top of page

5 Minute Clinic: Show Up For Your Students, Even When You're Absent

One of the most stressful scenarios for me, when I was teaching, was days I had to be absent. Whether it was planned or unplanned, it was overwhelming for me to think about how to prepare for a sub. I also worried about the flow of the day and the quality of the learning experience for my students.

Now, before I go any further, let's make sure that we all acknowledge and recognize that things in your classroom are not going to go perfectly when you’re absent. It’s really just the name of the game. However, in my experience, there are certain strategies that helped me facilitate a smoother experience with a little time investment upfront.

Here are my top tips for how you can still show up in your classroom, even when you're not present;

Tip #1

The first thing I did to create a smooth experience was create a sub-template. This template was a grid-style layout that included the time blocks of our day as well as a play-by-play explanation of all of the various routines that were important for the sub to understand. Having this template made creating sub plans more streamlined because all I would need to do was make small tweaks to my already created template.

Tip #2

Next, I started implementing something called the Pomodoro technique. This is a time management strategy developed in the late 1980s by a man named Francesco Cirill. With this method, there is a 25-minute period of focused work followed by 5-minute “breaks.” The Pomodoro technique is great for gamifying productivity, combating distractions, and (most of all) making big tasks feel more manageable.

In my classroom, I broke our learning periods into Pomodoro chunks. When I did this, I found that students were not only focused but were assured by the fact that after 25 minutes, they’d have a few minutes to rest and refocus. Implementing this in my classroom helped me with planning for subs because I could share this simple strategy as part of my sub plans. It’s a win-win for all involved. The sub and students had manageable workloads with built-in breaks and I get the satisfaction of knowing that our classroom routine is being maintained because it's simple and effective!

Tip #3

The last thing I did to show up even when I had to be absent is… I digitized my lesson plans. I used an online lesson template that I could provide my students with a link to each week so they could have access to the day or week’s lessons. I love templates from SlidesMania because they’re equal parts functional and pretty.

The templates I used allowed students to click on the days of the week to access pages where they can view the lessons and activities for the day. I liked to include links, pdf attachments, task lists, and even links to instructional videos and screencasts that scaffold and enhance the learning experience.

This final strategy is one that isn’t for everyone. It primarily works with upper elementary, middle, and high school students while. It also heavily depends on technology.

In the event that your school doesn’t provide lots of access to technology, you’re not technology savvy, OR you are teaching younger students, think about you might provide a simple visual checklist that uses pictures to help walk students through simple tasks they can do.

This part is really important - you’ll want to make sure you’ve integrated this type of strategy into your classroom structure BEFORE hand so that students have an expectation of the routine and can associate the images or simple sentences with the appropriate task.

These strategies certainly aren’t perfect but in my experience establishing routines that move your classroom as close to “student-run” as possible is one of the keys to feeling confident when you have to leave your student with a substitute. Keep in mind that the experience won’t be perfect, but at least you’ll have the peace of mind that you’ve set your students - and your sub - up for success!

Resources Mentioned in This Episode


If you are enjoying the podcast, please do me a HUGE favor and rate, share, and subscribe to this podcast. My hope is that the experiences and gems shared on this show will inspire teachers to become better versions of themselves as they redefine what it means to teach well and prioritize themselves.

4 views0 comments
bottom of page