Resetting After a Substitute Teacher

Resetting After a Substitute Teacher

Resetting After a Substitute Teacher

Have you ever returned from a day away from the classroom and noticed your class needed a major reset after a substitute teacher? Some of these situations might sound familiar to you. 

You’re out of your classroom for the day. You walk back in the last 10 minutes only to find your kids going bananas and your room is in disarray! 

Or maybe…

You get a text from a friend while you’re out for the day. She shares all the shenanigans your class has been up to in your absence. 

Or maybe…

You get back from a day out of the classroom to find notes from a sub that it didn’t go well while you were out. 

Can you imagine any of those situations? If you’re an elementary teacher, I bet you can. I bet you even have some more stories of your own to add on to these examples. How do you pull things back together and recover as a class after a wild day with a substitute? Sometimes you have to freeze and reset after a substitute teacher, which is, of course, easier said than done. Here’s how we reset as a classroom community after a crazy day. 

Have the Students Reflect

I always have my students reflect after we’ve had a sub, even if everything was terrific. This way, when I have them reflect when things weren’t too great, it is nothing out of the ordinary. 

I currently use the reflection on the right, but I have several other versions of this available on the resources tab or by clicking on the picture. 

My all-time favorite part of the reflection is the last question at the bottom. Sometimes after you’re gone, kids have a million things to tell you. When you are resetting after a substitute teacher you don’t have the time to listen to each and every story. This reflection takes care of it. They can write or sketch out whatever they need to say on the back. They got it off their chest, and you can read it and take any necessary actions. 

One time a student wrote that our class made the IT teacher’s day because we followed all the directions and asked good questions. One time I found out that another student’s feelings were hurt because of something someone else said. Once I found out that the sub threw a kid’s shoes away. TRUE STORY!!! 😲😲You never know. 

This reflection can be such a great help in piecing together what happened while you were out. I find that if your class is pretty knowledgeable about reflections, they’re pretty honest about their behavior. 

I have the kids complete these reflections before (or after) morning meeting when I return. That way, they can get everything out, and you can figure out what you need to. 

Prioritize

You don’t need to get to the bottom of every incident that occurred. That would take forever, and I guarantee there would be a few unsolved mysteries in the bunch. What are the things that went wrong that you must address? What happened, and what must be justified?

Do a little investigative work (but not too much). Talk to the teachers next door to find out more information if you need to. Talk to a few students in your class. Read the notes from the sub (although sometimes they just said the day went well). Read the class reflection sheets. Find out what you can and then address what you need to. 

THINK: What are the pressing issues that need to be addressed? What do I want to reinforce? What is the best order to handle things?

Decide How to Address the Issues

Sometimes I want to give lectures to my students after something like this happens. I don’t know why I feel that need, but I do. The thing is these lectures really only benefit the teacher who feels like she’s accomplishing something. The kids usually aren’t listening, or it goes in one ear and out the other.

So, I try not to give in to the urge to lecture. Depending on what happened, some reteaching may be in order.  Some apologies might have to be given out. Perhaps some notes to parents might need to be written. Maybe your admin already stepped in and handled some things or maybe you’ll need them to step in.

THINK: How are you going to handle these pressing issues? What can I do that will be meaningful to students and help them grow into caring and considerate community members? How can I help them learn not just for this situation but for the rest of life? 

Address the Issues

If you are going to address concerns they have to be addressed straight away. Maybe the community needs to come together and apologize to one another. Maybe a review of class expectations needs to occur. My tip to you is don’t wait too long when addressing the issues. I try to address all sub concerns before snack but realistically before lunch recess. I don’t want to lose an entire day of learning because our community is out of sorts. 

THINK: When can I address these concerns? Do I need to address the whole group, small groups, one on one? Do we need some healing as a community? If yes, perhaps Tap Someone Who could be an activity for your morning! 

