Hello, all! This is the first 5-Minute Read of 2017, and I hope that the year is treating you well! For much of the country, this is the semester with a lot of music teacher absences, as we head to state conferences, festivals, and more. And the eternal question lingers: “How do I leave an effective plan for my substitute teacher?”
When I was teaching high school, I dreaded leaving my band members with a substitute teacher. At best, the kids would behave long enough to watch a video, and at worst we’d have a sub who didn’t monitor the students properly, leading to classroom disorder. But as with any procedure facing your classroom, some planning can turn this into an opportunity!
Find an Expert
While this is often difficult, your first and best substitute choice is always an experienced music educator. Is there a retired director still living in your area? Can the assistant director at a nearby program spare a day to sub for your ensembles? It’s always in your best interest to work with your central office to get these kinds of options on the sub list. When you know and can choose to assign your ensembles to a true music educator, then your absence has become a wonderful guest clinic paid for with district funding!
Give Student Conductors a Chance
There are certainly students in your ensemble who are aspiring music educators and talented leaders in their own right. Your absence can be a great opportunity for them to get some podium time and for their fellow students to experience peer leadership and cooperation. This is an especially great tool when you can’t get an experienced music educator as a substitute. Your substitute can handle the nitty-gritty responsibilities of attendance, discipline, and other classroom management tasks that can’t be left in a student’s hands, while your student conductor (or conductors!) can rehearse your ensembles.
Provide a Seating Chart
As an experienced substitute reacher myself, I can’t stress just how powerful a tool the seating chart is. Simply calling out every name on a roll call is time consuming, opening up your classroom to behavioral issues, and it allows your students who shouldn’t sit next to one another to talk and disrupt rehearsal. On the other hand, a seating chart not only allows your sub to properly set-up the ensemble, it allows them to simply scan for empty spaces in the group. Finally, it’s far more effective to speak to students by their names, which is easily accomplished with a seating chart!
Provide a Real Plan
Substitutes dread the following two phrases: “allow the students to work silently on their own,” or “watch the DVD.” Babysitting students for 45 minutes to an hour and a half while making them be totally silent is boring, clearly a waste of time for all involved, and a guarantee of behavioral issues popping up. And no matter what movie you put in, half of the ensemble will be uninterested and disruptive to the viewing experience of those who are interested. So provide a detailed, written plan that details your ensemble’s rehearsal procedures and goals. Include your warm-up and tuning process, what specific parts of which tunes you want rehearsed, and in how much time and what manner you want your classroom cleaned and “reset.” Finally, always include your e-mail address and phone number so that the sub can ask you any emergency questions, as well as provide you an end-of-day report on how the classes behaved.
It may seem like a lot of work, but doing this now during a planning period will ensure that your band not only avoids behavioral problems in your next absence, but thrives!