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Friday, December 14, 2012

No Words- And What Every Teacher Should Have in their Classroom

I have no words to write about what happened today in Connecticut. This is one of those times when words just aren't enough. My heart is so heavy thinking about all those who are hurting today- the parents who worried and prayed and received the most unthinkable news, the children who witnessed the horror of one person taking the lives of many others and who will never be the same, the teachers who watched their workplace become a place of massacre and the students they care so much about being terrified, scarred, hurt... and worse.

When a teacher prepares a classroom for the year, there's always a sense of excitement and maybe a little nervousness, at least in my experience. I usually find images of students learning and growing in the space I've prepared pop into my head unbidden. All the anticipation of new students to get to know, new minds to help shape, new personalities to enjoy.... all this goes into the preparation of a classroom. Generally, teachers create a space that is organized, functional, aesthetically pleasing, and full of positive energy.

A classroom, a school, is not meant for violence; not meant for death, not meant for rage or hatred or fear.

My prayers are with those affected directly and indirectly, for all school age children, for parents everywhere who will hesitate, if ever so slightly, before putting their first-grader on the bus on Monday morning, and for us as a nation and a society.

*                                          *                                           *

As a substitute teacher, I know that in a situation (God forbid) anything like what happened in Connecticut, many subs would not be prepared and would not know the school protocol.

I've subbed in fifteen different classrooms so far, and only one teacher put a copy of the emergency protocol in the sub binder.

Now, I know that many teachers out there have a very, very, very organized and detailed sub binder/folder/tub, but not everyone includes the most vital information. As a sub (and a newer one at that), here are some things that I would definitely want to have included in a subbing binder.

-A complete class roster. I know that in middle and high school, students move from classroom to classroom, but in case of an emergency, it's vital that your sub knows who is in their class. Even more helpful would be short notes if possible- students with special needs, dietary restrictions, physical limitations, etc. I've also noticed that a lot of times, if the roster is printed off from the attendance website, it will cut off the last few names. Double check and make sure you've got them all.

-A list of important phone numbers. Give your sub the extension to the main office, to the person in charge of student behavior while you're gone (for some, students are sent to the principal's office, for others students are sent to a Time-Out room, etc.), and to another teacher, perhaps someone who you work with closely, who can help if there's a problem.

-A School Information page. As a sub, I'm in lots of different schools, and it can be hard to remember exact addresses and so on. On this page, include the school's address, your room number and your name, and the school's phone number.

-A list of emergency procedures. Keep in mind, your sub has a lot of information to go through in a relatively short period of time before your students get to school in the morning. This list should be just the basics. Save the detail for another page (perhaps use the detailed school procedures document and put it in your binder or folder after this one).

As a sub, I should know the fire evacuation plan and where to take the students once we evacuate, the tornado/hurricane/earthquake plan (depending on your location), what to do in case of a lock-down, what to do under bomb threat, and what to do in case of an intruder. Make your list clear and concise, and give me a name, room number, and phone number of a nearby teacher who can help if I have questions.

-Tell me where to find... (maybe have these present in a sub tub or easily accessible in a drawer)
      A flashlight
      A whistle
      An emergency use first aide kit (include a face shield for rescue breathing)

I would also encourage your sub to take the binder or folder out of the room with them as needed. An emergency could take place while your class is on their way to one of their specials, during recess duty... And make sure that you tell the sub to take the binder with them in case of an emergency.

As teachers, we all care deeply about our students and want the best for them. By preparing your substitute teacher, you are doing your best to make sure that your students are well taken care of even when you're not able to be there.

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