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Items to Include in Your Emergency Substitute Binder

Last-minute subs happen all the time. But that doesn't mean your class has to be stuck watching Finding Nemo for the 100th time. Teachers should keep an organized and carefully-prepared binder for emergency substitute teaching.

In an emergency, having a binder like this equips the substitute with all the information they need to teach your class effectively in your absence. It doesn't have to be fancy, perfectly designed, or wildly detailed. As an educator, you deserve a break sometimes, too. But it's hard to relax when you're stressed about your sub. A well-stocked binder will give you peace of mind while you're out sick or away. 

Here are five items every teacher should include in their emergency substitute binder:

1. Classroom Management Plan

A classroom management plan is crucial for teachers and admins. This plan makes sure the substitute teacher can handle the class efficiently. A structured plan secures the learning environment, making it conducive for students.

An ideal classroom management plan should include the following:

  1. Teacher expectations
  2. Student behavior expectations
  3. General classroom rules
  4. Class-specific information (Reward system, specials schedule, restroom policy, etc.)
  5. Schedules for the bell, the classroom, and weekly specials
  6. A how-to guide for using classroom technology
  7. Fire, lockdown, earthquake, etc., school safety information with a map indicating evacuation routes

In an emergency, a classroom management plan establishes clear expectations for the class and promotes productivity. A classroom management plan promotes a positive and engaging atmosphere, enhances learning, and creates a culture that fosters collaboration. Ultimately, it establishes a sense of community in your class during your absence.

2. Emergency Lesson Plans

Always keep a few extra emergency lesson plans in your binder. The lesson plans should include activities to fill the entire class period and information on managing your students before and after the activities.

Many emergency lesson plans are generalized plans. Choose plans that you don't need to update often and can quickly pull at a moment's notice. Examples of emergency lesson plans include:

  • A word search of spelling or vocab words.
  • A group project developing the ideal cast for a book-to-movie adaptation. 
  • A Kahoot! reviewing the format for constructing a 5-paragraph essay. 
  • Coloring sheets on classroom-related topics such as science, music, or math.

The great news is that you don't have to recreate these every year. When you put in the prep work once, you'll be able to re-use these plans in the future. 

3. Class List and Seating Chart

It's essential to have a class list in your emergency substitute binder. The list should include the students' names and any specific notes related to students (Those released to Speech or those that the substitute needs to keep a wary eye on.)

As part of your class list, you should include a seating chart. Ensure you place an updated seating chart in your emergency substitute binder each time you change the seating in your classroom. Chaos can quickly break loose when students change seats on an unsuspecting substitute. 

4. Emergency Contact Information

Emergency contact information is another crucial part of an emergency substitute binder. Teachers often need quick access to administration, campus security, the nurse, office assistants, etc. Ensure you have a list posted near your desk and in your emergency binder so your substitute teacher can contact the correct support staff if they have an emergency or a simple question.

Don't forget to include any co-teacher contact information along with other teachers your students may have contact with, including the PE, art, music, library, and resource teachers.

5. Extra Supplies

It's an excellent idea to have emergency supplies in your substitute binder. Try including a zippered pocket in your binder where you can keep a few small items. These supplies could include:

  • Pencils and pen
  • Sticky notes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Band-Aids

A Long-Term Sub

If you are having a substitute for a significant amount of time, there may be several more items you'll want to include in your substitute binder. Here are a few examples:

  • Student progress tracking
  • Student contact information
  • Guest log-in information
  • Before and after school duty schedule

Prepping Your Emergency Binder Ahead

An emergency substitute binder can save teachers time and stress during a hectic school year. Leave no stone unturned—include as many items as possible from the list. You'll be happy you did. And if you're feeling overwhelmed, try pairing up with other teachers in your grade to share materials and swap ideas. At the end of the day, your emergency substitute binder should save you a headache, not cause one.

Written by John O. Ndar
Education World Contributor
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