How To Call Out Sick Without Feeling Guilty Or Overwhelmed

You know what DOESN'T make teachers happy? When they want to call out sick, but they have to go into school to set up sub plans at 6 AM. At that rate, isn't it easier to just get through the normal day since you'll be there anyway? NO. NO IT'S NOT. Today I'm going to help you get super happy by helping you to set up no-prep sub plans before the school year even starts. So many teachers feel negatively for one reason or another when calling out sick, but it's just not appropriate for several reasons. You can't do your best teaching when you feel like crap, and you'll probably be sicker for longer than you would if you just took that one day off in the first place.

Pre-made, no-prep, high quality sub plans for free.

I set up sub plans that don't require me to be present, let my students practice valuable skills and don't cost anything. You don't have to pay for some on Teachers Pay Teachers. These sub plans are free. I set them up before the school year even starts, and you can too.

First, get a folder.

Label it "Sub Plans" super clearly, put it in a super obvious place, and tell a few colleagues where it is so they can pull it out and put it on your desk when you text them because you feel like you have the plague. Inside of this folder, make sure to put:
  • Your class list (updated if you get new students)
  • Emergency drill information
  • A copy of your schedule
  • A page about your rules, routines, and classroom management tips that you know will help your substitute teacher.
  • Sub plans for each day of the week
  • Housekeeping slips (like attendance or lunch slips)
  • Morning work materials (I'll discuss that in the next part).
  • A few books they can read in case an activity is finished early.
  • Any other relevant information for your class

Next, set up for your morning.

Usually, I have my students look at their morning work and check in on the smart board when I'm in school. All I do is write the same stuff they would usually do on a few big pieces of construction paper. I put a sticky note on those papers telling the sub to tape the papers to the smart board and to save them for next time. I do the same thing with the morning message. Every day I'm absent, the morning message is the same. It usually sounds something like this:
Dear Team,
Today you will have a guest teacher. I am counting on you to be helpful and responsible. How can you take care of your learning and the guest teacher while I am away? Be ready to share your idea at Morning Meeting today. I can't wait to be back!
 Love, Your Teacher
That's it. If you are a big fan of morning work, keep it super simple. I'm not, so I just give my kids a little extra reader's or writer's workshop time. You could also have kids work on unfinished work.

Now write your sub plans.

Here's what I do for each subject.
  • Morning Meeting- For the greeting, have the kids go around the circle and say their name and favorite subject. Then have the group say good morning to that kid. This gives the sub a little heads up about who each kid in your class is. For the share, have the kids share how they will take care of their learning and the guest teacher while you are gone (just like the Morning Message said), for the activity, have a student lead an activity you've taught early in the year. Make it a quick one with no prep needed. You can snag some ideas for activities here. Then have the class read the message together. Done! Easy peasy.
  • Reading & Writing- I give the kids independent reading or writing time. Because I am a workshop teacher, we just have more time to work on what we've already been working on. I call this a "marathon day" (a chance to practice strategies they love and haven't gotten to work on much, or a chance to work on something they haven't finished yet). Here's exactly what I write in my sub plans:
    Tell the kids they will be having a marathon period in reading, which means they will get extra time to practice what they’ve been doing in class. Have them discuss what reader’s workshop should look and sound like. 
    Next have them think about what strategy they will practice today to push their reading further and why. They can look at the charts in the room to help them make decisions. Have the kids turn and talk to their partner to tell them their choice and why. Share out some answers. 
    Have the kids read independently. Circulate and check in with kids if they need help. Ask them what their goal is, how they’re reaching it, and to prove that they are reaching it. This will help them be more productive. 
    During the last 2 or 3 minutes, have kids share what their goal was and how they reached it. 
  • Math- This one is simple! I have the kids start by finishing any unfinished math work, and then they play independent or partner math games. These are games they already know how to play. Many of them are enrichment games they play when they finish their math work. It's a great time for the kids to review skills you may or may not be learning about at the time. I recommend giving 2-4 options to keep things simple. I also leave a note for my substitute that if students aren't focusing with their partner, they lose the privilege of working with a partner and need to work on an independent math game.
  • Science or Social Studies- In my class, we have a Time For Kids subscription. I often send it home to read for homework (since reading is most of the homework I give anyway), but I keep a few in my sub folder. The kids can read with a partner or independently. The teacher's manual has some worksheets that I ask the sub to copy for early finishers. You can also have the sub read a book on a topic of study you are learning about. If that's the case, I recommend adding books to your sub folder regularly.
  • Word Study- Have students play some games independently or sort their words. What do you usually do? That's what you should do now.
Did you notice how I did not invent the wheel here? I did end up changing my lesson plans as the year went by to add or remove certain math games, but that's pretty much it. If you have any free periods, just have the sub read a book or have students work on unfinished work. Those will probably be more useful than any fancy schmancy game you could print out and leave for the kids anyway.

Now create your sub plans by day.

So you've already done the hard part--you've figured out what should be taught during each subject. Most teachers have a different schedule each day, so now write each sub plan according to day, making sure to add in your specials. Clearly mark each day so your sub knows which papers to pull out of the folder.

If you really want your sub to thank you, include a few brain breaks the kids can play between periods. I include 2 or 3 games the students can play to get the wiggles out, and I always leave the names of a few students who can lead the games. I also leave 1 or 2 calming brain breaks. I write these right into my plans. If your sub will have access to a computer, you can even give them the log-in information for your GoNoodle account. Your sub will experience less negative behaviors when you do this.

When you do this, you'll be able to take your sick day knowing that you have quality plans for your students. YOU CAN SLEEP IN WHEN YOUR BODY NEEDS IT. I cannot believe I used to go to school at 6 or 7 to set up my room for the sub. I would never in a million years ever do that again, and I hope you don't either.

So how do you want to spread the teacher happiness this week? Link up below! All you need to do is write a short blog post with your teacher tip(s), include the above graphic linking back to this post, and comment on at least one other blogger's post. If you don't have a blog, please participate by adding your tip in a comment below!

1 comment

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