Tips for Planning for a Long Term AbsenceJan 19, 2021
Are you finding yourself coming up on a long term absence and feeling overwhelmed at the thought of lesson planning for while you’re gone? You’re in good company! As I write this, I’m finalizing my lesson plans for my maternity leave that will take me from mid-March through the end of the school year.
When I first sat down to plan, I was met with a lot of thoughts, the main couple being “How am I going to get this all done?” and “What all do I even write?!” I hope these tips will help you stay calm as you write your plans! Please note: This is a guide for planned absences, such as maternity leave. This was not written with unplanned absences in mind.
1. Know How Long You’ll Be Out
I’ve found that a good starting point for planning a long-term absence is to know exactly what “long-term” means at your school. For me, it meant sitting down with my HR representative to figure out when my maternity leave would start and end. Knowing exactly how long you’ll be out helps you know just how much you need to plan!
Keep in mind: if your absence is related with maternity leave, it’s not always guaranteed when it will start! That being said, I am basing my plans off of my due date and adding about a week beforehand, just in case!
2. Find Out Who Will Cover You
Until recently, I was not sure if I would have a musically trained substitute. Due to Covid, our teacher absences have all been covered by people in-house. Not knowing the background of my sub was stressful, but things became much easier once I learned that I would have a music sub.
If you are unsure of what type of plans to leave, it is best to have a way to approach both scenarios. I knew that if someone in-house was going to cover me, I would need to be extremely detailed with my plans, especially with my elementary classes! (Middle and High are doing music history classes this year, so plans are a little easier for a non-music sub in that instance.) On the other hand, having a music sub allows for a little bit more creative freedom, both for you and the substitute.
Since I know my substitute will be musically trained, I am choosing to leave a list of overall goals/standards to accomplish, plus some ideas on how to engage the students. I will explain that the substitute has creative freedom on how they would like to approach the goals with the students. If my substitute was not musically trained, I would have had to be far more detailed and explicit in my instructions.
3. Write Down Everything, Not Just Lesson Plans!
Just like with a regular substitute, your long-term coverage person will need to know how things operate in your building. Let them know about behavioral/discipline procedures, where the restrooms are, emergency drills, and other things like that. They will also need to know about procedures that a one-day substitute may not need to know. For example, my substitute will have to enter grades and comments at the end of the quarter. Will your sub need to attend parent/teacher conferences? Are there any extra duties your substitute will need to cover? Look ahead in your calendar and write down everything your substitute will need to know for the time you’ll be out!
4. Set Them Up For Success
My school is known for being extremely welcoming of new people, so I was not worried about leaving. I knew my students and the substitute would all be in good hands. That being said, I still made sure to write down the names of people who could help in various situations. Grading questions? See this person. Behavioral issues? Call this person! Are you willing to be contacted with questions while you’re out? Let them know! If you set up a support system for your substitute, they will feel more at ease and ready to take on the challenge of filling in for you while you’re gone!
5. Figure Out How Your Coverage Will Be Chosen
I’ve been through several interviews for long-term sub positions, and each one is different. For your coverage, figure out if you’ll be included in the interview process or if it will just be administration handling the questioning. If you’re included in the process, be sure to bring a list of questions you’d like to ask the candidates. Think about questions you were asked when hired for your position and things you’ve learned on the job. Remember: They’re not replacing you, but they will be taking over your role while you are out.
If you are not involved in the interview process, see if you can give your list of questions to whoever will be in charge of meeting the candidates. You want someone to be comfortable and confident in whatever material you leave for them. You also want someone who will be a good fit for your students!
6. What Goals Should Students Have?
When it comes to actually writing your lesson plans, keep the big picture in mind. Like I mentioned earlier, your plans may be more or less detailed depending on what type of substitute you have covering for you. Whatever your situation may be, be clear in what you want the students to learn. I’m leaving my substitute a list of “goals” that the students should be able to accomplish by the end of their time in music class. You can approach this by leaving a list of the standards that need covered, or as a bulleted list of “Students should be able to…” statements. Whatever makes sense to you!
I hope this guide was helpful for you as you plan for your long-term absence. It can be quite overwhelming, but the That Music Teacher community is here to help! If you have further questions or want to become a part of our community, join the General Music Mastermind group on Facebook. It’s full of teachers who are more than willing to help with any music-related topic imaginable. We hope to see you there!
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