Recently, a teacher asked me about what to tell students when you have a planned absence.  Do you tell your class you’ll be out or say nothing?  As I thought about my answer, I realized, there are probably different schools of thought and, as with many complex topics, no right or wrong answer.  So, let’s go through some of the pros and cons for telling vs. not telling.

Telling Your Class You’ll Be Out


  • Set/reiterate expectations for behavior with a substitute while you’re away
  • Guide students towards understanding routines may differ with a substitute teacher
  • Practice problem transitions or behaviors with the whole group or individuals who may need it


  • Could cause anxiety for children knowing their teacher will be out and routines may be different
  • Inconsistency – you can’t always know and tell when you’ll be out

Not Telling Your Class You’ll Be Out


  • No time is taken with guided practice and/or reminders about expectations, etc. when you’re out
  • Expectations are set and you don’t have to heighten anxiety about being out


  • Behaviors potentially could be worse
  • You may have to deal with issues when you return

The reality is, you can’t always know when you’ll be out, so in my experience, I usually did not warn my class when I’d be out.  What I did do, was the following:

  • Leave a note for the entire class reminding them of expectations around behaviors and being flexible with routines (see below)
  • Leave notes for specific children I know will have a difficult time with a substitute (see below)

Sample Note to Whole Class (I might tack this to the regular morning message):


Dear Class,

I know you will remember all the rules with our guest teacher today.  Please remember to be flexible and listen to the guest teacher!  I know you will have a fantastic day!


Sample Note to Individual Student:

Dear John,

Please help the guest teacher by remembering to follow the class rules.  I know you are going to have a wonderful day!  I will miss you and can’t wait to hear all about your day tomorrow!


I would leave the class note taped to the morning message for the sub to read and usually leave individual notes on at a student’s seat, but sometimes leave them for the sub to deliver and read.

Do you tell your class when you know you’ll be out?  Why or why not?

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