Sick happens. Meetings are inevitable. And it is the honest-to-God truth that teaching is one of the professions where it is harder to stay home (ahem, sub plans) than it is to just come in and teach 24 6-year-olds despite the fact that it feels like you’ve swallowed a handful of thumbtacks. Alas, days out of the classroom are inevitable, and we have to be prepared!
When planning to be out of the classroom, we think first about our students. Our students who thrive on routine and predictability. Our little darlings are creatures of habit, and our routine is the golden rule in our classroom.
It’s also important to think about the substitute. Substitute teachers are responsible for managing and teaching a group of enthusiastic learners who are thrown off their routine and missing their teacher. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen a child thrown off a routine, but spoiler alert: it’s not pretty.
So, the subs. You guys, I view it as my personal mission in life to make the day as easy as possible for these saints. Of course the day’s success lies largely in the sub plans, but we all know a perfectly laid plan can sometimes be stopped dead in its tracks by other factors. And by other factors, I mean behavior.
Behaviorally speaking, there are different types of students.
Type A: Student Could Lead Class By Himself, Sometimes Better Than Me: this student loves any chance to help, and the sub is no exception. This student probably has a * next to his name as the go-to student for any and all questions.
Type B: The Middle of the Line Student: An overall good choice-maker with an edge, she knows things are going to be a little cray cray without her teacher; will toe the line, trying to decide if it is worth it to act a fool or just save energy and go with the flow.
Type C: The Just. Cannot. Student: This student probably also has an asterisk next to his name in the sub plans, but for a whole different reason. You know who I’m talking about.
I am super lucky this year and could honestly see all of my students as Type A’s, but I know this isn’t always the norm. Luckily, My Little Lookout is for all Type students.
In short: My Little Lookout is a miniature teacher meets espionage meets tattletale (in a good way). My Little Lookout is designed to encourage positive behavior while serve as a constant reminder that your teacher WILL find out about your choices.
In Room 65, MLL arrives one day with grandiose (AKA in a pile of glitter, because glitter=magic). She arrives on a day I am NOT absent, and we read the My Little Lookout book together to get to know this intriguing little creature. The book can be printed hardcover or shown electronically, which is my preferred way.
The book will prompt kids to name their MLL, so we always have a ball with that. In the past, my kids have named her to rhyme with my name, but this past year, our MLL was named “Mrs. Mini.” You can turn this into a voting event, a graphing activity, whatever—but the name that is chosen is the name that is there to stay. It is written on MLL’s name tag (which can be detached if you prefer only the doll and not the name tag).
The premise of My Little Lookout is this: when a teacher is out, he or she calls My Little Lookout.
My Little Lookout then comes to the classroom overnight and finds a nice spot to settle where she can see all of the goings on of the classroom (I’m a big fan of the projector or beside the clock: a focal point where kids can’t touch her.) The next day, kids will spot her and she will spend her day watching over the classroom and making notes about what choices the students are making in their teacher’s absence. [When, in reality, the substitute teacher will leave a note for the classroom teacher with mention of students making good choices, poor choices, and choices in between]
When the teacher returns, she receives a note from My Little Lookout and is able to reward the students making great choices and handle the not so great choice-makers how she chooses. My Little Lookout comes with 3 note formats: 1 for a “good list,” 1 with a “not so good list,” and 1 for a whole class WOW day. If we get a whole class good report or the sub mentions a few Star Students, I share these with the whole class during our morning meeting the next day. It’s a great way to show students that their choices matter, even when I am gone. I will typically award the class with a class point or two, and individuals get a certificate to take home (sometimes, I even throw in a surprise reward like lunch with the teacher—gotta keep them on their toes 🙂 ).
Any negative feedback is shared privately with the students mentioned, and the consequence is often a note explaining the choices they made and the choices they SHOULD have made. Sometimes, I send these notes home to parents and other times, I simply use them as a reflection piece.
Another thing I enjoy doing when we have a sub in the classroom is for my students to write notes either to me or Mrs. Mini. These notes are a great peek into the day when you are unable to be there. It is also a great option for the writing activity or center for your sub plans! Students are always so honest–it is both heart-warming and amusing to read these notes upon your return!