Substitutes: The Most Difficult Job in Education!

Written by Camden Flores on . Posted in Classroom Management, Education, Emergency Lesson Plans, Lesson Plans, Sub Plans, Sub Tubs, Substitute Lesson Plans, Substitute Teachers

Imagine your class on their very worst day ever. Now, imagine—on that very same day—you can’t remember any of the children’s names, you don’t know where you put your essential supplies, you aren’t sure when or where to go for recess or lunch, you don’t know any of your teammates, and you can’t find the bathroom.

Subs: The most difficult job in education!

Sounds like a terrible dream, right? Not if you are a sub. For a sub, this is reality.

Unfortunately, our profession does NOTHING to improve this situation for substitute teachers. Although many subs have a college degree, they do not receive adequate training in classroom management. With recent cutbacks over the past few years, increasing sub pay is not even a conversation happening in most districts. Subs are underpaid and under-appreciated. Yet, by the time a child has graduated from high school, he or she will have spent almost a full half year being instructed by a sub. Isn’t it time our profession uplifted our substitutes by giving them the support they need?!

 There is not a curriculum for subs. Teachers are expected to write lesson plans for their absences. This is an unrealistic expectation during those times when we are sick or called away for an emergency. Unfortunately, that means we throw together anything we can find quickly. This leaves the sub with meaningless busy work much of the time. Teachers intend to leave quality work, but it is often impossible.

Then, there is the unfortunate fact that we teachers do not do a great job making subs feel welcome on our campus. Again, this in NOT on purpose. We are busy. We are preoccupied with planning for our day. We are overwhelmed and often feel like we don’t have time to stop and introduce ourselves to the many guest teachers we encounter from day to day. This past Christmas, I asked a long-term sub why she did not come to our staff Christmas party. She innocently explained that she thought it was just for teachers. My answer was, YOU ARE A TEACHER!!!! Our school is known to have one of the nicest, most fun-loving staffs of all the schools in our district. Yet somehow, we did not make her feel a part of our extended family.

 Subs need to feel supported!

It is unlikely that these obstacles will change anytime soon. Teachers find themselves facing increasingly busy workloads as they are expected to modify existing curriculum to meet Common Core standards. This leaves us with less time to write quality sub plans. Until we are provided a standard curriculum to leave our substitute teachers—or more time to prepare sub plans— subs will continue to struggle. If subs continue to struggle, then students ultimately suffer.

What can we do as a profession to improve the situation for subs? Do you do something special for your substitutes at your school? Please share your ideas.



Sub Tubs® Made Easy: Help your children have a great day with their sub!

Written by Camden Flores on . Posted in Classroom Management, Education, Elementary Writing, Emergency Lesson Plans, Lesson Plans, Sub Plans, Sub Tubs, Substitute Lesson Plans, Substitute Teachers, Subtubs


If you prepare a sub tub ahead of time––and share some of the ideas with the kids–– it will reduce anxiety (yours and the children’s) about your unplanned emergency absences.

Here are a few fun ideas to do WITH the class before you are absent. Most are short  activities that will not take much time. Doing them with your children will better prepare the class to have a productive with the sub!

1. Create name cards for the sub. Have the kids write their name on an index card so it is large and easy to read. Have them write three of their favorite things on the back. This will help the sub learn about the class quickly, and can be used to call on students. Collect and put in your Sub Tub in an envelop. Don’t forget to label it and add a few  blank cards for new students.

2.  Write a short letter to the sub WITH the children (see sample below).This is a good opportunity to reinforce behavior expectations for when you are away. Include items like, good helpers, classroom management system, general rules, etc. I like to also mention a “surprise” reward for the class, if they get a good report from the sub. Put this in your Sub Tub, so the sub can read it with the class at the beginning of the day. This can remind the class about your expectations, and enables the sub to start in a positive way!

3. Let the kids vote on a favorite read aloud book to put in the Sub Tub. Including a familiar and well liked story allows the sub and the children to connect in a non-threatening way. Include some drawing paper and have the children come up with a few writing extension ideas. They will be more excited to complete this, since it is their idea!!

Writing contest

4. Have an art/writing contest for your Sub Tub. Students love a contest! Plus, it gives your class a chance to empathize with the difficulties of being a sub. Select a few as the “winners” and include them in your sub tub.Your sub will appreciate seeing these cute pictures! Two possible topics:

   ”Sub for a Day”: Tell kids to imagine that they were a sub in your class. Have them draw a picture         of themselves as a the sub, and then write a few sentences to describe their pictures.

    “Advice for our Sub”: Discuss the challenges of teaching a new group of children every day. Have        children share ideas about how to help a sub have a good day with any class. Depending on your class and grade, this can be silly (“I think you should take hard-working children to Disneyland”) or realistic (You can let cooperative children have a prize or line up first for recess and lunch).

5. Show the class where you keep the Sub Tub. Explain that they may need to show the sub if he/she is unable to find it. Here is a link to download you free Sub Tub label from our website. There is a color and black and white option, depending on which you would prefer. There are several different sizes on one sheet. Select the one that works best for you!

 Free Sub Tub Labels 

The last thing you need to do is put together a day or two worth of emergency plans. You can write your own, or visit to purchase ready-to-go plans. Either way, I recommend writing “stand-alone” plans that can be used any time of the school year.

Please share any other ideas you may have found successful to prepare your class for a sub. I’d love to hear from you!








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