The Substitute Folder

Substitutes need direction when they come into your class. They need to know your seating chart and your discipline plan. They also need to know what you wish for them to cover during the class period. Most problems occur for substitutes when they are not given the information they need to be effective. One way that you can provide the necessary information to your substitutes is to create a substitute folder.

For a Purpose

The substitute folder is the point of reference for all substitutes who come to your room. This folder should always be kept in the same spot on your desk. Some teachers will actually pull their substitute folder out and place it on the center of their desk each evening just in case an emergency arises and they miss the next day.

A substitute folder provides substitutes with all of the information they need to feel confident in your classroom. It informs them of your policies and procedures, and it allows them to communicate with you about the events of the day by leaving you notes and other papers in the substitute folder.

Do not leave personal documents or belongings on or in unlocked parts of your desk. It is not necessarily the substitute you need to be concerned about. Substitutes often have problems controlling student behavior. You do not want students having access to your personal information when the substitute is otherwise occupied.

The Folder's Contents

Your substitute folder should be distinctive in color and have the words “Substitute Folder” written in large letters. What you choose to include in the folder is up to you. At a bare minimum, consider adding the following:

  • Substitute information form

  • Seating chart

  • Discipline referrals

  • Attendance sheets

  • Daily class schedule

  • Specific student information

  • Hall passes

  • Additional helpful notes

  • Extra paper for the substitute teacher's comments to you

The substitute information form should include important information about your class, the school, and the teachers who teach in nearby classes. An example of this type of form is included in the CD that comes with this book. Your daily class schedule is especially important if your school runs on a modified or block schedule. Without this guidance, substitute teachers may not know when classes begin and end or when they should take lunch.

Specific student information refers to notes that might be helpful to a substitute while they are teaching. For example, if you have a student who has a special medical privilege to use the restroom, you should include this as a note. Further, if you have two students who do not get along very well, you might want to let the substitute know, so she can keep them separated.

It is important to let substitutes know specific information to help them deal with special situations in your classroom. However, you must always keep the students' privacy in mind. Therefore, make sure that you are not sharing sensitive information that is unnecessary for the substitute to know in order to do an effective job.

You should also leave some extra blank paper for notes. Substitutes can write down their concerns and other information for you. It can then be placed inside the substitute folder, and you can refer to it when you return.

If you know that you will be absent, leave a lesson plan in the substitute folder. It is also a good idea to write the day's agenda on the board. This will give the substitute and students something to refer to during the class. It will also help cut down on confusion between the students and the substitute. Remember, a well-informed substitute is an effective substitute.

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