Saturday, February 20, 2010

Perfect Plans

“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”

- Thomas Elva Edison

I’ve had a few posts, where I’ve complained about the quality of the plans or lack thereof. This is not one of those posts. Last Monday I worked for the third time for a Biology Teacher who always leaves me flawless plans.

When I checked the office mailbox, there was the familiar folder, entitled, “Sub Plans”. On the left side, was a letter from the teacher. On the right, were all the materials I would need.

I reached the classroom from the adjoining one because (of course) the door was locked. On the board, as usual, all of the instructions, almost word for word from my letter, were left for the students. All I had to write was my name. Both desks had copies of the letter that was in my folder.

Here’s the letter (Note: it was a planned absence and she’s very pregnant):

Monday, February 8th

Dear sub,

Thanks for filling in for me. I teach AP Biology periods 1, 2, and 4.

Please reassure students that I will be back in class tomorrow.

1) Students can hand in their transpiration lab packets and extra credit objectives into the IN basket.

2) Please administer this test.

- Blue side of scantron should be used

- Remind them to use the restroom BEFORE the test begins; no bathroom breaks or other trips out of the room are allowed while they are taking the test. Once they hand it in, they can go.

- They can sit anywhere, but there should be no talking, use of notes/book, or sharing of answers.

The test is no times…they may take as long as they need. As it is a short test, I do not expect most students to need more than 20 or 30 minutes. The room should remain quiet until all tests are handed in.

3) Please collect scantrons AND test questions (no test credit if test questions are missing)- remind them to put their name on BOTH. Please save these for me in the sub folder and return to my mailbox or leave on my desk at the end of the day.

4) Students can have free study time after the test. Possible options:

- Objectives, if they have not done them

- Get on a computer and research their plant topic (5 computers in classroom; could send 2 additional students to the library and a couple more to the computer labs) or start constructing their powerpoint

- Start reviewing labs 2-5 using the lab study packet

- Other classwork

I reopened the folder. Inside was a pile of scantrons fastened by paperclip; underneath, the tests secured in a paperclip; below that, lab study packets held together by a paperclip; and just under those packets were hall passes.

It was all so organized, with no time without students having something to do; it almost brought a tear to my eye.

Now I know that each time I’ve subbed for this teacher, she’s planned her absence. When a teacher wakes up at 6:00am with a fever, this isn’t always possible. But even when the teacher has been vomiting all night, an e-mailed plan that’s as detailed as possible goes a LLLLOOOOONNNNGGGG way in making sure that the day goes smoothly.

If I don’t know where to look for materials, that homework needs to get collected, what to direct students to work on when students are done… Let’s just say, if I appear disorganized, the students pick up on that, and it’s more likely that there will be DISCIPLINE PROBLEMS. And if I’m not sure what to do, then I’m probably not going to do it right. But I doubt the teacher thinks about the little direction I received, and will be more likely to complain about what I didn’t do. And I won’t be there the next day to set the record straight.

I have tricks up my sleeve (handouts, games), but on the high school level, it’s harder to have appropriate alternatives. Students know when the work isn’t closely related to what they’re doing in class. If they think it’s busy work, they won’t do it.

So I appreciate this dream absent teacher and her dream classes.

*This is the post from last week when I used these plans. At the bottom of this post, I give links to other times I’ve subbed for this teacher:


  1. Oh, I love when the absent teacher is super organized and detailed with her plans. Makes my day that much easier. Good for you that you had a good day!

  2. Sometimes I wish someone would leave me detailed plans for MY LIFE. ;) I think things would go more smoothly then.

  3. Shelley, this teacher's room is neat and organized too and the students know the routine. We subs need more days like these.

    Rebecca, that's an idea!

  4. I love these days!! They make our life so much easier. I will ALWAYS remember this stuff when I have my own classroom!

  5. Me too, Tiffany. I'm going to write thorough plans and make sure everything is easy to find.

  6. Hi

    Oh we like this teacher, we really really like her! It shows that she is a thorough professional! I like that she is super efficient and clear with her notes because it makes your subbing experience go smoothly. And so the students benefit too.

    I always laugh when you find these locked doors!

    Take care

  7. Old Kitty, when I see this woman in the hallway, she always compliments me for running her class well and leaving her detailed notes. Then I always compliment back about how wonderful her plans and classes are. It's a lovefest.

    One day, I will have my own classroom with my own key, and I will stand there unlocking and locking and unlocking in triumph.

  8. So glad to hear you had such a good day - sounds like this teacher is a keeper!

  9. Susan, I agree! She's about to go out on maternity leave, which is too bad for the students.

  10. Teachers should always have detailed lesson plans in place the week before. That way if a substitute teacher has to come in unexpectedly, he or she will be able to follow them with no trouble. Bless your heart Theresa! I guess you have encountered some not so prepared teachers from what you wrote in your blog. Even after all these years, I still have detailed lesson plans for me as well as the children.

  11. VKT, you sound like the kind of teacher I'd like to sub for! Thanks for the comment.

  12. Now I understand why I never wanted to be a teacher although my mom kept telling me I should-- I would have been one of the terribly disorganized ones who made it even harder for wonderful, caring subs like you.

  13. KarenG, you're sweet. I just have to make sure I never leave my desk a mess in case I'm sick the next day when I have my own classroom.

  14. Wow, I bet she is an excellent teacher, if her sub plans are that organized and detailed! The districts should offer some sort of mentoring program for other teachers to allow them to learn how to put together good sub plans for planned absenses. I subbed for the first time this past Friday, for a planned absense, and she didn't even let her kids know she was going to be out. Is that normal? My DH is a teacher and always lets his students know if he has a planned absense and gives them a stern warning to be on their best behavior for the sub. I guess I just assumed most teachers would do the same.

  15. Surfie, this teacher doesn't even have to raise her voice from what I can tell. I heard one student comment that when he made a joke, the teacher's face read disappointment, and he felt bad. A female student echoed that she hated to disappoint this teacher. They're AP classes, but it's still impressive.

    No, it's not normal not to tell the students. A good teacher warns them, and tells the students expectations for behavior, as well as what the assignment will be. That makes it easier for us.

  16. Saw this and thought you may be interested.....

  17. Empty Refrigerator, that's a great link. I'm going to write something for it. Thank you!