Every year in September, teachers at my school are required to submit emergency lesson plans, which are to be used in case we are absent and unable to complete regular sub plans. In 10 years, I have only used my emergency lesson plans once, but on that day, boy was I glad they were there! Whether emergency lesson plans are a school requirement or if you are just making them for your own piece of mind, today I want to share a couple of tips for making the most out of emergency lesson plans.
1. Keep it simple. Remember that this emergency plan can be used at anytime during the school year so it is usually best not tie it to a particular unit so you don’t have to update it during the year. I also think it is best to avoid a lesson that includes a lot of photocopying because you don’t want to waste paper if the lesson never gets used and it is not likely that an emergency sub will have time to copy on the morning of said emergency. Finally, remember that you will not be there to give lengthy explanations, so keep all directions clear for both sub and students. It is also helpful if you include a seating chart and roster for attendance/notes. Seating charts should be updated monthly, quarterly, or semesterly if they change.
2. Think about things you wish you had time for. With all of the standards and areas of focus in our classes, we run out of time for some of the fun stuff. This can be an opportunity to bring that in.
- Poetry: You can give students the characteristics of a sonnet, haiku, villanelle, or other type of poetry along with a couple of examples and then ask students to write their own poetry following the models.
- Articles from The New Yorker, Time, or other interesting source: You can make a class set, half set for partners, or have the sub read the article out loud to the class. Then leave a few thought provoking questions to be answered by students or groups.
- A fun grammar, vocabulary, or frequently made mistakes activity: Remember that cute idea or handout that you pinned on Pinterest, but you never have time for? Here’s the time!
- A short story, poem, or informational text in your textbook that you don’t have time for usually. Students can read the selection and answer the questions at the end individually or in pairs. This is as simple as possible with no copies needed!
3. Consider meaningful test prep. I teach mostly juniors so SAT and ACT test prep is ever present in our minds. For other grades and situations, you can substitute other kinds of appropriate test prep. I have tons of SAT/ACT multiple choice test practice booklets that show up in my school mail box every year and so I used to use those. Now, we are moving to a one to one iPad school so I can make use of the SAT prep site number2.com. I also leave an SAT/ACT essay prompt and give students half the period to brainstorm ideas and half the period to write.
4. Know your sub pool. Think about the people who are likely to sub for you in an emergency situation. If you work for a large school or district, you probably don’t know the subs as well as I do in my small school situation. You want the plans to be clear and easy to execute for any sub that opens your door. Be careful of overusing technology or content specific instructions if your subs are not equipped with the necessary skills, passwords, or jargon. In my case, one of my fellow teachers on his or her prep period will probably get roped into covering me. Because I know how stressful that can be, I leave a little thank you note and a $5 Starbucks card in my emergency sub plan folder as a sign of good will.
5. Post prominently. If your emergency sub plans are in the third drawer in the fourth file cabinet, they are not likely to be utilized in a sticky situation so post them where the sub/admin will see them. You may also have a buddy teacher who can point them out if the sub is having trouble finding them. I have mine behind my desk labeled in big, bold letters (see image above).
What questions, suggestions, or tips do you have for leaving emergency lesson plans? We’d love to hear from you!
Back to school teacher meetings for my school start at the end of this week and the first day of class is next Wednesday. Usually, this is a stressful, but fun blur of a week filled with post-it notes, to-do lists, meetings, and classroom decorating. This year is different. A few days ago I received the devastating news that my little brother passed away. In that instant all of the lesson plans and school supplies fell to the absolute bottom of my priority list. While writing this blog post is a somewhat cathartic experience for me, I think it can also be a help to others in a variety of difficult situations. In my ten years teaching, I’ve witnessed countless teachers navigate the classroom while battling loss, divorce, miscarriage, home fire, bankruptcy, legal troubles, depression, and many other emotionally intense situations. Although I do not think there is only one way to balance personal trauma and classroom teaching, I want to share my tips in this area and I invite you to leave comments, questions, and advice in the comment section below.
- Communicate proactively: If you are going through something that will impact your attendance or performance as a teacher, I think that it is better to communicate proactively. Many times administrators and colleagues will jump in to support you if they know what is going on. Chances are you will also have a better substitute situation if you let your administrator know that the days off may be coming. Even if you are not sure which days you will need a simple heads up will likely lead to easier coverage.
