Middle School Matters #45 – Next, More Substitute Adventures!

From an actual test (at least according to the Internet):

The 3 day breast cancer walk:

News & Events: 

1.  October’s Month of the Young Adolescent is here! 
2.  Ohio Middle School Association’s Annual Conference, February 19-20, 2009 in Sandusky, OH.  Presenter information is posted on the page.  Download now and get it it in to your administration while they’re too confused and dazed with the opening of school’s events to say, “No.”  (You could argue . . . )
3.  NMSA Annual Conference, October 30 – November 1 (Video sample)  Watch the video invitation on the main page of NMSA’s website. 
4.  Canadian National Middle Years Conference, November 5, 6, & 7 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
5.  Rick Stiggins has a Balanced Assessment Manifesto posted at NMSA‘s website worth checking out.  
6.  Looking for news from Ontario Middle Level Educators Association.  If you have any, drop us a line. 
7.  Wisconsin Association of Middle Level Educators annual conference is coming up October 9-10, 2008. 
8.  The New England League of Middle Schools has a whole bevy of professional development planned for the 2008-2009 school year and you can access it here
9.  ADVISORY IDEAS NEEDED:  NELMS is putting together an Advisory Resource page with lessons for you to use.  They are asking for submissions here by January 1, 2009.  If your entry is used, you will be entered in a raffle for a 3 day NELMS conference ticket. 
10.  NMSA’s latest podcast focuses on using wikis in the classroom to promote learning.  
11.  Research Summary Posted:  Vocabulary Teaching and Learning Across Disciplines is now available at NMSA.   
12.  NMSA has a Facebook !  They would like to invite you to join them on Facebook and the opportunities it affords. How many of you can reach Facebook through your district’s firewall?

The National Middle School Association’s Annual Conference (NMSA08) is coming up soon (yes, 27 days or so, I know, but I’m excited already).

  1. Housing:  Use the NMSA housing form.  It goes through the local city’s convention bureau so if you are the type to check if your reservation is in the books, you won’t be able to contact the hotel and find out if you have a room.  You’ll have to wait until the convention bureau has taken their compiled lists and sent them to the individual participating hotels.  Do use the form on the website.  You’ll save a tidy sum.
  2. Registration:  If you were able to talk a group into going, use the individual/team registration form.  The reduction in price for getting a team to go is worth selling one’s firstborn to the gypsies . . . well ok, maybe not worth that, but do try to take a team of teachers to get the discount.  Mongo-sized groups have a different form.  Mention you saw the registration information here at Middle School Matters.  It won’t get you anything, but the puzzled looks on the poor NMSA staff will probably be worth it.  😉
  3. Transportation:  NMSA has worked out some transportation discounts with United Airlines (promotion code:  584CM), but do check other airlines for their airfares.  Don’t necessarily take the first choice.  One teacher’s experience has shown checking multiple days could yield a better price.  Hertz has a rental car agreement worked out (promotion code:  CV#022Q3931), but do consider public transportation as a viable alternative.  One of the neat things about the conference is walking a bit and seeing part of the city.  In Philadelphia, I would have missed the really cool stuff at Reading Station and some other places had I not taken a stroll from the hotel to the conference center.
  4. Transport from/to AirportFlyDenver.com has a host of transportation options to/from the airport for you to choose from.  My group that went last year used the SuperShuttle service.  If you use them, plan on multiple groups traveling to multiple destinations.  It wasn’t a bad experience.  The only downside is that the scheduled return is set by the dispatcher at the airport, not according to your flight schedule.  We had to be at the airport several hours before we had to be there the regular several hours before departure.  Do chat up the driver.  Ours was allowed to use the vans on the off hours to make some cash on their own and they have a good handle on locations in the area to pick up a flavor of the local culture.  Check out the Colorado Convention Center’s directions to the center from all points on the compass rose and the airport.
  5. Colorado Convention Center:  Use the virtual tour of the Convention Center to find your way around before the conference in October.
  6. Luggage (promo code: 9601):  Find a way to make your luggage distinguishable.  Scarves are not recommended since they catch in the conveyor belt.  Unique tags and stickers, are useful.  If you’re really into luggage tags…   World Richman is an Official NMSA Exhibitor of luggage, but not necessarily for the long distance traveler.
  7. ComfortSocks, Shoes, Shoes for Administrators, Chair (wait for it …), Parrot, iPod, coffee, computer, fudge, Middle School Matters, tech podcast, alternate middle school podcast, cherries (what happens to the pits?), in-flight book,


