Coach Life: Being Teacher for the Day

It’s not uncommon for instructional coaches to fill in for teachers when they are absent from school. An instructional coach is a former teacher and often certified in the area in which they serve. However, when an instructional coach fills in for a teacher, it takes them away from their duties of supporting all teachers and students in the building. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a habit to use instructional coaches to fill teacher vacancies.

Coach Life_ Being Teacher for the DayIn the event that an instructional coach is being teacher for the day, below are tips to ensure it is a successful transition.

Prior to Absence

If you have a heads up that a teacher is going to be absent and you are the one filling in for them, ask for a quick run down of the day- subjects/topics being covered, announcements or special projects, behavioral expectations/rules, etc.

If you do not have a heads up that a teacher is going to be absent, consult their “Emergency Substitute Plans.” Some schools hold all teacher’s sub plans in the front office, or they might be located in the teacher’s classroom.

If there are not any emergency plans (or you cannot access them), get in touch with the team lead of that grade level to determine what content should be covered, what activities to complete, etc.

Most importantly, be sure to consult any behavior or Individualized Education Plans students have in that classroom. You will need to ensure that you provide appropriate accommodations under the law.

At this preparation phase, the more information you gather, the more successful of a day it will be.

During Absence

Do your best to follow the lesson plans for the day as well as classroom expectations. Leave specific notes for the teacher by subject area, lesson, or learning period. Talk with colleagues teaching the same content area for clarification. Build relationships with students and assist as best you can with their learning needs. Your goal is to keep students safe and on schedule as best as you can. Check in with administration throughout the day to alert them of any potential issues that arise. Knowing you were jumping in to help, they should be checking on you often.

After Absence

Follow-up with the absent teacher. Share any notes you were able to take on student progress and performance. Provide a run-down of how the day went and any potential obstacles. The teacher will often have questions for you as to what was completed and how students behaved.

Once you have debriefed each other, partner together to create a plan of action for the following day. This ensures the teacher can fill any content gaps, hold students accountable for making up missing work or adhering to behavior expectations, and so forth.

Partnering together through this absence opens the door for future work together as colleagues. This experience might open the door for a coaching cycle since they got to know you, like you, and trust you as you cared for their students during the absence.

Although it’s not ideal to have an instructional coach be a teacher for a day, it does happen. And when it does, the steps listed above will ensure it is productive and successful for students.

Below are additional resources to help create positive partnerships with teachers:






What tips can you share for coaches filling in for a teacher?

About the author, Gretchen

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.