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! 

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! 

How to Plan Seesaw Posts

How to Plan Seesaw Posts

Using Seesaw

Seesaw is one of my favorite new tech tools in the classroom. It makes communication between home and school seamless. I started using it a few years ago, and I have improved so much! Let’s talk about how to plan seesaw posts to enhance your parent communication. 

I initially began using Seesaw as a first-grade teacher. Our kindergarten program was Reggio Emilia inspired. A large part of the Reggio approach is using pictures as documentation to show learning. Parents received a file folder filled with photos that documented each week’s learning. I couldn’t compete with that! The grade one classroom was structured differently, and while we took pictures, we no longer took as many photos as they did the year before. Our documentation of learning happens differently. I had to bridge the expectation gap somehow, and that is where Seesaw saved me. 

My assistant teacher took pictures of the students in one class period every day and shared it on Seesaw. As we got into our school year, the kids began posting messages about their learning. Parents loved it! Homework used to be the way that parents kept up to date with their child’s education. Today, as we follow the research, there’s less homework sent home. Parents still desire that connection to school; Seesaw helps fill in that gap. 

How to Plan Seesaw Posts

Reflect

First, reflect on the learning in your classroom. Each week I start with a simple reflection that I am already doing- this isn’t extra work just for Seesaw. What are my instructional goals in each subject? How could I use a post to teach parents about something? What do parents want to see? What might be some useful posts for the week? When planning seesaw posts, I don’t like to go out of my way to make Seesaw posts. I want them to be natural parts of our learning or meaningful extensions of the work we’re doing. Let’s take next week as an example.

In reading, we’re working to envision our stories. We’re working to make a movie in our minds about what is happening on the page. I know that many parents and students believe that if they read the words and can do a quick retell, they understand and comprehend the book. As a teacher, I know that the level of comprehension required in my grade level is much deeper than that. 

Possible Posts: 
-Students can share a stop and sketch by taking a picture and recording how the stop and sketch helped their understanding of the text. 
-A student could do a digital stop and sketch. They could draw out what is happening in their story and record themselves reading the paragraph that led to this stop and sketch.

In writing, we’re working on publishing personal narratives. I always like to use Seesaw to document the editing and revision process. It is simple and a great reflection tool for students to show what they started with, what changes they made, and why those changes were made. This way, when parents see the final product, they know a bit more about the work that went into making this piece. As a teacher, I also know that parents can sometimes expect perfect finished pieces. Adding the editing and revising process to Seesaw would show just how much the student improved their writing.  

Possible Post: 
-Have students take a picture of their story at the end of a writer’s workshop lesson and explain what changes were made. We write in black pen and edit in green pen so new changes will be visible.

In math, we’re working to understand the distributive property of multiplication. I know that many parents were raised on answer-getting math, just like I was. We memorized definitions of different properties, and that was that. I know that adding a post with a deep understanding and description of the property can help parents see why connected learning is so important in math. 

Possible Post: 
-Perhaps I could create an activity where students could solve a problem using the distributive property on Seesaw and then could record themselves explaining how they solved it.

In science, we’re working to understand forces. Science is always such an easy one for me to share. I feel like science lends itself to sharing so naturally. Kids LOVE to take pictures and videos of experiments as we engage in the scientific method. As a teacher, I know that science has shifted with the NGSS. Using Seesaw could help parents see how science class now intertwines science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas. 

Possible Post:
-Recording of an experiment with an added caption about the experiment

In word study, we are studying long and short e. We’ve worked on sorting out different patterns and are working to incorporate this spelling pattern into our writing. I know that word study is another large shift for teachers and parents. No longer are we memorizing a list of words we’re studying that patterns in words. 

Possible Posts:
-Create an activity where students sort words into different categories.
-Have students find long e and short e words in their writing and double-check that they are spelled correctly or explain which pattern is used. 

From this quick reflection, I have so many possible Seesaw posts that tie into our learning. Now I have to figure out which ones would be most meaningful for students and parents. Remember that Seesaw allows students to share their learning, but it also creates a story and sends a message to parents about what’s happening in your classroom. 

Plan Your Seesaw Post

Types of Posts

https://msnatashatheodora.com/classroom-community/friday-five-student-centered-classrooms/

Now that we’ve reflected, it is time to plan. The screenshot above shows the different types of posts students can create. 

    1. Photo- A photo uses the device’s camera to take a photo. Once the picture is taken, there are so many great tools that a student can use to demonstrate learning. They can add labels or a caption. Kids can record themselves talking while the image is displayed. They can take another picture and layer that on top of the first image. They also have drawing tools available to demonstrate learning.
    2. Drawing- A drawing presents the student with a blank page and all of the same tools available on the photo. They can use the drawing, labeling, and picture tools while creating a drawing. 
    3. Video- Creating a video uses the device’s camera to record. Just a fair warning that depending on the age of your students, you might want to do a quick lesson on camera stability before letting them record. I’ve been taken on quite a few motion-sickness inducing videos before! 
    4. Upload- Here, students can upload something they already have. Maybe they are working on a google doc that they want to share. Or perhaps the picture or video they want to upload is already on the device. This is the one for them. 
    5. Note- When posting a note, students have access to a sort of word processor. They can type up what they want to share and later can record.
    6. Link- The link is where students can paste in a URL, and it will display the link. Students then have the option to record and discuss the link.

Think about which tool might best slide in with the learning already happening in your classroom. Which one is the best choice for your students? Remember that you don’t want to overwhelm parents with a bunch of things that aren’t meaningful. Which ones are the most meaningful? What is the story you’re creating and sending home to parents? 

Assign an Activity

When you assign an activity, you can choose from already created and shared activities, or you can create your own activity. To be honest, I rarely just assign an activity from the activity library. Usually, I need to make a few tweaks to the activity to make it seamlessly fit into our learning.
I usually create activities for all the posts we share. This is because I have a large number of students in my classroom whose native language isn’t English. Strategies for non-native English speakers are suitable for all students. I think it is helpful for students to see the directions after I have given them, so I try to always create an activity for whatever we are going to post. When I create an activity, it stays in my library. That means I can look back from year to year and reuse activities instead of having to generate new ideas each and every year.

Action!

It’s time to take action and plan out your first post. Click on the picture to get a free Seesaw planner!

If you’re not already on Seesaw head over to Seesaw’s youtube channel to learn more about getting started on the platform. You’ll need parent permission before students start posting. You will also want to connect with all of your families. Seesaw just rolled out a new option, which makes connecting families easier than ever!

Please know that Seesaw is extremely responsive. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram, or Youtube for more information. Seesaw is really dedicated to listening to teacher feedback and making sure that using their platform creates the best experience for everyone!

Best of luck!

Are you a Seesaw user? How do you plan out your posts? Do you have any other tips to offer up? Leave a comment below to share some more pro tips with us!

If you’re new to Seesaw comment below about how your first post went!

Weekly Wisdom

It does no good to teach a child to FIX errors if they don't know how to FIND them. Fountas and Pinnell

Weekly Wisdom

The objective of education is not to fill a man's mind with facts; it is to teach him how to use his mind in thinking. Henry Ford