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Letter to a Substitute – Take Care of My Kids

Not all substitute teachers are bad. Most are amazing.


I used to be a substitute teacher when I first began my career in education.

Unfortunately, most substitutes are not teachers. Also, there are a few who are not in it for the kids. For them. it’s a job. It’s a paycheck, so finding good subs, as most teachers will tell you, is not easy.

The best substitutes are always taken first.

So what do we do when we have to be out of the classroom?

We create lesson plans that are basically busy work, and hope that the substitute teacher cares enough and competent enough to at least follow our lesson plan and treat our kids with respect and kindness.

Many times, when we return to class, we cringe when we read the sub’s report.

It lists the names of all the students who were bad for the sub. When we ask the class about what happened, we often hear stories of how the sub got frustrated and started yelling, or how he/she humiliated a student in front of the class, and we promise ourselves that we are never going to be sick again.


This is why I hardly took a day off.


Wouldn’t it be nice if we could sit down with a substitute and explain how our class works, and what we as teachers expect from him/her?

Since most of the time we don’t know who is going to be our sub until the day we’re out, it might be better to have a letter prepared to leave on your desk for the sub to read.

What would you include in that letter, Sam?

I’m glad you asked.


Dear Substitute Teacher,

Thank you for taking my class today.

Attached you will find the lesson plans for today. Please follow them as closely as possible as I spent a lot of time creating them. My goal is that the plans will not only provide the students with instruction that will help them be more successful on the next test or project, but also allow you to have an easy day.

I would also like to share a little bit about our class, so you have an idea of what to expect.

First of all, I have spent the entire year building positive relationships with each of my students. They are all very important to me – even those students who may be a bit more challenging than the rest.

They are not accustomed to being yelled at or in any way made to feel less than amazing.

They are not perfect by any means. They will make decisions without thinking through the consequences of their actions, but please remember that they are only kids. If you have to call a student out for making a poor choice, please do so as discreetly as possible. I would appreciate it if you can leave the student’s name for me, so I can follow up with him/her when I return.

Also, contrary to what you may have been told by other teachers, it’s OK to smile. My students are used to seeing a smiling teacher.

I have been given the honor to spend this year with these students. They are very special to me, and it is difficult for me to leave them in the hands of another teacher, if only for a day.

I expect you will benefit from the time I’ve spent creating a positive learning environment  in our classroom. My kids are amazing, and I can’t wait to return.

Again, thank you so much for agreeing to be my students’ teacher today. I know you have a wonderful day.

My contact information is below. Please text, email or call me if you have any questions or concerns.


leaving sub plans

Feel free to use this letter the next time you have a substitute.

As a substitute teacher, I used to start the class with my angry face, because I learned that I had to assert myself with the kids, so they didn’t misbehave.

As a teacher, I hated hearing that my kids had a mean sub who treated them less than the amazing students that they were.

Get a PDF copy of this letter. Click here!

To all you substitute teachers who see your job as more than just babysitting, thank you for taking care of our kids. Thank you for seeing them as the amazing children that they are. Thank you for smiling. Thank you for your patience with our more challenging students. Thank you for keeping our classes safe and positive.

Until next time,

Here’s to your Success in the Classroom!






  1. Pat's Gravatar Pat
    February 12, 2014    

    I’ve been known to check out subs in other classrooms. If I like how they are doing and how the kids respond to them, I ask them for their contact info before they leave. If I know I’m going to be out on a certain day, I even invite them into my classroom for a class period to observe. They get to see how I run my class and what is “normal” for the classroom with me in charge. I introduce the sub and say that this class is the best class in the school and I’m sure that the sub will love filling in for me. Later, when I’m alone with the class, I ask them not to make a liar out of me and to make me proud of them if I’m out. I also leave very detailed lesson plans to help the sub and try to cover all possibilities. Many of the management details can be copied to future sub plans. This has really helped on the few days that I’m ever absent. Once I’ve even skyped into my class to see how things were going when I was at a conference. I might even call and talk to some of them over the phone. If I prepare the students ahead of time, they usually can handle the change in schedule much better.

    • Sam's Gravatar Sam
      February 12, 2014    

      Awesome ideas Pat. I really like the idea of Skyping into the class. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Laura's Gravatar Laura
    April 6, 2016    

    I disagree with the comment that most subs are in it for the paycheck. Subbing doesn’t make much money, and there aren’t any benefits. I feel that subs are often recent graduates from a credential program, or are trying to get back into teaching after taking time off for a variety of reasons. Most subs are trying to get there foot in the door at a certain school, or are trying to get their name known within the district. I know that’s how I was when I was subbing, and now that I have my own class- I try to do everything in my power to make my sub’s day easy. Subbing obviously is a lot less work- (no grading, planning, meetings, parent conferences, after-school reading groups…)but it’s also tougher in a lot of ways. Subs start the day not knowing names, there’s no emotional connection to the kids, they don’t have the background information on the kids…each day is kind of like survival. As a teacher- it’s the relationships formed with the kids that make all the other things worth it. Subs don’t get that pay-off, yet they still walk into the unknown day after day hoping for the day that they get a class of their own.

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