Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
What do you do when you arenít going to be able to teach your class? There are several options, but only one of them is valid. Letís take a look at the choices.
1. No show, no call.
This teacher is a leaderís nightmare. Everyone who has been in a presidency has found herself tuning out the speaker as she anxiously takes ďrollĒ during Sacrament Meeting. Are the teachers all accounted for?
When a teacher doesnít show and doesnít call, the presidency has the awkward challenge of racing through the building trying to find a good teacher who can teach without warning. Few teachers have enough experience to do this, and even the best will be unable to teach as effectively as if she had arrived with a prepared lesson and time to ponder. The next forty minutes often turn into babysitting if the students are children, and a hastily assembled discussion if the students are adults, so the students are robbed of their gospel learning time.
Another option is to combine classes if the missing teacher is from a Primary or Youth class, but again, less experienced teachers may not be comfortable adding extra students, and plans may have to change to accommodate the larger group. In the meantime, if this is a Primary class, the children feel unwanted, unloved, and uncared for by their teacher. Iíve heard hurt children, being told the leaders were trying to find a substitute, ask why no one wanted them.
2. Call, but donít find a substitute.
Presidency members dread the phone call that arrives Sunday morning, as the leader is racing around, trying to get her own family ready to leave. She is left to wonder why a person who isnít going to church has less time than she does. Even if you call ahead, you are the best person suited to find a teacher. You know who you feel comfortable giving your students to, and who is suited to their needs. You have the time and only your own class to deal with. I feel safer when I leave my students in the hands of someone I chose myself.
3. Choose a teacher.
You are every leaderís dream teacher. Youíve accepted full stewardship for your class, whether you are there or not!
When choosing a substitute, consider how long youíre giving the person to prepare. The less warning youíre giving them, the more experienced they need to be. Also consider the students. If you have an easy, relaxed group of students, a less experienced substitute can be chosen. If, however, your students are very shy, or very challenging, youíll need a more experienced teacher.
What class do you teach? Many adults are nervous about teaching Gospel Doctrine class, so more experienced teachers are a better choice. If you teach Sunbeams, donít choose someone who hates children.
Make the job as simple as possible. When I can, I provide the substitute with a list of children, and include notes about them. (Donít let Susan and Alice sit together because they talk. Katie has poor vision. After showing the pictures to the class, hand them to her so she can hold them close to her eyes. James is very shy. If he cries, he prefers to be ignored until he calms down.) If you teach an adult class, you donít need to do this unless there is something special the teacher should know about a class member and may not know.
I turn over my teacher bag to the substitute. Since I teach Primary, it has crayons, stick puppets, the beanbag and other basic supplies. Its familiar presence often comforts nervous children. However, it also simplifies the task for the teacher, who may not have the appropriate items on hand. Even if you teach adults, providing an outline of the lesson and the supplies will give the teacher a starting point, even if she doesnít end up using it.
Describe for the teacher your routine and any rules you have, so the students will maintain consistency and the teacher will have a greater chance of success.
If you can use the same substitute each time, do so, particularly if you teach children. They will feel safer this way.