Not All Substitutes Are Created Equal
There is a shortage of substitutes in many school districts across the nation, so quality standards are not always consistent across the board. You will have wonderful substitutes in your class, and you will have terrible ones. It is important that you take the time to inform your substitute coordinator or the central substitute office about exceptionally good substitutes as well as those who had problems.
What to Expect
You should expect your substitute to keep the class under control while implementing your lesson plan. However, sometimes you will find that the substitute placed in your class does not do one or both of these very well. She might have a real problem with classroom control. Or she might have been successful at making the students behave while failing to follow the lesson plan you provided.
There is a shortage of substitute teachers across the nation. Some states do not require that their substitutes be teaching certified. Others have resorted to increasing wages or actively recruiting substitutes through the Internet and newspaper advertisements.
It's understandable that many substitute teachers have problems with student behavior. However, there is a difference between minor misbehaviors and neglect. You should be really concerned if students come to class the next day and report behavior that could have led to student injury or simply indicates neglect on the part of the substitute teacher.
You will also find that some substitutes do not follow your lesson plans. Problems can range from minor errors to completely disregarding your instructions. As you leave instructions, be very careful to make things clear. Do not assume that your substitute knows what textbook your class is using. List the materials the substitute teacher should use, and leave reference copies if possible.
Misunderstandings will occur and should be expected. However, if your substitute does not follow your lesson plan at all, you should definitely report this to the administration.
What to Do if Problems Occur
You should definitely report any serious concerns you have about a substitute teacher. Your school or district might have specific procedures you need to follow. Make sure that you are reporting the teacher for something important and not just a personality conflict.
In the end, realize that your students will probably not learn the same quality or amount of information during a day with a substitute as they would with you. This is not the fault of the substitute but the nature of the system. Because students know they probably will not be seeing a substitute again for some time, they feel they have more freedom to misbehave or simply ignore instructions.
And there is the tendency for students to feel that work given by substitutes is mainly busy work. By creating realistic expectations, your substitute and students will have a successful experience during your absence.