I originally wrote this on my old blog (www.mstaylorgoestowashington.blogspot.com) when I was going to be out for a day to go home for my mom's birthday. I thought I would repost it here to get the teacher discussions started.
I have lots of thoughts about being out, substitutes, and telling your students you're going to be out. I thought since I didn't really have many outfits worth talking about, I'd give some thoughts on being gone.
When I was a new teacher, I was convinced that the world would fall apart if I was gone. And, I'll be honest, those first few years were pretty rough, and being gone was often more trouble than it was worth. It stunk to know I was going to come back and have to punish my students for being terrible while I was gone. But I also had a bit of a self-importance problem.
As I've gotten older and more settled in my classroom, it's become easier, most of the time, to be gone. And I've also become aware that my students can indeed survive without me for a day or two.
And I've also become more and more fearful of becoming Mr. Holland from Mr. Holland's Opus.
Just today in the work room we were discussing what a terrible message that movie sends. Here's a guy who neglects his family and his own dreams to be a teacher and we're led to believe that it's okay that he gave up these MAJOR things because he helped his students. Don't get me wrong--I love my students and I love my job, but I don't believe teachers should be expected to give up their own families and dreams in order to teach.
So--I've gotten better about taking a personal day here and there to go home for my mom's birthday or for a friend's Friday night wedding. I just realized that I wanted to be a good teacher AND a caring daughter and friend. And as teachers, it's easy to think you are doing the noble thing by never being gone, but let that pressure go. As long as you leave good sub plans and make sure the class period isn't wasted, it's okay to leave the children for a day in order to take care of yourself or others in your life.
There is also the question about telling the kids. I would say that you have to decide what will work for you. I am super lucky and have really, really sweet kids this year, so I told them I was going to be out because I wanted to give them a heads up about what they would be doing. And while I keep much of my personal life to myself, I did tell them that it was my mom's birthday. They were adorable and kept telling me to have a good time and to tell my mom they said, "Happy Birthday!" For me, these little things are ways I can share my life with my students without oversharing. It builds a bit of community. I think you have to know your students though. There have been years when I kept my distance and really just stuck to the subject. I still took an interest in their lives and cared deeply about them, but I didn't share much of my life because any deviation from the lesson threw them off and made it hard for them to focus.
So, to wrap up, here are my best sub tips:
1. Get to know the subs in your building and have a list of your favorites so you can request someone you feel comfortable leaving in charge of your class.
2. Leave a detailed note for the sub with a period-by-period break down of what each class will be doing.
3. Post-it note all of the copies. Label which class the copies are for and whether the students need to hand them in or keep them.
4. Write a note for the students that tells them step-by-step what they need to do and what they can do if they finish early. I've found this to be a lifesaver because you never really know how well the substitute will explain your instructions to your students. (Sometimes you have class lingo that the students understand but doesn't really translate to someone who has never met you...). If the substitute passes out your letter, then you can hold the students accountable for the work even if the substitute was confused.
5. Be free! Remind yourself that your students will be fine without you for a day. I hate to say it, but they might be excited about having a day to just put in their headphones and do their work.
Okay--I'm off to go find a snack before my late night flight on a tiny plane.