About this Site and Me

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Flower Mound, TX, United States
Hi, I am an artist, wife, mom, gamer and the Elementary Art Educator at Donald Elementary, a sweet and wonderful school in Flower Mound, TX (outside of Dallas). This is a great place to see how we are integrating studio habits with technology and interdisciplinary connections. I also love to share my "wisdom" (Re: Experiences. From mistakes.) about teaching Elementary Art. I love what I do, and I've been doing it for a long time. Creating and teaching Art is what I live for. Enjoy.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The realities of teaching: I NEED A SUB!

Updated! A week and a half into the school year and I got knocked out for two weeks by a kidney stone! Are you kidding me?

I need a sub.
Worst sentence ever.

The reality of teaching is that sooner or later, you're going to need a sub.

It might be because a freak winter storm has shut down your neighborhood and you cannot get to work.  

It might be because your kid is sick.

It might be because you have to attend a wedding or a funeral.

It might be because you desperately need a mental health day.

Huh. It might be because you are sick. 

(See how I put us last? Because most teachers HATE preparing for a sub and would rather just go to work.)

The reality is that you teach hundreds of kids and they are spreading their funky germs all over you. And you are allowed to have a life outside of your classroom. 

Full disclosure: your first 2 years of teaching? Yeah, you're going to be sick. A lot. You might even believe you have the plague.
New teacher, this is you. Nah, I'm joking. But not really.

Did you know that teaching is one of the most stressful professions? (Constant stress, year after year, can really mess up your body and mind. Take care of yourselves.)

Listen to me. Trust me. For the love of all that is good and holy, YOU MUST PREPARE FOR A SUB NOW. 

For the kids

I know. Planning for a sub is a PAaaaaiiiiiiiiiiIN. You run the gigantic risk that they won't follow your plans anyway, throwing off your entire week or rotation. 
Which is why most teachers would rather just come to work. 
And then we get run down. 
And then we get sicker.
And then we get REALLY sick.
And then it's too late.

So what do you do? You can't NOT be sick, or NOT go to your sister's wedding, or NOT take care of your sick baby.

There are two types of absences: 

The Planned Absence looks like this, if you are crazy like me:
All directions, student shout outs and materials are neatly laid out. Stress free! Life is awesome!

The Unplanned Absence looks like this (me, the very next day):

...ugh i don't even want to care. 

Why am I apologizing? Because it was a Friday, at seven am. If a sub did not pick up the job, my classes would have been split between the rest of the Specials. That means our Music, PE teachers and Librarian would have had seven to eight extra kids. Which is like a thousand.
Which means their classes/rotations are all thrown off. Domino effect.

But this is what teachers DO. We step in and help each other. We are flexible.

Here's the deal:

You need to be prepared. Right now, right now, if you are feeling healthy, start making emergency sub plans. 
  • Prepare one day plans for all your classes for those single days. Try not to make it a movie, unless it is relevant to what they are learning. 
  • Prepare 1 and 2 week or rotation plans for your kids, complete lessons with exact directions and anything the sub might need (where to find materials, prints, books, etc.) for if (God forbid) you are out for a week or more. 
  • After 2 weeks, your district probably has a Medical Leave Policy, which you would talk to HR about.
  • Consider having Free Choice Centers: free draw, mosaics, modeling clay, finger weaving, magnets, rods and connectors, collage, etc! Pre-train the kids on what to do and your sub will only have to deal with classroom management.


Make sure someone (teammates, dept chair, teacher friends, anyone) knows where this is. This seems silly, but this is very important. Your teacher friends do not know your classroom like you do.

 Include, if applicable:
  • Seating charts
  • Weather, disaster and fire drill plans, etc.
  • Student health and special ed info if your district requires it. Keep it confidential.
  • General info about your philosophy and student expectations (do not assume your sub will be Art Ed certified).
  • Information about the school: 
    • Where to find staff bathrooms and lounge, if there are vending machines, closest restaurants or coffee shops, who to talk to if there are questions and their room number, anything else that might be helpful.
  • Information about your room:
    • Where to find necessary materials, what materials are "off limits", appropriate noise and behavior levels, class rules and procedures, how much time to allow for clean up, end of day procedures, your duties, where to put student art work, anything else that might be helpful.
If your district offers a Sick Leave Bank, join it. I can't tell you how many people tell me they don't join "because they never get sick". And then they do. Or their kid or spouse does. And it comes back to bite them.

Hopefully you will never, ever need to use any of this.

 I do hope that is the case. I really do.

But should you find yourself overwhelmed with the realities of life, it is nice to know that you don't have to worry about your students.

Stay healthy, my friends.



  1. Awesome post! Being sick sucks but having to plan for a sub sucks more! We have new sub service( you used to call in to a district answering machine which one of the secretaries was in charge of getting the subs, it worked, she knew who to call for what teachers, you could count on the people she got to sub...) now it's an on-line service called Aesop, yes we have some of our same awesome subs but there is no guarantee you are going to get someone you know that knows your room! I have gotten some interesting subs since we started using it... sometimes no one picks up the job and then the school's secretary is scrambling to find someone to cover your classes! 8 sick days is not much, especially when you have an existing medical issue! In my district we get 11 sick days, 5 can be unexcused, after that you need a doctor's note( it's noted in our yearly evaluation ) these un-used sick days can be rolled over from year to year and accumulated. I also get 3 family sick days( which can not be rolled over) and 2 personal days ( again cannot be rolled over, but we can get $ for them if we don't use them ) when my kids were young ( I have 2) I would blow through these days! Kids get sick... I would end up having to have my pay deducted for a sub when this would happen ( like the year they both got the chicken pox, one at at time, this covered about three weeks! Luckily I had family to help me out) I have watched colleagues come to work while battling serious illness, while family battled serious illness, it's tough... Thanks for the post! :)

    1. Thanks! It was hard to write, I hate talking about my issues, but everyone has something, right? If we all threw our troubles on the table, we would take ours back in a heartbeat. I do miss those family sick days! Hope you are staying warm ^.^

  2. We have 13 sick and 2 personal days a year, cumulative to 200. Most people don't use them up, but a serious disease will certainly eat through them.

    Good suggestions for prepping for a sub. Since I retired, I've done a little subbing, and I HATE being asked to show movies. It's boring, and the technology never works right. And I like the completeness of your suggestions for what to put in a sub box/handbook. I can't tell you how many times I've subbed and found NO class lists, NO seating charts, NO class rules and procedures. Never assume the sub will just 'know' them. We all have different procedures for materials distribution, painting, discipline, cleanup, etc.

    Good post! Stay healthy!

    1. Thank you! I think this is an issue that newer teachers don't really think about. I know I didn't until I found myself emailing lesson plans from my spa (hospital) bed. And I have seen the frustration when tech does not work, and that look on the subs' face--what now??? All the scrambling and the time lost, it's not necessary. And yes, I am staying healthy! Even if it is delusional, hahahahahaha!