With Labor Day in our rearview mirror, the majority of our partnering school districts are officially open for the 2020-2021 school year. It’s no secret that this year will be unlike any other, but it’s important to stay positive and embrace the changes as they come. After all, students need us now more than ever before!
Working as a substitute teacher may look very different this year depending on where you are. Some school districts are reopening their buildings with students on a full or staggered schedule. Some districts are sticking to virtual education, with teachers either instructing remotely or from the school building. And some districts are deploying a combination of different strategies.
While it may seem confusing, keep in mind that all decisions are made with the safety of the school community in mind. Your local ESS team will do their best to keep you up-to-date with the latest information. You should also keep an eye on your district’s website. No matter what capacity you’re teaching in this year, here are some tips to help you feel more at ease:
It’s essential for substitute teachers to have an open mind going into this school year. Things are going to feel out of the ordinary and having preconceived notions may lead to confusion or disappointment. You don’t want such feelings to be transparent with your students. Remember, students may feel uneasy about this school year, and any negative emotions you display can reflect on them. If you come in with an open mind and ambitious attitude, others will surely pick up on it!
Prepare Ahead of Time
As a substitute teacher, you’re most likely a pro at preparing for assignments ahead of time by now. Sure, you may not know what the lesson plans will be, but you most certainly know the location of your assignment, what time you need to arrive, what you need to bring with you, etc.
If you’re substituting in-person this year, these factors are still relevant to plan for in advance. You should also take your preparation a step further by checking the district website for relevant COVID-related procedures. Be sure to bring your mask and follow all building protocols as instructed.
Conversely, if you’re subbing virtually this year, there might be other things you’ll need to consider in advance. Pay attention to whether your virtual assignment entails remote instruction, or if you’ll be teaching from the school facility. Make sure you’re familiar with the platform you’ll be instructing on, who to contact if a problem arises, and strategies for keeping students engaged in online lessons.
Get Familiar with Virtual Learning Platforms
Part of being prepared before an assignment this year comes with educating yourself about virtual learning platforms. Whether you’re subbing remotely or in-person, it’s important to take the time to gain a basic understanding of the learning platforms that are used at the schools you serve. These could vary from school to school or grade to grade – depending on the school’s plans for distance education. Nonetheless, it doesn’t hurt to get familiar with the programs you might need to use at some point, especially since things are changing so quickly. Some popular ones include Google Classroom, Canvas, Seesaw, Schoology, and Zoom.
Follow All COVID-19 Protocols
For those who are working from a school building this year, it’s crucial that you follow all the school’s COVID-19 protocols. From wearing a face mask and frequently washing your hands, to enforcing social distancing measures and disinfecting surfaces, these protocols are in place to ensure everyone’s safety.
In some schools, you may be subject to a temperature check or asked to fill out a questionnaire when you enter the building. In others, lunch and specials (e.g. art, music) are happening in the classroom. Bathroom schedules must be followed to avoid the spread of germs. Different schools are handling this situation in different ways, so it’s essential to find out the specific procedures for the district you work in.
Ask for Help When You Need It
This year has been notorious for firsts. As schools reopen, staff and students are all adjusting to new regulations, schedules, and technology needed for the year. If you come across any confusion or technical difficulties, do not hesitate to ask for help. Fellow staff members, school administration, IT support, your local ESS support team, and even your students can be excellent resources for you. Remember that you’re not in it alone!
Expect the Unexpected
Many uncertainties remain as schools reopen, and we expect that circumstances will continue to evolve throughout the school year. Flexibility is the most important quality substitutes can show school administrators right now. No one knows what will happen in a month or so, so we should all prepare to expect the unexpected and never stop supporting our students!
We hope these tips will help you feel more prepared as we get back into the swing of things. A positive attitude and open mind go a long way in providing the best education possible for your students. We know this year will come with its unique challenges, but you will be the difference in making it a success.
For general safety guidelines and tips for substitutes returning to school, check out our blog on School Safety Tips During COVID-19.