Seven Pre-Holiday Survival Tips for Substitutes

The final weeks leading up to winter break are a challenge for teachers and substitutes alike. Classrooms are abuzz with holiday anticipation, schedules are out-of-whack, and it can be difficult to keep students focused on their studies. While it may be tempting to go on autopilot for the rest of the year, we have seven tips to help keep the holidays merry, bright – and productive! 

  1. Be Flexible
    During the holiday season, be prepared for interruptions to your normal schedule. Between assemblies, band and choir practice, shows, etc., most schools see an influx of out-of-the-ordinary activity leading up to the holidays. The classroom teacher should outline the new schedule in your sub plan, but keep in mind that things can change. Keep an ear out for any updates from administration and be adaptable.
  1. Allow Extra Time for Transitions
    When going to assemblies, specials, lunch, or packing up for the day, allow a bit of extra time than you normally would. With students being extra rowdy and talkative, it’s important to get them lined up in a quiet, orderly manner before releasing them into the hallway. If they aren’t calming down, send them back to their seats to try again until they get it right.
  1. Set Expectations in Advance
    Before students go to lunch or an assembly, have them take out the materials they will need for the next lesson so they’re all set when they return. Tell your students, “When we return from the chorus concert, everybody will quietly take their seats and we will begin our math lesson.”
  1. Maintain Behavior Standards
    Around this time of year, many teachers are tempted to “let things go” that they normally wouldn’t. It’s important to keep your routines and standards consistent and well-communicated. Proactively controlling behavior is much easier than reacting once things have gotten out of control.
  1. Vary the Pace of Your Lessons
    If your lesson plans allow it, try switching between quiet activities and activities that allow for some movement to help students release some pent-up energy. Even moving from desks to the carpet or into small groups can be a welcome change of pace. You can also do a group stretch or breathing activity to help center the class.
  1. Add a Holiday Twist to Assignments
    Since your students have the holidays on their mind, try to focus it into their schoolwork. A holiday-related reading or writing assignment may be the trick to keeping your class engaged. It’s not a bad idea to keep some holiday worksheets in your substitute bag in case you need a filler activity. Always be sure to cover the lesson plans first though!
  1. Leave a Note for the Teacher
    This is something that you should do for every sub assignment, but it’s especially important for this time of year. It can be hard for a teacher to plan lessons around all the holiday activities. You should try to cover all plans the best you can, but the teacher will understand if you don’t get to a few things because of unforeseen interruptions. Before you leave for the day, just make sure to leave a detailed note on what you did and did not cover, so the teacher knows exactly where to pick up the next day.

Following these tips will allow you to have successful substitute days leading up to winter break!