This being my fouth year supply teaching, I've come across the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to classrooms, dayplans, and expectations. I thought I would take the opportunity to mention some important information that can help my day supplying in your class run smoother:
  • Tell me about students in your class that may be a concern. It's great to know who I should be watching out for, and even better to know what to do if there is a problem. What strategies work? What are the student's triggers and how can I avoid them? This information can make the difference between a good day or a bad day for myself and the student.
  • Explain classroom management routines. I have my own, but if the kids are used to what you do and respond well to it, it makes sense for me to be consistent if I can make your system work for me. A few basic routines like how you get their attention or how your reward system works can be helpful. One teacher I covered for had a complicated system of strikes and points, plus a tracking system for learning skills. The kids tried to explain the first time (they wanted the points), but I wasn't very successful at implementing the system. Next time, the teacher wrote out how it works and I was able to use the strategies to effectively manage and assess the students.
  • Avoid leaving work for me to mark, unless it is really black-and-white. Often I am asked to mark work, but it can be quite a subjective process, even if it seems straightforward at first glance. It helps if you provide answer keys and/or exemplars for anything you want me to mark and an explanation of how you usually mark work. Do you make corrections or get students to correct it? Do you underline, X, circle incorrect answers? Do you have a tracking sheet? Etc...
  • Along with that, let me know what you want me to do with completed work. Should I collect it all and leave it on your desk for you? Do the students have duotangs or folders to put the pages in? Do you have file folders or bins in your room to organize their work? This will save you from looking for the work when you get back, or having stacks of paper on your desk that didn't need to be collected.
  • When explaining a lesson, provide examples. Whether it is a writing assignment, art project, or math problem, if I know what I'm working toward, I will be better able to explain the activity to students and achieve the desired outcome. Sometimes plans make a lot more sense when I can see it (especially since I'm a visual learner), rather than read an explanation of how to do it. It will also make more sense to students if they can see an example of what they are to produce.
  • Give me more than a one or two word explanation of your lesson (i.e. a "Post-It Note" lesson plan) and especially avoid the phrase "Students know what to do." Inevitably, there will be students that don't know what to do and/or there will not be a consensus among the students about the expectations for a lesson or assignment. Even if students are just finishing up assignments, it is still helpful if I have a rubric or outline so I can effectively assist students and keep them on task.
  • Have extra work available or routines in place for early finishers. I have been in the situation far too often when a lesson or assignment takes significantly less time to complete than expected, or most of the kids have already finished their work during previous work periods, and then I have half the class that needs to be otherwise occupied while the rest finish. Having something already in place for them means that I won't be left scrambling to find something engaging and productive for them to work on. I have no problem filling up 10 or 15 mins here or there, but not half of every period in the day.
  • Along with my previous point, make it clear what you are expecting to be completed and what is extra. Sometimes I feel like I have to rush through things to get to everything and get it all done, but if I know what your priorities are, I can focus my energy on that and aim for quality of work over quantity.

One last piece of advice from this side of the fence: be flexible. I am not you, so I will not teach your lessons or conduct the day exactly the way you would, regardless of how detailed your lesson plans are. Recognize the fact that in most cases, I don't know your students' names or what their needs are as learners, I don't know your routines and expectations, and I don't know the rules and routines of the school. Having a detailed OT binder/folder is very helpful to inform me about your classroom and school routines and expectations, because every school and classroom is different. However, students will respond differently to a new face and there are sometimes circumstances beyond my control that result in changing things up in order to get through the day. Please understand that I am not trying to undermine what you do with your class, but I am human, I will make mistakes or misinterpret your plans, and sometimes I have bad days too. In the words of Red Green, "We're all in this together."

12/20/2012 2:39am

Great points, Jessica! I agree with every one of them and would like to add one more. At the very least, please provide an updated seating plan. Ideally, include student pictures. It would be helpful and save an OT the headache of figuring out who is who and whether they are in the proper seat. It becomes much easier to manage behavior once students realize that you know their names.


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