Set Up For Success

I follow a fashion blogger on Instagram, Fancy Ashley. During back to school a few years ago she talked about her family routine to set up for success. The night before they prepare all the things so their morning is a bit less hectic. I loved the phrase set up for success and stole it. Thanks, Ashley! Next time you’re planning on being out, set your classroom up for success. 

Take time to preview the schedule for the day and preview the different activities they’ll have. Let them know who their substitute teacher will be if you already know. My greatest tool is a behavior map I made with my students this year. A blank version is available by clicking the picture on the left. This isn’t a poster you’ll want to make ahead of time. The real value isn’t what is even written on the paper but in the conversations, we had as we worked through the social story. I put this anchor chart up each and every time we have a sub and I plan to have the kids share different pieces about it during our morning meeting. 

Also, just a little tip- Treat yo sub! I always let my substitute teacher know where the chocolate drawer is in my classroom (don’t act like you don’t have one). When I remember, and when I taught in the US, I would also leave a few quarters to grab a soda from the vending machine. Those little touches can make your subs day a bit better. Nothing brightens up my day like a bit of chocolate and all those bright smiling faces! 

Share Your Ideas

I once attended professional development where the speaker shared that two heads are better than one, and three heads make a genius! Let’s put our heads together by sharing comments on things that really work for you when the class goes bananas and any questions that you have about resetting your class after a substitute teacher. 

Please share any of your thoughts below. Personally, my best teacher learning comes from the teacher down the hall! Join in the conversation! 

Friday Five: Student Privacy Online

Student Privacy

Protecting Student Privacy ONline

As teachers, parents, students, and administrators trust us with so many things. We’re trusted to educate children every day. We’re also trusted to keep them safe and always consider their best interests. As I exist more in the teacher world’s social media, I am concerned about student privacy online.

A few years ago, Europe rolled out new data protection rules and regulations, and I just so happened to be working in the EU at that time. These data rules were intense, but they made me reflect upon the student data I collect as a teacher and the information I share as a teacher. 

When I first started blogging, I asked a fellow teacher blogger for advice, and she recommended that I never use pictures of students online. I have since followed that advice. Hopefully, if you follow me, you know absolutely nothing about the identity of my students. That’s the goal. Protecting our students’ privacy is so critical. Here are some pieces of advice about protecting your students’ privacy online. 

One

Don't Use Their Image

Sure, in the classroom, I take pictures all the time. Actually, since GDPR, I take fewer photos. The pictures I do take I upload onto my school computer and drive and then delete off of my phone. I have no images of students on my phone at all. I don’t have them saved anywhere. I don’t have any- none. With GDPR, we weren’t allowed to, and I happen to think that while strict, it is a good practice.

I am not my students’ parent or guardian, and I should not be able to make decisions about where their image is used. I feel that if teachers are going to use their students’ pictures online, they need to have written consent each time AND they need to fully disclose what they are using the image for, why that image, and what benefits they receive by posting the picture. 

I even take issue with the blocking of students’ faces. Many times you can still identify students based on what they are wearing or different identifying features. I firmly believe that we shouldn’t take any chances. If parents want to post their children, that is a different story. As teachers, we aren’t the parents.

I even unfollow any teachers who post images of students on Instagram. It’s an automatic no from me. Even if they say, they have permission- no thanks! I know that blogs that use stock photos like my own might seem impersonal, but I would rather that then know all the details of someone’s class. 

Two

Don't Share Their Names

One simple way to ensure student privacy online is to not use their names. Names are so unique and such a defining part of our identities. Student names should not be shared online either. I can’t tell you how many times I would have to re-record an entire Instagram story last year because I accidentally walked past one of the million places my kids’ names were posted in our classroom. I ended up always recording them in one corner where there were no features that could determine my location or student identity. That might seem extreme, but why would I let a world of strangers know that information? 

As I blog, I, of course, might want to use names to create a picture. On my letters and letter-sound post, I wanted to show an example of a name chart. I chose names at random. I included some Polish names for fun, but I didn’t include the names of any of my little diamonds. Actually, when I am procrastinating on a blog post, I can spend hours on baby naming websites searching for just the right name! 

