Last minute sub plans

“You’re daughter was just crying and saying she wanted you. It’s not like her, so there might be something up.” The daycare teacher looked concerned. 

Victoria came up behind me with tears in her eyes. “Mama, I missed you.”  

She reached up for me to pick her up. At 6, this is getting difficult to do. But when there are tears in her eyes, I will keep trying to lift her up even when she’s 16.  

I lifted her up and put her cheek against mine, and she felt really warm. But we’d just had a heat wave, with temps at 108 and 109. So I thought maybe it was from playing outside. 

Nope. I took her temp at home and it was 104.6. 

My husband is also a teacher and coaches football. He took a day off to care for our 1 year old when she was sick the first week and recently had two pull out days for curriculum trainings for his new History textbooks. 

It was my turn to be out.  We feel lucky that we both teach. He understands when I absolutely cannot take another day off right now and vice versa. But this would be my first sub day of the school year. 

I dread sub days. They are so much more work than just being at school. And most of the time the sub cannot help the students with the math, so I always plan on leaving something behind they can do independently which often translates to busy work. The work is often done poorly and I usually get a note from the sub about how poorly behaved my students were. 

I hadn’t figured out how I was going to handle sub days this year yet. We just switched to CPM. Barbara, our CPM trainer and teacher at a nearby district, said in May that CPM classroom runs itself and that she will leave behind a lesson for her kids to do, and they actually do it! 

Desperate in my classroom at 8 pm, with a sick 6 YO at home, I decided, why not? Why not give the students the lesson I was planning before my daughter got sick. Best case scenario it works and we just need to check answers. Worst case scenario, they don’t get it and I’m no worse off than if I’d left them busy work. 

So I left the substitute teacher my usual sub letter. Explaining classroom policies, the lesson, and thanking them for taking my classes. 

It dawned on me that my students should also get a sub letter explaining my expectations and what they needed to get done in class. 


First period the day I returned, my Ed Tech Director (Kris Boneman) and our Ed Tech Coach (Matt Vaudrey) came by to see how CPM was going. I warned them I’d been out the day before and explained what I’d left for my students to do and that I had no idea how successful it had been. 

Every teacher could tell you, you’re a little (or a lot) disorganized the day you return from being out, especially if it was last minute. Well, my students marched in, got out their homework, checked their answers and started working while I circulated, checked how far each group got on the previous day’s lesson, and got organized. 

CPM, CPM team roles, and the structure of the CPM lessons, have helped my students become a little more independent. And gave me some grace when I needed it. 

This was only the first absence. I have to be out 2 days this week for district business and for the Southern California Math Specialist meeting.  I hope it works again. I will keep you updated. 

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