How to Prepare for a Substitute Teacher

Inside: How to prepare for a substitute teacher

Whether you’ll be gone for a day or two or need a long-term sub, it’s so important to know how to prepare for a substitute teacher. Preparing ahead of time is ideal so you don’t have to stress when it is time to take a day off- whether you need to call in sick, or just for personal days. 

As you prepare for your sub, keep in mind that your sub enters dozens of different classrooms each year, possibly in different buildings and districts, and all with different expectations. Letting the guest teacher know what to do as soon as they walk into your classroom will help everything run smoothly for them and you upon your return. Here are some tips for how to prepare for a substitute teacher. Follow these steps, and you’ll be able to rest easy the next time you need a sub.  (Note: This post may contain affiliate links. See disclaimer)

teacher writing sub plans- how to prepare for a substitute teacher

Prepare for a substitute teacher well ahead of time.

Emergencies happen, so you may not always know when you’ll need a substitute teacher. However, having short and long-term sub binders ready to go at the start of the school year will make planning and preparation a cinch!

Put together a Substitute Binder with all of the info your sub will need to know. This information includes class lists, a school schedule, a seating chart, where to find things in the classroom, procedures, and more. Check out the short-term substitute binder to make preparing your sub binder a breeze!

how to prepare for a substitute teacher sub binder

If there’s a possibility that you may be gone for a week or more, you’ll want to include a classroom tour, student profiles, bus information, content-specific tips for coursework, planning sheets, schedules, health/accommodation concerns, and more information. You can find all of this in the Long Term Substitute Binder. It’s perfect for unexpected illnesses or longer prepared absences, such as maternity leave.

how to prepare long term substitute binder

The sub binders are also available on TPT here. You can also grab free sub binder samples in the free resource library!

Make plans simple but learning-centered.

Do you find yourself wondering what to leave for a substitute teacher? Teachers often fear that substitutes won’t follow directions, or teach as well as they would, so teachers default to videos or busy work. 

It doesn’t have to be that way! Write plans that are simple enough to follow but still allow for student learning. Substitute days (when they can be planned) are great days to have your students review material and demonstrate learning on a formative assessment that you can revisit upon your return.

Organizing a sub tub is a great way to get your sub plans put together and ready for a substitute BEFORE you leave. Then, all you or your sub will have to do is get the appropriate lessons out of the sub tub, and you’re good to go! I used this container from Amazon and put my Ready To Go Sub Plans in them.

The Ready To Go Sub Plans includes grade-level content that is print-and-go for your class. They are perfect to put together your sub tub. The lesson plans include real learning but are easy enough for any substitute to follow. They have been used and trusted by thousands of teachers! We have sub plans available from Pre-K all the way through 6th grade. Click here to check out all of our sub plans!  They are also available in my Teachers pay Teachers store. Ready to Go Sub Plans are the perfect way to prepare for a substitute teacher.

You can also grab free sub-plan samples in the free resource library. Be prepared and you won’t have to wonder anymore about what to leave for a substitute teacher!

Leave note forms for the sub.

In your substitute binder or with plans, leave a sub-note to teacher for them to fill out. Giving them a template to jot notes about behaviors (both good and bad), attendance, and curriculum concerns or successes will make them more likely to leave more than just a standard, “Great day!” note. 

Ask for feedback from the sub. This will help you know where your students left off and what you need to address upon your return. 
Are you looking for a substitute teacher end of day report example? I have some for you! These FREE 4 Seasons Substitute Teacher Note Forms will help you get back on track when you return, so it’s a great way to prepare for a substitute teacher.

End of day form

Include a thank you card!

Even if your absence is last minute, you can have a pre-made thank you card in your sub binder. Substitute teachers work so hard, and it’s often a thankless job. There are times you won’t see your substitute teacher often after your absence, so giving them a written thank you can make a huge difference. This will also make subs more likely to want to return to your classroom. If the absence is planned, feel free to personalize the card for an added special touch.

Keep a list of preferred subs.

When you have a substitute teacher that connects well with your kids and teaches the content as you wish, make sure to keep their name and contact information handy. Having the information on hand at school is important, but keeping it digitally or at home is especially handy for those last minute requests.

Sub Planning FREEBIES!

You can check out our free resource library for sub plan freebies– including the substitute teacher end of day report example, thank you cards, sub plan mini-lessons, sub binder form samples, and more!

free sub planning materials

Comprehensive Sub Planning Resources

Love what you see and want more? We have TONS of sub planning resources in the Wife Teacher Mommy shop and in our Teachers Pay Teachers store. From single-day absences,  to week-long absences, or to maternity leave- we’ve got you covered! You will be well prepared for a substitute teacher. Check out the most popular items below, or click one of the shop links above to browse everything!


Getting ready for a guest teacher does not have to be stressful. Knowing how to prepare for a substitute teacher by preparing early and recognizing great subs will help your transition back to the classroom run as smoothly as possible.

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