This year I started using the singular they when discussing students online. This way, gender wasn’t even discernable. Now, when I say discussing students, I mean times like this- I thought of a hilarious time a few years ago that I was reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School. When Mrs. Gorf turned the kids into apples, one diamond shouted out, “Why didn’t she turn them into chicken nuggets?!” It was hilarious, and I shared that story on Instagram. I’m not discussing any other student information online. 

Three

Stop Recording Yourself Teaching

What’s up with this? I mean that with love in my heart. My time that I am in front of the students is a time when I am their teacher. I am not teaching to perform and share online. I am teaching to educate those little diamonds in my classroom. If I want to share something I’ve done with my class, I can share it another way. 

Last year we did flashlight reading, and I wanted to take a picture of it to share. I, of course, didn’t want to share the image of any of my students, so I took a photo alone, in a dark room, with the lights off, holding a flashlight. I felt like a total fool because it isn’t my style, but I would rather feel like a fool alone than record myself teaching in front of kids to share on social media. I jokingly say all the time that I wish specific lessons were recorded because they went so well, but I don’t usually record myself. 

I did record a few guided reading groups last year to use as teaching tools for our assistant teachers. I had parent consent before filming and explained that this filmed teaching would stay in the school’s drive. It did. I don’t have those guided reading lessons anymore. When I taught Reading Recovery, I filmed myself teaching to improve on my practice, but I had parent consent, and I no longer have those videos. 

FOur

Don't Share Specific Data

Whenever I talk about student data, I make it up. I make up kids’ names. When I shared the post about planning for instruction, I made up the details of my class. You don’t need to know the real details of my class. You don’t need to start guessing who is who. Even covering up names when sharing class data is dicey. What if people saw that and started figuring out who was who? Often lists are in ABC order. It wouldn’t be too hard to figure out. That is not a game I want to be involved in.

What’s the purpose of the student data you want to share? What story are you trying to tell? Could you create fake data to tell the same story? And when I say false data, I mean it. When I made up that other data, I just plugged in random stuff, which was kind of fun. I didn’t think about a specific student and then fictionalize them. Nope- then it isn’t made up. I just plugged in random information into a sheet. 

Five

WIPS- The New WWJD

Maybe you didn’t go to Catholic school in the late 90s, but WWJD was all the rage. It stands for What Would Jesus Do, and it was everywhere. Guaranteed, I had at least a bookmark and a bracelet with this saying on it. We joked about it all the time, and it came rushing back to me just now! #yourewelcome I might be the only person who finds this funny or remembers it, but number five in this blog post is cracking me up! 

So I lived my 5th-grade life following the WWJD motto, and now I follow the WIPS motto. WIPS stands for What If Parents See. I don’t know how much some teachers disclose about their online life to their actual students’ parents. But I think this motto benefits all. I always operate under the assumption that everyone I know will see everything I post. So, if you don’t want people to see it, don’t post it. This motto can save you a world of problems.

SIDENOTE: One time, I followed this very teacher famous Instagrammer who always posted pictures and videos of her kids. One day she suddenly disappeared like her whole account- gone. Then her BFF posted that she had to make a new account, and we should follow her there. A true lover of drama, I went to the new private account. This Instagrammer said a few parents and students found her page, and she had to delete it and start a new one because she didn’t want them to know what she said online. I followed her for like a week more, and she posted kids’ images on her new page! She also told stories and used kids’ names! Like stories, I would guess you wouldn’t want to be shared about your kid. On the account that she hid from parents and students! That’s not good. If you have to make a private account (where you’re still sharing student data) to hide from parents and kids, it isn’t right. At all. We can do better. We need to protect our student’s privacy online- no matter what. 

What Are Your Thoughts on Student Privacy?

How do you ensure you’re protecting student privacy online?

If you’re a parent I would love to hear some thoughts on the current social media era of education. 

