Creating a substitute binder doesn’t rank at the top of my fun “teacher things” to do, but the benefits of a well laid out sub binder are priceless. If you’ve ever been a substitute teacher before, (I have many times), it is easier to foresee what information a substitute needs to have. Try to imagine yourself walking into a school that you have never been in before and facing a classroom of students you have never met. Sound exciting? Yes, in some ways it is. In other ways, it is rather frightening. If you want a sub to do well in your classroom, and you want him/her to return, you need to plan for their needs to be met in your absence.
Steps to Setting Up a Substitute Binder:
1. Purchase a binder with a plastic sleeve on the front cover.Insert a page into the plastic sleeve that you have created on the computer that says something like this: “Mrs. Barnes’s Sub Binder” Feel free to decorate it any way you please with clip art, stickers, etc. There are also online substitute packets you can purchase at Teacher’s Pay Teachers, but they are not absolutely necessary to get started.
2. Include the following pages in the order that you deem of greatest to least importance.
a. Class schedule with times for each subject. It is important that the substitute have a bell schedule. I once subbed for a teacher who did not leave a record of the bell schedule, and I had to depend on the students for information. (not always a reliable source)
b. If you teach elementary school, be sure to include the times for special classes such as PE, music, band, and art. Indicate whether you must lead the students to another classroom (and where it is located), whether the students go there on their own, or whether the teacher will come to escort your class. Also indicate if they need to take something with them such as gym shoes, a music notebook, etc.
c. Class lists and seating charts. If you have a computerized attendance program and it is possible to print out a seating chart with student photos, do so. This can prevent students from trying to claim they are someone else.
d. Emergency medical information–You do not need to indicate every medical situation, but if you have a child who is diabetic, one who has seizures, or a student with any condition which may need attention in your absence, indicate that in your seating chart or attached notes. Give directions for how to contact the nurse or to get help in an emergency.
e. List the names of several students in the class who can give reliable information to a substitute. Choose carefully. It may take you a few weeks to discern this. Add their names as soon as you are able.
f. Be sure to include if you have recess duty, bus duty, hall duty, etc. and when and where these duties take place. Tell the substitute exactly what their responsibilities are.
g. Let the substitute know what your rules are about restroom and drinking fountain use. Does the student need a pass? Where are the passes? Do you allow students to go to their lockers if needed?
h. Will the substitute need to take a lunch count, milk count, or collect any other kinds of notes or forms? Leave forms in your binder if you can.
i. Include school emergency drill schedules: Fire, tornado, evacuation, etc. You should receive a list of dates and times for all drills at the beginning of the school year. Make copies.
j. In case of an intruder, what are the lock down procedures for your school? It is imperative that you include this information.
k. If you have video equipment or a Smartboard, do you have specific instructions for operating the equipment, or do you have a colleague who can help with this? Name that person.
l. The location of key materials such as your plan book and teacher manuals.
m. The location of the cafeteria, vending machines, and the nearest restroom.
n. Some teachers like to have a form for the substitute to fill out. You can create one of your own, or model yours after mine. Find mine here. You can use mine as a guide and tailor one to your specific needs. There are lots of these forms that you can find on the internet.
l. Be sure to indicate what needs to be done at the end of the day. This should include who rides the bus (elementary), what materials students need to take home, and directions for closing up the classroom for the day.
2. You may wish to include tabs in your sub binder which will make it easier for the substitute to quickly locate important information.
This sounds like a lot of work. And it really is… But, last year I ended up having a tooth pulled under anesthesia in AUGUST, then I had a death in the family early in SEPTEMBER, and on and on it went. I needed my folder ready early! Once you have it finished, it’s finished for the year unless your classes change second semester.
If you want your class to be one that substitute teachers look forward to, be sure to have your ducks in a row! Take time to begin this now. You should be able to finish it in a few days working on a few pages at a time! Enjoy!