- Communicate professionally: Know your administrator and share details only as appropriate. I tend to keep the details close to the vest unless the situation necessitates more sharing. You may consider writing an email instead of a call or face-to-face meeting. I’m a crier and my boss would likely not understand what I’m saying after the first sentence or two. It’s also usually best to avoid people seeing you leaving the principal’s office with tears streaking down your cheeks. That is a quick way to start the high school rumor mill and you have enough on your plate as it is.
- Allow others to help: Most teachers I know are control freaks to some degree. I usually feel like I must leave foolproof step by step instructions for every minute of sub time, but sometimes that just can’t happen. A few years ago I had to leave the classroom for a few weeks while I battled post-partum depression. When I came back, a found a small miracle. The classroom had not fallen apart. The curriculum had not suffered. My department members had rallied together and taken care of everything. If you have a co-worker, department chair, assistant principal, or other person on campus who offers to help, swallow your pride and take them up on it.
- Decide what to share in the classroom: It is very important to decide exactly what you will say when you return (if you take time off) or when you have an emotional moment (if you work through the pain). Off the cuff, you may over share or lose control of your emotions. While I don’t think it is wrong in every circumstance to share your grief with teens, it must be productive or quick if mentioned at all. You know your school and can make the decision with care. For example, at my school, it would be frowned upon for a teacher to discuss a boyfriend/girlfriend break up or financial problem, but other traumas can be instructive. When I teach Tennyson’s “In Memoriam AHH”, I mention briefly the impact of the untimely loss of a good friend and fellow teacher. When I teach Emily Dickinson’s “Certain Slant of Light” I mention the very real struggle with depression that many face, including myself. A word of caution: Be mindful that students may have experienced relatable pain. While it can be healing to see that they are not alone, it can also be an incredibly destructive force if done without care. Read your audience and plan your words carefully.
- Don’t rush yourself: Good teachers want to get back to the classroom as soon as possible. It may be cathartic to keep busy. The mounting sick day total may be causing stress. Evaluate all of the factors before going back into the classroom. Remember good teachers must also take care of themselves in order to be effective to their students.
We’d love to hear your comments, questions, or suggestions below. If you found this post while going through your own pain, please know my heart is with you. Teachers have to stick together.
It seems like everywhere I turn these days I see a new resource to help students take short cuts around the valuable work we do in our classrooms. When I was working on a side project recently, I came across fiverr.com, which is a global marketplace offering a variety of services, or gigs, starting at $5 each. I was disheartened to see sellers offering to do homework or analyze a book, but it did get me thinking about how I could switch the dynamic around to give teachers some much needed shortcuts. Here are the $5 gigs I found that can take tough tasks off of our teacher to do lists, so we can focus on other important classroom priorities:
1. Custom Songs: Many fiverr sellers will take your lyrics and make them into a song with your choice of genre (reggae, rap, country, pop, etc). I have these little chants I do to help MLA rules stick and I always hear my students singing little ditties to remember long math formulas. We could take that idea to the next level with a custom song for our classroom!
2. Custom Voice Overs: This gig could bring interest factor to a prezi, flipped classroom video, or other in class project. Sellers will do a range of professional and cartoon/impression voices.
3. Convert Powerpoint to HD Video: This is a great gig for teachers who are flipping their classrooms and running out of time. It could be combined with the custom voice-overs in a pinch.
4. Website installation or help: There is a lot of pressure on teachers today to incorporate edtech into our classrooms including classroom blogs and wikis. If we can’t afford a full service website technician, there are hundreds of fiverr gigs ranging from installing word press to trouble shooting that widget you are trying to install and everything in between. Personally, $5 is worth my sanity in the IT department, especially when it can be done quickly and efficiently by someone else while I am grading that last stack of papers!
5. Custom Social Media Art: Most teachers I know are starting or maintaining a classroom Facebook/twitter/instagram/google+/edmodo/schoology/etc. For $5 you can have someone create cute or creative custom cover art to give your classroom social media that polished look without a lot of effort on your part.
6. Design materials: If you have a great idea for a poster or infographic for your classroom wall, a custom stamp or any other simple graphic design project, there are designers waiting to make it happen for only $5.
Like other online marketplaces, there is a feedback and communication system so that you can make sure that your job is done correctly, but we should still exercise caution when purchasing gigs. What do you think? Would you take advantage of fiverr to get one of those tasks off your to do list? Let us know in the comment section below.