate that our spell in the hospital last night was during Spring Break. This ER visit turned overnight observation was very sudden, and had I had classes to prepare for, I would have either severely burdened my friends in the department or burdened my substitute with awful, short, boring lesson plans for my students.

So, I'm finally going to make emergency sub plans for each of my 3 preps. I'm going to adhere to these principles as I prepare readings and make photocopies. (If I were using one of my most trusted subs, I would have them breakout the iPad cart, but seeing as these are emergency plans, counting on your preferred sub would be ill-advised. Kill the trees.)

5 Principles For Emergency Sub-Plan Planning

1. When choosing learning objectives, I'm going to focus on things we are currently addressing in our PLC Smart Goal, or critical skills that consistently need reinforcing. For my Applied class, it would probably be problem-solving skills: setting up problems to find solutions. For Algebra 2, it would be either be solving polynomials, or something about equations of circles. I love circles, and never really get to teach them.

2. Have a back up to the emergency.
Whether it be a challenge problem that could be approached by any level of your students, or skills practice sheet for review, or a writing/enrichment activity (something I did last month was asking how many primes there were from 1 to 100. Easily Google-able to check, but I required factorized proof), I'm going to have a back-up to my emergency plans that the sub can give to any kid that finishes the "real" work

3. Crowdsource your emergency plans.
Do you and a friend (or a couple friends) teach the same course? Pool your resources and efforts, and collaborate to make common emergency sub plans for all of you to use. This strategy fits in great with principle 1.

4. To give yourself ultimate flexibility (particularly in your emergency back-up), keep a class set or at least enough for 2 kids to share of your course textbook in a closet or cabinet nearby.

5. Make it something you'll at least consider grading when you return.
The older your students are, the more skilled they are at detecting busy work. Be kind to your students (and your guest teacher) and chose an activity that may be interesting enough to look through even if the kids are pretty sure you won't be scoring, and will have students producing something that will be of some interest to look at when you return. 

Alright. Who's got my sub plans?