How to Keep Your Subs From Sinking: Create a survival kit to
help substitute teacher succeed.
My phone rang early Sunday morning. I dreaded answering it. I
knew who was calling-a teacher who for some reason couldn’t teach
that morning and had turned to me as the last resort.
I had a sinking feeling as I agreed to substitute for the teacher,
and I asked God to help me keep my head above water. As I got
ready, though, I realized I had one small problem: I had no idea
what to do in this classroom.
I thought of all my substitute teachers who had less training than
I did, and I envisioned them drowning in a new class. I vowed to
prepare a Substitute Kit for each class-a kind of life preserver
for subs-so no other substitute teacher would sink in unknown
Your substitute kits should contain the following:
*Class list-Note who might be a dependable helper. Avoid
labeling any troublemakers. Labeling makes for self-fulfilling
prophecies. Include any health concerns.
*Classroom style-Do children sit on the floor or at
tables? Is the classroom organized with learning centers? Will kids
expect certain activities to happen at certain times? How much
noise is okay in the classroom?
*Classroom rules-What are the rules and the consequences
for breaking the rules? If there are no rules, suggest rules the
substitute can make to manage the class.
*General procedures-How is attendance taken? What time is
class dismissed? Do kids take handouts home, or is everything left
in the classroom? Where are extra supplies kept? Do children wait
for their parents to pick them up or are they just dismissed?
*Adult support-List people who are available to answer
questions, such as a helpful teacher next door, yourself or a
*Lesson-Include an Age-Right Lesson with all the supplies
collected and prepared beforehand. These lessons are easy to
understand, age-appropriate and fun for kids.
*Prayer-Include an encouragement to pray or a typewritten
prayer similar to this: “Dear God, grant me the patience of Job and
the wisdom of Solomon. Help me love the child who may throw
spitballs behind my back. Help me comfort the child who is scared
because the teacher is missing and give me the courage to lead the
class in discovering your truth. With Christ I know all things can
Use a manila folder or a box for each substitute teacher
kit-depending on the size and amount of supplies. Make kits for
each age group: ages 2 and 3, ages 4 and 5, first and second grade,
third and fourth grade, and fifth and sixth grade. Place the
substitute kits in a central place.
Make a list of the classrooms in each age group. Tape this list to
the outside of each substitute kit. When that kit is used in a
classroom, have the substitute teacher check off that classroom to
avoid using the kit more than once. When a kit has been used in all
classrooms at that age level, replace that kit with a new Age-Right
Lesson and attach a new checklist.
At the beginning of the year, show the kits to substitute teachers
so they’ll know what to expect when they’re asked to substitute.
Train them in how to use the kits. And encourage substitutes to
always trust in God, because he doesn’t want his subs to
Sheila Halasz is a children’s program coordinator at her
church in Illinois.
Copyright© Group Publishing, Inc. / Children’s Ministry