The daily musings of a substitute teacher in East Central Illinois.

Leaving a Report

Today I was an English teacher at Mahomet-Seymour High School. I am not certain what the grade level of my students was, but I think they were juniors. Most likely. It was an interesting day. The teacher for whom I was subbing had been gone on  Tuesday and Wednesday also because her five-year-old son has had the stomach flu. So things were kind of in a bad state. Even worse, the previous subs did not leave any real reports for what they did.

On the sub plans for Tuesday, there was one brief note jotted at the very end: “Everything went well.” No details, no name, nothing. Just that. For Wednesday there were a few more notes, but they didn’t say much. “3rd period was chatty. Finished p. 152. 4th period was more on task. 5th and 6th periods were great.” A name of sorts was signed at the end, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it said. And the notes gave no indication of what actually happened during the day.

This got me thinking. What do most subs do at the end of the day? I have a very specific routine I go through at the end of every day/assignment. First, I make sure the floor is free of large debris and put all the desks back where they belong, as needed. I make sure all of my personal belongings are packed away in my bag so that I don’t leave anything behind, as I have done on more than one occasion. Then I take out my portfolio (black vinyl folder that holds a legal pad) and leave a report for the teacher. The report includes the following items:

  • The date
  • A general overview of the day (things went well, things were good, things were not so good, etc.) I also try to address the teacher’s absence and, if I had been requested, thank her/him for asking me to sub for that day.
  • A detailed description of the lessons for the day: what was planned, what was accomplished, evaluation/assessment, suggestions for follow-up. (During the day I will jot notes in the margins of the plans to help me keep track of this information.)
  • An overview of the students’ behaviour, with any specific descriptions as needed. (These include not just the discipline/behaviour problems but also the students who were phenomenal).
  • Any comments from other teachers (only applicable at the elementary level, when the students have Specials like PE, Art, Music, Library).
  • Final comment, wish for the teacher to feel better (if appropriate), and an offer to return any time needed (although there are some classes where I leave this out because I may not have a strong desire to return).
  • I close the report with my name (Alex T. Valencic), email address, and phone number.

Most of the time, these reports are only a page long. It really doesn’t take that much time to give this information. Today’s report was two pages long, but that was because the teacher had specifically requested that I leave a detailed report and there was very specific information she needed, mostly because the previous subs had no left it. The longest report I have ever left was four pages long, and it was for a teacher who had a very large number of disruptive students. (When she told the class that the report was that long, one of the students had suggested it was a good thing. The teacher responded, “No report from a sub that is four pages long is ever a good thing.”)

The reason for my reports is simple: I put myself in the place of the regular teacher. I have left my class for a day and entrusted the care of my students to a stranger. I would want to know what happened. Were my plans followed? What did the class learn? How much of the day will I have to repeat when I return to make sure they are actually on track? How will I make up the lost time, if there is any? What students need to have phone calls made to parents for misbehaving? Who should be rewarded for exceptionally good behaviour? How can I contact the sub if I have any other questions, or I want to request him/her in the future?

It has occurred to me that, of the few times I have seen notes from other subs left for the teachers, I’ve never seen one the way I do them. So it still makes me wonder: what do the other subs do? And, along those lines, is it reasonable for me, as a future regular teacher, to hope for such a reports from my substitutes? I don’t know. My answer to both would be a hope for an affirmative reply, but different teachers have different expectations. If you are a full-time teacher and you have subs, what do you expect? If you are a sub, what do you tell the teachers? If you are neither, what do you think of my approach? I am always interested in improving my craft and would appreciate any feedback!

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