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How-To: Manage Your Classroom
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Preparing for a Guest Teacher Julie Dermody

Planning Ahead for When You Can't Be In Your Classroom.

No one likes to be away from his or her classroom. It seems to take more time to tell someone else what to do than to actually do it. But there are times when you really have to stay home, and in our profession you can't just call in sick, turn over, and go back to sleep. "The show must go on," with or without you, and you have to make sure it does! A little advanced planning can go a long way toward making your absence easier on those still in school, and less stressful on you.

First, make a blank schedule on the computer for each day of the week. Don't forget to include all your regular routines (pledge, feeding pets, snack time) as well as the times for any specials (art, music), individual or group "pull-outs," and the times for any medications your students may need to take during the school day. It is so much easier to think of these things before you're sick with a temperature of 102! At the end of each day's schedule, be sure to add directions for fire drills, tornado drills, or any other emergency items. If you would like specific feedback from your "guest teacher," ask for it at the end of the sheet. You may want to include these "communication starters," leaving blank lines for your guest teacher to write his/her responses: Today we were able to accomplish; We were not able to accomplish; The following students were especially helpful; The following students did very well today; The following students did not cooperate and had to be spoken to more than one time; What I (you as the teacher) could have done to help improve your day. Leave plenty of blank space for your guest teacher to write additional comments, as well as a space for him/her to sign his/her name and phone number. (Once you discover a guest teacher you and your students like, you'll want to be able to contact him/her regarding future days you may be absent and, possibly, go over any special plans on the phone before he/she comes into your classroom.)

Opening a specific day's schedule to "fill in the blanks" is a lot easier than starting from scratch to plan your absence. If you're really fortunate, you will be able to e-mail your plans for the day into school. Of course, the best course of action would be to have already filed a folder for each day of the week containing lesson plans. If you have the time now, you'll thank yourself later for planning so thoroughly for future absences. If you receive Time for Kids, Scholastic News, or a similar newsmagazine, consider saving one issue to put into a day's lesson plan folder. Other items that make good "advance planning" items are problem-solving activities (see www.figurethis.org), special readings (such as plays that focus on a general topic, such as a character trait), planned writing prompts, and having your students write a letter to you about their day(s). If you decide on student letters, consider including questions such as: their favorite activity while you were gone; one action they took to make the guest teacher's day great; what they think their guest teacher will tell his/her family after spending a day(s) with the class; and what I (the teacher) could have done to help the day go easier for them.

Some schools have the policy of having "generic" lesson plans (that can be used for any day) on file in the office in case of an emergency. While this is a good idea (some plan is better than none--just ask a guest teacher!), I prefer to have my plans reflect current classroom activities as much as possible.

I've found that by using the term guest teacher instead of substitute, my own students are more respectful to the person who is indeed the guest in your classroom that day.


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