SOL Tuesday: Dear Substitute

Dear substitute,

Thank you for covering my classes today. Whether we’ve met before or not, I want to share a few fundamental principles which I hope will insure a safe and positive experience for everyone involved. Please consider these first before all the details of managing the day!

1. My students are children who are to be treated with care and understanding. Imagine how you would want a loved one to be treated in a class with an unfamiliar instructor.

2. Safety is a priority. Ask my students to tell you what our rules are that will keep everyone safe. (Look around the gym, they are also posted!)

3. If you are nervous, that’s okay. PE can be loud and it may feel like the kids are out of control. That said, you are also responsible for stopping and starting activity; making sure that equipment is being used responsibly and that students are behaving respectfully towards you and each other. Take heart, the kids are prepared for you to give them some direction.

4. If groups need to be made, here are some possible strategies:

  • Students sit back to back with a partner and then separate = 2 teams
  • Give parameters for group-making: all genders (instead of boys and girls), approximate number per group, mix of ability and interest levels. (For more than 2 groups)
  • No picking of teams by you or by students EVER! If getting into groups takes too long, then that’s their learning for the day. We’re a school, we practice. Over and over again if necessary.
  • Ask them: Are these teams that will give everyone a fair game?
  • Play the game, observe. If games are imbalanced, call them back in and ask them how to correct the unfairness.

5. Enlist their help at every stage. My students like PE. They want to be active, have fun, play the game. As my substitute, my request to you is to please help them make those things happen. Please give them the benefit of the doubt.

It’s really in everyone’s interest that you are successful in this role. It’s a difficult one and I am grateful that you’re able to stand in the gap. I know you probably don’t know these kids or have a relationship with them. And yet they are children in your care.

Please try your utmost to keep everyone safe in body and soul. Remember that most kids want to get on with things; honor their concerns, give them space and opportunity to help you. Good luck!


This post was in response to a Twitter thread about an injustice in PE at the hands of a substitute.

4 thoughts on “SOL Tuesday: Dear Substitute

  1. Your writing is caring and clear. I am sorry to hear that someone had a sad experience with a substitute teacher in PE I have been lucky with subs in my class, very lucky. The PE subs in our school have been great too. They all seem to be fine with the older students. The pre-school seems to scare them the most.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get that. Very young children can be scary to “teach” because they resist too much structure and direction. As they should, I might add. So for a sub, that’s gotta be unsettling. Thanks for reading, Terje.


  2. There’s so much here that can apply to leaving a note for any guest teacher for any subject. I particularly loved some of the things that made this one specific like how to pick teams (and that if it takes too long that’s the learning for the day), how kids might react to an unfamiliar instructor, etc. I appreciate your thoughtful letter… hope that your guest teacher did too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved your approach and kindness towards children- keeping that at the heart of all that you do, no matter where you teach or what you teach. Beautiful post!

    Liked by 1 person

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