I hate being sick. Who doesn’t? I especially hate being sick now as a teacher. When I worked in the private sector, a sick day just meant sending an email to my team assigning coverage, turning on the auto-reply and changing my voice mail message to let clients know I was out of the office. Oh, and a messy desk full of paperwork the next day along with my chair being set to the wrong height.
There was some stress where deadlines were involved, but taking a sick day as a teacher is stressful. There are so many things to worry about: How are my kids going to behave? Or, more accurately, ARE my kids going to behave? Who am I getting as a sub? Will my sub be able to, or bother trying to, follow the plans I left? Am I going to be a day behind in my schedule when I get back because I need to teach or reteach content that should have been taught in my absence? Doesn’t make for a very restful day off.
I’m an organized person, especially at work. I’ve been referred to as OCD, anal, and as the “Spreadsheet Queen.” I can admit that my organized nature does not carry over into all areas of my life, although I did create a spreadsheet with a tab for every month since January 2008 that lists every payment I’ve made on every bill (including dates and amounts paid, balances, and confirmation numbers). I’ll admit that goes a bit beyond “organized.” But enough about my now-apparent OCD. I find that being organized at work just makes my life easier. The amount of time it takes to become organized in my classroom is so greatly overshadowed by the amount of time and stress it saves me that it’s completely worth it.
Straight to the Point: When I know I’m going to be absent, I am as detailed as possible with what I’m leaving behind. If I don’t leave a solid plan, I can’t expect my substitute to magically make a great, on-task lesson appear out of thin air. The lesson plans I write for myself might be considered cryptic if you’re not familiar with the specific terminology we use in our classroom. When I write out my sub plans, I’m incredibly detailed and put all of the instruction directions in plain language.
What if you don’t plan on being out? I’d rather be up for 15 minutes at 5am sending an email with some typed up sub plans to a coworker than spend the entire next day trying to play catch-up!
The picture is from a few months ago when I was going to be out of school for two entire days. In a row. Ugh. If you think that’s bad, imagine what I left behind a few years ago when I had surgery and needed to be out for two weeks! To make things easy for my sub I label everything (from homework to notebooks to folders) with the class it belongs to and what it’s being used for. I find that when I leave clear instructions and clearly labeled work, the substitute feels obligated to follow suit and clearly labels the completed work in addition to leaving my room neat and organized. Score. If you think you might need a little extra ammo, do what I do. Leave a granola bar (also labeled with a “thank you” Post-It, because how could I not?) and a bottle of water. A little bribery can go a long way and, as far as I’m concerned, the outcome is worth the trouble if it means a stress-free day off.