Flexible Seating Reflection

Flexible Seating Reflection

Flexible Seating Mistakes

We all make mistakes. Here’s a little teacher flexible seating reflection- I didn’t launch flexible seating as well as I should have. I made a lot of assumptions I should not have made. Each class you have is different and comes in with different experiences and background knowledge. While I applied that to my content teaching, I didn’t think about flexible seating! 🤦‍♀️Things weren’t working. Instead of flexible seating providing powerful choice and agency it was standing in the way of our learning. Instead of learning conflict resolution we were constantly tattling. Finally, we just needed a fresh start. 

Adding IN a Flexible Seating Reflection

We scaled it way back to a new launch. I made all of the decisions for my students. Every few days, I assigned students a new seating option to learn about how to work in that space. The student who sat there before taught them a few tips about their new spot and at the end of their time, they rated their seating options and reflected on their learning while sitting in a particular spot. This flexible seating reflection was precisely what they needed! It provided the structure that they still needed and provided “choice” even though I was doing the choosing. They also had input in the choice through their refections.

After a month and a half, we were ready to try to fly free again and make our own choices. I wanted them to do one more final reflection about their learning before we got the decision back. A reflection that would remind them that we exist in our classroom to learn (and have some fun). I developed this fun reflection that we completed on Seesaw. It was simple, but it was just what we needed, and their thoughts blew me out of the water!

Using the photo tool in Seesaw, kids took pictures of the spots that worked well and didn't work well for them. Then they added words using the label feature to the final section. We then recorded a short verbal explanation and clicked submit!

Reflection Conversation

Once we finished our flexible seating reflection, we had a conversation as a class. It turned out that most students said they preferred to work alone in a quiet spot. They only liked 1-2 people sitting near them. Most kids didn’t like sitting in a place where the air conditioner blew directly on them. Kids loved sitting on the couch and didn’t like sitting at tables, particularly the big tables that were supposed to seat 6. 

We posted this information on our whiteboard and worked to make improved flexible seating choices. From time to time, some assistance is needed in making choices, but for the most part, we’re doing well. I don’t know why I’ve never thought to launch flexible seating in this way before. I will 100% start the year off with something similar next year. 

Feel free to steal the image above and upload it into Seesaw for your learners! 

Friday Five: Building Community Through Morning Meeting

Kids standing together to build community in morning meeting

Morning Meeting- Building Community One Morning At a Time

One

Good Morning, Sunshine!

Morning meeting begins with a greeting. The greeting helps build community because it allows students to say hello to each other and to settle into the learning space for the day. We, as teachers at meetings, also like to have time to say hello to each other before we begin the work we have at meetings. Kids want the same opportunity, and it isn’t tough to facilitate it.  

Greetings can be opportunities to get silly with your class. Just a few weeks ago, we did a greeting in different silly voices, and some kids laughed so hard they cried. The greeting can also be a time to reaffirm one another through compliments or to catch up on our weekends. Coming together as a group is a great way to begin the day. 

On the first day of each new week, our class shares one smile and one frown from the weekend. These smiles and frowns help kids make connections with one another. Oh, you fell when you were skiing this weekend and hurt your arm? Once that happened to me. I went to a birthday party too! Did you eat cake? Through smiles and frowns, we build connections as a class. We also work to develop empathy as we hear about different events in each other’s lives. Now, not everyone is forced to share a smile and a frown because that would take away the safety of the space created through morning meetings. Kids may also share two smiles if they don’t have a frown. The rules are flexible.

Two

Routines Are Life

Kids thrive in routines. Kids knowing exactly what is going to happen first thing in the morning creates a calm start to the day. Usually, around October, kids in my class start to go through the motions of morning meeting all on their own. When I taught first grade a few years ago, a parent needed to speak with me at the start of the day. As I was in the hall, the bell to start the day rang. When I stepped back into my classroom a few moments later, the kids were just finishing up the greeting. Routines are life!

