The Cat’s Away

So I’m home with a sick baby again today.  I HATE to be gone, but sometimes I just have to be a mom, you know?

So today’s absence reminded me of an idea I learned about recently.  I was out a couple of weeks ago, and I used a great idea from a couple of teachers I met when I attended an EdCamp St. Louis conference earlier this month.  They both teach middle school, and are out of the classroom periodically for activities with their school, and so need to leave plans for a substitute.  Rather than just leaving written ones, they record videos to leave for their classes, often teaching the lesson from their couch and giving directions for what they want their students to do.

Last time I was out, I knew ahead of time, since her fever popped up in teh evening.  So with my MacBook, my plans and my couch, I set to work putting together what I hoped would be a great day of learning for my kiddos, even in my absence.  Here’s what I left as a welcome to the day, along with our normal morning routine screen on the ActivBoard:

After they went off to specials, it was time for Writer’s Workshop in our room:

That big blue button sent them here to this video:

Next in our day was Math Workshop.  This video was a little different, but hopefully just as helpful.

Off to lunch and recess they went, and then back into the room for Read Aloud and then Reader’s Workshop.  Again, a flipchart welcomed them with directions:

Ok, well at least it had a place to send them for directions.  Those were here:

And here:

Social Studies followed Reader’s Workshop, as it normally does, and the lesson that they worked on that day was about the Natural Features of Europe:

Unfortunately this was the last day of the week, since we had a Professional Development Day the following day on Friday. We were also going to be out on Monday, too, since it was President’s Day! That meant I wouldn’t see them for what seemed like FOREVER, so I sent them off to their long weekend with this Goodbye and Good Weekend video:

Ok, so if you’re a frequent visitor to our blog, you know that I can’t write anything without ending with my thoughts and reflections.  And of course the topic of this post means that those thoughts and reflections are definitely doosies! (Is that how you spell that?  There was no choice for it in the dictionary. 🙂 )

(Now would be a great time to take a break and grab a snack if you want one!  I know I didn’t warn you that last part would take so long.  Sorry.  It’s ok, I’ll wait for you.)

Thoughts and reflections from using video sub plans:

Ease: The only reason I tried this whole thing originally is because I knew at around 6:00 the night before that I would be gone.  Since that was the case, I had lots of prep time to get it all ready.  This would not have been possible had I woken up and been surprised with an absence (like today, for example!).  Also, this was for an absence for a sick kid, not a sick teacher.  Had I been the one that was ill, this would have been almost an impossibility.  I hope, though, that since I’ve done it once now, and figured out all the logistics, the next time it won’t take me quite so long to put it all together.  And no, I don’t really want to admit how long it took me.  Ask your kiddo if you want.  I told them. 🙂  The other idea I had just now, though, is to prepare a generic “sub plan video” that could be used at any time if I had to suddenly be out.  It could then be added to my normal sub folder or uploaded to the portal that we use online to secure our subs.  Who knows, maybe I’ll start working on that one.

Logistics: I know this is partly related to the “ease” subject I just mentioned, but what I mean with this one is that there are a lot of logistical things on the school end that have to happen in order for my video plans to work like I had hoped they would.  The substitute has to know how to use the ActivBoard flipcharts I made, they have to know how to log on to my YouTube channel so the videos all play, and they have to be willing to follow the directions I gave in my videos.   So, in a perfect world, this would have been a great way for me to be at school with my students even though I wasn’t able to be there in person.

Impact: While the original reason I decided to try it was because it sounded like a great idea, incorporated technology and was something I hadn’t done before (which is often very motivating for me), I decided as I went through my planning, that maybe just seeing my face would be a subconscious reminder to follow the rules.  You know, unfortunately some kiddos tend to move into a different state of mind when they see a substitute at the front of the room instead of their normal teacher. I was also hoping that having me “teach” the normal lesson they were going to have for that day would help as they tried to keep the learning day as predictable and productive as possible.  I wanted to get the most bang for my buck.  I know that the day is never the same without me as when I’m there, but this was my way of trying to do what I could to help make it as normal as possible.

What experience do you have with using video sub plans?  What suggestions do you have for me? If you’re a parent, what do you think?  If you’re a substitute, have you used video sub plans in a classroom you’ve been in?  I’d love to know your thoughts!  Leave a comment for me. 🙂

5 thoughts on “The Cat’s Away

  1. I just had a sub last week screw up playing a VHS, so there’s no way I’ll be trying this soon. Besides, I DO know how long this probably took you. 🙂 Do your subs get network logins to use when they’re in the building, or did you have to leave your own?

      • I think it’s a little weird that you’d still have VHS in high school. It’s not the same everywhere, but I guess I usually associate newer tech with high schools. Too bad. Wish you could try it. Probably would be even easier if you could get a video ready for one prep that could be used more than once.

      • We still have the VHS so we can still play the old stuff – I deliberately chose a VHS so that if I got an old sub they wouldn’t freak out about logging onto the computer and navigating to a video. Sigh.

    • A little bit of both. Subs have their own desktop on our computers, but unless I put something in the folders they have access to before I leave school, that login doesn’t really do anything. Worked great for my long-term when I was on maternity leave, but not for a regular, unplanned absence.

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