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The Value of Providing Feedback for Substitutes

Teacher Absences & Subs

With the new school year just around the corner, there’s a lot on your plate. You’re working hard to ensure that everyone is ready, from bus drivers to teachers. But we’d like to suggest one more thing to consider: adding a commitment to feedback to your substitute management plan. You’ll help your substitutes become more effective in the classroom and gain more visibility into your sub pool’s performance across the district.

We’ve written a lot about the value of feedback in the past, particularly as it relates to educator growth. But substitutes are often left out of these discussions, even though they are key to your district’s operations. Plus, remember the impact they have on student learning: students spend the equivalent of about two-thirds of a school year with substitute teachers over the course of their K-12 journey. That’s a lot of instructional time! So, it’s important to help your substitutes make the most of their time in the classroom by having teachers provide regular, honest feedback.

How to Provide Feedback for Substitute Teachers

Have your teachers get in the habit of documenting substitute performance where possible, and make sure that it’s made available for the substitute to see.

Try not to have substitute feedback communicated over email or through campus mail — you won’t have much visibility as an administrator into which substitutes are doing well, or who isn’t. Instead, consider using an electronic system where teachers can provide feedback online. Teachers’ comments will be more consistent across the district, and substitutes will be better informed as to how they can better improve their skills as educators. It’s a good way to engage with substitutes and show that you see them as part of the educational community.

Even more importantly, by managing substitute feedback online, you’ll gain insight into your substitute pool’s effectiveness. For example, you’ll be able to see which substitutes may benefit from additional support or training, or who may not be the right fit for your district. You can proactively address any possible issues that may arise, before they become a problem for the district. On the other hand, you’ll also know which substitutes are consistently rated highly, which could be very helpful if you hire from the substitute pool. Or, you could identify high-performing substitutes to recognize — whether on social media, at district events or at a Substitute Appreciation Tea.

Regular Substitute Teacher Feedback is Crucial

To get the full picture of substitute effectiveness, regular feedback is crucial. If teachers only leave comments from time to time, you won’t have context as to how substitutes perform on a daily basis. So, encourage teachers to leave feedback for substitutes after every absence. An electronic system like Frontline Absence & Time can automatically remind employees to leave feedback for substitutes, so it doesn’t fall through the cracks.

Make sure that teachers have a set of questions to answer about their experience with the substitute. If you leave it completely open-ended, you won’t have consistent reviews and may not get the information you’re looking for. By default, Frontline’s system asks the following questions, although they can be edited or customized to your heart’s desire:

  • Was classroom work collected?
  • Was the room left as neat and clean as it was found?
  • Was classroom work explained satisfactorily?
  • Did students report that they were treated fairly and consistently?
  • Were any disciplinary issues reported?
  • General notes/comments

By collecting and offering regular feedback, you can help your substitute pool be as effective as possible — which ultimately benefits students. So, make sure that your substitute management plan for the year includes a strategy to collect and act on teacher feedback.

Are you a current Absence & Substitute Management client? If so, you can find additional information about absence and substitute feedback in the Learning Center.

Annie GrunwellAnnie Grunwell

Annie is a writer and part of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. She's passionate about learning, exploring data and sharing knowledge. Her specialties include substitute management, the teacher shortage and best practices in human capital management.