Three

Conflict Resolution

Morning meetings can solve so many of those little issues in the classroom. We frequently have community problem-solving time at the end of the morning meeting. Sometimes kids make small announcements like, I had to pick up ten pencils yesterday that kids just left on the floor. Can you please remember to put your pencils back? Other times I’ll use the activity time of morning meeting to build each other up when we’re having a tough time getting along. Doing a quick compliment chain can change up your classroom environment. Creating a strong community makes a world of difference in the classroom, and conflict resolutions is a large part of that.

FOur

Build Conversation Skills

During morning meetings, we don’t do hand raising (*usually*). We learn how to have conversations together. We’re learning life skills like two people cannot talk at the same time because neither one is heard. We learn how to add on to someone’s ideas. We learn what to happen when two people begin talking at the same time. Knowing basic conversation skills is essential, and morning meeting is the perfect time to practice them and work through the tricky parts.

Five

Do What Works For You

I know the morning meeting format is greeting, share, activity, and morning message. I don’t follow that format exactly. When I taught first grade, we did the greeting, School Tools TV, schedule, and Daily Dendrite Challenge. We also had a feeling word each week that we discussed in depth. Now that I am teaching third, we do it a little bit differently. We typically do a greeting, School Tools TV, and then an activity. On Tuesdays, we always have some sort of quick check-in or lesson on the Zones of Regulation. 

Don’t be afraid to customize morning meeting to fit your style. At the end of the day, our goal is to connect as a community and create a strong bond together. There are many different paths to the same outcome. Do what works for you! 

Do you use morning meetings in your classroom? What benefits do you see? Do you stick to the Responsive Classroom structure or make it your own? I’d love to hear more in the comments below! 

Friday Five: Back to School After Winter Break

Friday Five: Back to School After Winter Break

Going back to school after winter break can be ROUGH! We’ve all been there. Transitioning back into the new year can be tricky. The kids are still in vacation mode, and you might be too. Here are five tips to help reign it in and get back to business after a long break.

Getting Back to School After winter Break

One

Catch Up With Each Other

You just had a break! Take a minute to catch up and share all about your holidays. As an international teacher, students often travel to different countries and places over breaks. We usually get out the map and look where everyone went on holiday. This is a lot of fun. Kids also share what I call smiles and frowns. Smiles are those significant parts of vacation and frowns the not so great part. 


After a break ease back in and take a moment to check in as a community. Maybe that doesn’t look like getting down the map. Maybe it looks like enjoying a cup of hot chocolate or tea and talking about the best parts of our break. Maybe it means taking a moment to write a story about the break. Any way you do it is great. Isn’t the best part of coming back to school after a break catching up with your teacher friends? Let your kids enjoy that too.

Two

Get Back Into Routines

Routines are like the glue that holds all the learning together. I like to remind students of expectations and keep them to it after a break. We usually spend the first weeks back after break reviewing our routines and practicing them. Don’t wait too long to get back into them, or it might feel like you never will. Remember that time spent reviewing routines now will save you time later. Make sure you’ve all got your routines back down before diving too far into learning.

Three

Have some Fun

Joy and laughter are so important in the classroom. Don’t forget while reviewing those routines and diving back into content to take some time for fun. Fun can be anything! Maybe it’s a fun hidden picture, and perhaps it’s an extra Go Noodle video, maybe it’s playing four corners. Just make sure that there’s some fun and laughter in your classroom during your first days back as a teacher.

FOur

Take Time For Yourself

Don’t burn yourself out! Hopefully, you took the vacay to live your non-teacher life. So now, don’t spend the first weeks back living at school. Utilize those prep times and try not to stay too late. Take time to invest in your life outside of school as well. The more you invest in yourself as a person, the better you are as a teacher. Trust me.

Five

Give Yourself Grace

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything worked out perfectly after a holiday? Yeah, I can dream about that world, but realistically it doesn’t. Give yourself grace. Take that time away from yourself. Look into using Calm or another meditation app for those moments when things are too much. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a quick emergency calm session when the kids went to specials. Remember, you’ll get there. You will get back into learning and all of the routines that make your classroom a beautiful place. Rome wasn’t built in a day. 

How do you like to set your self up for success after a break?