Hey guys

Who is the least appreciated person in the building and yet critical to the success of a middle school? The substitute teacher of course. Without them, forget IEP meetings, professional development, sick days, personal time or even special events. They are the ninja workforce who appear and seemingly disappear without leaving an obvious trail.

Good substitutes are worth their weight in gold, but many teachers either have never subbed or forgot how tough a job it is. Having been a sub teacher for three years in a middle school environment, I know all too well its pitfalls and rewards. When I became a full-time teacher, I knew how my temporary replacement wanted to be respected professionally through good preparation for their day with my kids.

Therefore, perhaps you can give some tips to teachers and remind them of how they can either make or break the day of a sub teacher in their classroom through planning or lack thereof.
I have had teachers who truly understood how to create a seamless transition from being absent one day and returning to class the next to find significant student progress. Good sub teachers are not babysitters, and they have an obligation to the school district and the teacher to keep kids safe and on-task.

Let me make a few suggestions of my own and perhaps you can elaborate:

-Lesson plans that provide more work than can be accomplished in the alloted time
-Necessary photo copies of worksheets, study guides, or reference material; subs do not have passcodes for copiers, nor do they know where to find them
-Directions for finding any materials or supplies needed; subs do not know your room or your desk
-Guide for standard operating procedures in your classroom; kids take too much liberty when asked to share the rules
-Teacher schedule that clearly indicates room numbers and times as well as lunch time, duty times and locations
-Class rosters and Seating charts that are up-to-date and reflect the latest changes made as students are moved for various reasons
-Emergency procedures for Fire Drills, lockdowns, etc. that are clear and easy to understand at a moments notice
-List of contact teachers (with room numbers) who can provide assistance and guidance
-Telephone extension list and clear indication of main office number
-Behavior referral slips and procedure for using them

Most schools require a sub folder to be kept in place for each classroom. But these get buried and forgotten until the teacher needs to be out. Therefore, nothing gets updated and the sub is working with inaccuracies that can, at best, totally change the delicate balance of a classroom and at worst, create a dangerous situation in an emergency.  When a teacher provides everything they would have wanted themselves in the same situation, things go smoothly and everyone wins.


New Jersey

1.  National Substitute Teachers’ Alliance offers benefits to members and an annual conference.
2.  Substitute Teachers are taking personal and professional advancement in their own hands.  Edweek article articulates their position.
3.  Substitute teachers have tried to organize.  This is not legal in all states.
4.  The National Education Association has a Substitute Teacher division with resources and advice on their website.
5.  Looking for some training material for your substitute teachers?  Check this out.
6.  Some districts have language in their contracts that address substitute teacher issues.
7.  NEA position on substitute teachers:

  • The National Education Association believes in the importance of employing professional educators to fulfill the critical role of substitute teachers.
  • The Association also believes that substitute teachers perform a vital function in the maintenance and continuity of daily education. In order to achieve and maintain the highest standards of student learning and professional practice, and to ensure quality instruction in every classroom every day, the Association further believes that substitute teachers must —
    • a. Meet the same standards as other licensed teachers within the state
    • b. Receive professional compensation and benefits
    • c. Receive continuous professional development
    • d. Be provided with materials and information appropriate to the position in which they are substituting
    • e. Be entitled to and supported by state and national affiliates in collective bargaining.
  • The Association condemns the practice of assigning substitute teachers to regular positions for an extended duration of time. Positions created by extended absence should be filled by available licensed teachers who are eligible to be placed on contractual status by the school district.
  • The Association opposes the practice of replacing absent teachers by dispersing students to other classrooms
  • The Association also opposes the use of individuals such as educational support professionals, part-time employees, or employees hired through private agencies to cover classes.
  • The Association further opposes requiring teachers to substitute during their preparation time.
  • The Association believes that school districts must provide full compensation for licensed teachers who substitute for personnel on extended leave. (1975, 2000)

