Please read this post. If you are employed as an art teacher, it is important.
Some background: Today I was a substitute teacher, for the first time in 37 years. I am signed up on a regional substitute teacher registry, specifying that I only want to sub elementary art. (The last time I worked as a sub was when I was fresh out of college, searching for my 1st teaching job.) During my 36 years in the classroom, I rarely took days off, but there were those unavoidable occasions: a death in the family, attendance at a conference, a sick child, or rarely, a sick ME. I was always worried about the sub; if I knew I was going to be out (a planned conference for example) I spent HOURS in my classroom prepping materials, and writing specific plans, because I did not like to have my kids' time wasted. It paid off; people who subbed for me liked to come back.
But there are those unexpected days: the death, the child who throws up at 3:00am, when you do not have the time for that sort of preparation. You should be prepared for those inevitable days.
In my school district, we were told to create a 'Sub Folder', including all pertinent information: class lists, seating, health alerts (allergies etc), fire drill and lockdown procedures, a map of the school, names of who to go to for assistance; also various classroom procedures, some 'emergency lessons'. These were kept filed in the office, ready for the secretary to hand to a sub when they came to work. But if your school does not have such a procedure (such as in the school where I subbed today), you should prepare a sub folder anyhow, and leave it prominently on your desk for an emergency sub to locate.
In the case of the art teacher, the classroom procedures should include everything from what materials can be used or should not be used, to bathroom policies, cleanup procedures, end-of-day procedures, behavior policies, school Code of Conduct, etc.
Emergency plans should:
- be something that can be completed hopefully in one session, in lieu of work-in-progress that is not easily continued by a sub,
- require minimal setup - the sub may arrive with only minutes to prep for their first class. They don't want to be pouring paint, cutting paper, covering tables, and so on.
- use materials requiring minimal cleanup - no unplanned painting, perhaps something tied to a book that is easily located in the classroom.
- be written keeping in mind that the sub may NOT be an art teacher. Don't expect the sub to have any art expertise at all. On the other hand, you may have an art sub (like me) and you want them to enjoy teaching the lesson. Please don't just leave coloring book pages. UGH.
- include information about location of materials to use for these emergency lessons. There's nothing much worse than having no paper and 25 kids walking in.
So, how was my day? Mostly good. The absence was an emergency; there were class lists, but not much else. No sub handbook, no posted procedures, nothing. I could not find lesson plans, nothing about procedures at all. Another teacher stopped in and said she was supposed to help me find some videos I could show. UGH again. I asked if it would be OK if I taught a lesson of my own creation instead, and she said she was sure the absent teacher would be thrilled. These are the times when that sub handbook or folder, created in the first week or two of school, would really come in handy. (By the way, technophobe that I am, I really didn't want to have to deal with an unfamiliar DVD player anyhow.)
It was a primary school, and I had 2 classes of 1st graders and 3 classes of 2nd graders. For the 1st graders, I prepped by cutting some 4" squares of faded brown paper that I had found in the room. We read the book Not a Box (I had brought it with me). We brainstormed for ideas, and the kids each glued their square on a larger piece of paper and used crayons to transform the box. The kids did a great job (though the after-lunch class was a little rambunctious), and it was a good quickie lesson. The class periods were 50 minutes long, so the gluing step helped keep the work from getting done too quickly.
For the 2nd graders, I did a warm and cool color activity, drawing an object with Sharpie (a fish, a boat, a house, a flower, a frog...), breaking the paper up with lines, and then coloring the object with warm colors and the negative space with cool, kind of patchwork quilt looking. Some kids did great, and some didn't finish. Hopefully it will all be OK with the teacher. We used small paper and markers, and once we got moving, we discovered the markers were almost all dead. There wasn't a red or blue in sight. Very sad. For the first class I added in some crayons just so they could finish. Afterward, I looked around and discovered several unopened classpacks of markers, enough to last a LONG time, so I opened one and made up a tray for each table so that they would all have access to both warm and cool. I used these for the next two classes. There was no color wheel hanging anywhere in the room. (The room was actually a little disappointing - it had a lot of potential but seemed lackluster. There were no cute bulletin boards or reward charts or job charts or any of the things I see regularly posted on the blogs. Oh, what I could do with that room...)
Anyhow, to finish my day, I had a duty listed on the schedule (I think it said 'child supervision') with absolutely no instructions. I had to ask someone, and found out it involved dismissal of students to the parents who pick up their kids (the ones who don't ride a bus); it was basically mayhem and chaos in the cafeteria. I hope nobody went missing, since I was given no procedures, and the cafeteria had multiple doors to the outside being used by parents and kids. Yikes.
OK, so perhaps YOU are not absent from school and YOU don't need a sub: What should you do when you see an unfamiliar face on your hall? Be welcoming! Ask them who they are subbing for, poke your head into the classroom where they are subbing sometime during the day and ask how it's going or if they need anything. I did not have ONE person do that today, and it would have made a huge difference. At the end of the day I wrote the teacher a note, cleaned up, and closed the door and left. Nobody checked on me, and I did not need to sign out (I asked). I ate lunch in the staff room, and a few ladies came and went and totally ignored me rather than saying hello. Perhaps I was invisible to anyone older than a second grader? I do know, at the end of the day, 1st and 2nd graders were all saying "Hi Mrs. Brown!" to me when they saw me in the hall, and that felt nice. The sub isn't making that much money for the time/energy spent (I'd make more spending a day waitressing, I think) so do what you can to make that person welcome in your school. It may not be your job, but it is the nice thing to do.
Will I go back to that school if called? Yes, absolutely; I liked the kids. But I again will come prepared with my own lesson, and expect to eat lunch alone. The kids were great, and it was fun getting them to think 'outside the box'.
How do you prep for a sub in your art room? Any advice you'd like to add? Please chime in!