8.  Recommendations from Education Minnesota on preparing for a substitute teacher:

  • Leave detailed information about the daily schedule, the names of your colleagues, specialists who work with your students, and any special procedures or concerns regarding individual students.
  • Provide the name of a colleague the substitute can contact for information or assistance.
  • When writing down assignments, include titles and authors of texts and laboratory manuals, as well as numbers of pages, problems and experiments. Also be sure to leave copies of texts, answer books, and lab manuals for the substitute. Don’t just say, “The kids know where everything is.”
  • Try to include meaningful assignments in your plan book. Busywork often results in wasted time for both students and the substitute. Behavior problems can occur.
  • Keep an up-to-date seating chart that gives the full name of each student. Insist that students always occupy their assigned seats.
  • Prepare your students for a substitute by instilling good work habits and a code of conduct that is conducive to order and accomplishment.
  • Post the names of students who assist you in the classroom, such as monitors and the clean-up crew.
  • Leave working keys for your desk, doors and cabinets.
  • Ask the substitute to leave you a note about how the day went. Also ask him or her for feedback on your preparation and how you might improve.
  • Thank your substitute.  Substitutes work hard and, in many cases, for inadequate compensation. They play a valuable role and deserve lots of appreciation. Strive to ensure a good experience so that your substitute will want to return to your classroom.

9.  Some districts provide some professional development for substitute teachers prior to their first day in the classroom.

  1. United States Substitute Teacher’s Association
  2. Transcript of a conversation with substitute teachers.  Some of the themes are worth pulling out and discussing at the local level.
  3. Lesson Plans for substitutes in the English classroom.
  4. Sub humor.
  5. Utah State University has a substitute teacher training institute with resources available for both the sub and the regular teacher.  USU offers substitute teacher training and a certificate at the end with successful completion.  Check out the forums and the substitute teacher resources page.
  6. A framework for classroom discipline:  Ed Ford’s Responsible Thinking Process.  Obviously you will work within your administration’s guidelines, but when you want to work out those situations where you feel you can resolve it in the classroom with the student, the Responsible Thinking Process can be a good way to resolve the situation.  If you get a chance, pick up the training offered by RTP, Inc.  The key questions to the process can be found here, but do read the books to understand the process.
  7. Kathy Schrock has a resource page for substitute teachers.

Ideas for Teachers:

  1. Make contact with a building level guest teacher.
  2. Term them “guest teachers” versus subs.
  3. Talk to “guest teachers” at your school. Get to know them.
  4. Have team support the “guest teacher”.
  5. Get the absence in early.
  6. Know your district rules about getting subs.
  7. Prepare Emergency lesson plans.
    1. Include seating charts.
    2. Include class rosters.
    3. Include classroom rules.
    4. Include school rules.
    5. Include the name of a contact (teacher buddy) for the guest teacher.

Ideas for Guest Teachers:

  1. Get there early.
  2. Read through everything.
  3. Look around the room.
  4. Talk to a neighbor teacher.
  5. Have some “tricks” in your bag.
    (One of my favorites: write the following on the board: (8,5,4,9,1,7,6,3,2,0) Then discuss where this came from – a 16 year in New York City, rides the bus for an hour a day. He starts a class in the back of the bus. In order to get into the “class” students have to present a logic problem. This is one. The question is why do these numbers belong in this order. (Want the answer? Post a comment and we’ll see what we can do).
  6. Network (talk to the principal).
  7. Leave a note of the day.