What’s in my Substitute Tote Bag?

This is the first of a few posts that I have been thinking about writing for the past month or so. I am hoping to post them throughout the week. I have been substitute teaching since our adventure in Pennsylvania begun in mid to lat January. Even while living in a hotel, it has been important to me to always be prepared ESPECIALLY as a substitute. I really have felt the need to be prepared to receive some of the worst behavior in the building and not be phased by it, but also to, in turn, demand behavior from young men and women who are expected to become productive members of society in the very near future! Manners an decorum are still important.

I have been substituting in one building in an urban area of Pittsburgh since the end of January and have learned so much about managing and prepping a classroom as a guest teacher and I would really like to share what is in my Substitute Tote Bag with you all. 

It has truly been a compliment that the sixth grade teachers at the K-6 elementary school that I have been teaching at as a building substitute for the past month call me the “Super Sub”. The students throughout the building generally treat me with respect and listen well. It does take them a little bit to realize that I do know what I am talking about when it comes to learning! As long as I realize that and keep it in perspective, they students come around. Even if it takes a few days. I have been everywhere, from music class to kindergarten to 6th grade classes. I sincerely think that some of the success I have had during these past couple of months is because I am armed with all of the ‘things’ that subs need everyday to counteract the whines of “I don’t have a peeeencil!” Here is the rundown of everything that I haul in my Marry Poppins Tote every day.
Here are the 9 things that every substitute needs in their subbing kit. Pictured are everything I bring. Most of this has been purchased for my own classroom in the past and the Dollar Tree. 

1. Extra pencils, pens, and erasers

I have honestly gone through at least 20 pencils. I do give them to the students to borrow. if it only takes a pencil for the day to be successful for each learner, I will donate a dollar ever few days at the Dollar Tree to the good of the cause and come armed with pencils. I need to cover them with washi tape or something because they never make their way back to me. I will let ya’ll know how this works. I will try this strategy…

2. Extra Expo Markers

Not all teachers have chalkboards anymore, or even very functional dry erase markers. I always like to have my own, just in case. I wrote my last name on the physical markers themselves to ensure that I only take my own back at the end of the day.

3. Sub Report Template

I found a cute template that I print and leave for each instructor that I substitute as a guest teacher for on Teachers Pay Teachers at this link. I get lots of compliments on it from the teachers in the building. I also tend to create a check box on every action item on the lesson plan, so that the instructor’s substitute plans become a to-do list.

4. Some fun stickers: I am currently using some Minions and emoji stickers!

You would be absolutely amazed at the power of a simple sticker at the end of a successful class period. Students love them. I enjoy giving specific, measurable feedback as to why they have earned a sticker, or not earned a sticker as privately as possible.

5. Clorox Wipes

It is always necessary to leave a classroom as clean as it was when you arrived. I enjoy cleaning up the desks after a long, productive day with the students. 

6. A Clipboard that is Distinctly YOU

I put all of the grading keys to workbook pages, lesson plans, a few pieces of notebook paper, the school map, class rosters, and phone extensions on my clipboard. This way, if we walk across the school or have an emergency drill, I know I have everything I need to take a timely and accurate count of the students I have that day. It’s all about the safety, people! Mine is from Erin Condren and has my name printed on it, so it does not grow legs. If you are on a budget and want a distinctive clipboard that is all yours, you can tie some ribbons to the clip, decoupage it, or spray paint it a bright color! 

7. Personal Essentials

The climate in a school is usually extreme. It is a rare day that I am actually in a fairly climatized classroom. I am usually either very hot or very cold. So in addition to dressing in layers, I bring in some personal essentials to maintain my personal appearance and well-being throughout the day. They are: hand cream, tissues, chapstick, feminine hygiene products, and mints!

8. Business Cards

I always leave a business card with my cell phone number and email address with the instructor I subbed for at the end of the day stapled to my filled out substitute report. This way, instructors can contact me with any questions they have about what got finished, disciplinary issues that may have arisen, or to request to have me fill in for them again!

9. Erin Condren Teacher Planner

I will dedicate an entire post in the very near future to how I use my Erin Condren Teacher Planner to keep track of my organization, pay periods, and specific classroom assignments. Stay tuned for this post tomorrow!

Things I don’t have yet, but need to add to my subbing tote this weekend:

  • Non-latex gloves (in case of fluid spills)
  • Dollar store pencil sharpeners
  • Whistle (for recess duty)


I had the opportunity to visit my mom today as a surprise in Columbus. We spent the day together and spent the whole day hanging, just us, which happens very infrequently. I am so lucky to have a mom who is genuinely my best friend. 

Praxis down…

I have officially passed all 4 of my Pennsylvania-specific Praxis tests that I took last month. I received the official report this morning. Yippee! One more battery of tests until I can submit my application for Pennsylvania Teaching Licensure. I have them scheduled for March 23rd. They are called the PAPA or PECT tests. They measure basic academic competency in Mathematics, Reading, and Writing. They take 4 hours to complete and all three tests are done in one session. So ready for this whole process to be done and sealed in an envelope! 

I have been brainstorming some ideas for posts about substitute teaching so stay tuned! 

This I Believe

These past few weeks, as we have been living in the various hotels surrounding Pittsburgh, I have been able to do lots of thinking and reflecting over my past 8 years as a classroom teacher, consulting teacher, co-teacher, and even burnt out teacher. I have remembered my love for igniting the fire in a young person’s mind about a topic that he feels passionate about. Today I get to take my first Pennsylvania Praxis Core test over my pedagogy as a teacher. This has really gotten me thinking about what I solidly believe in as an educator.

  1. I believe in granting students choice as much as possible in their learning. Yes, this is part of what I was supposed to advocate upon in Virginia, but as I think about what Young Adolescents need in order to develop their own unique ideas about the world they live on, the first word I land on is CHOICE, and if there cannot be choice about the topics that they wish to learn about, then choice in its delivery. I think I can safely say that I still plan to create flipped videos for my future classroom, once I pass these ridiculous tests AGAIN (Didn’t I pass these in Ohio, then in Virginia again?!) I will still be using Explain Everything to create videos of my instruction, if not only to catalogue it, but for the use of my students on their devices. And they will have devices, if I have to write grants for them until the end of time.
  2. I believe in being an adult advocate for every learner. Students don’t learn from people they don’t like. This is not me saying that students are my friends. They just must know, especially as a young adolescent learner, that their teacher will always be in their corner. Their own cheerleader. Because, sometimes ‘parents just don’t understand’. Every child needs a champion. If you have never seen this video, check it out. Rita Pierson was simply the best. 
  3. I believe that passionate people bring out the best in others. This passion I plan on bringing daily to my own classroom.

Let’s get on with taking this Praxis test, Shull. Photo on 2-13-17 at 8.47 AM.jpg

Saying Goodbye to the South

I am writing this post in the Courtyard Marriott in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

It’s funny how we went from one ‘Burg’ to another ‘Burg’.

A huge part of me cannot believe how long I actually stayed South after going immediately after I graduated undergrad from Otterbein University in June. I remember being so incredulous as to how different life was. You did not expect anything to be finished fast, especially time at the hair salon. I spent at least 3 hours there each time I got a color/highlight living in the South. LAWD. You never mentioned that you DON’T go to church.

Locals use the phrase “It’ll make you slap your momma” to reveal a positive reaction to something, especially food.

There are many things that living in the South has given me. I have grown up there. “Put your big girl pants on.” Having gone to college 20 minutes away from where I was raised in Ohio, having an adventure was very important to me. I will never forget…

  • Zumba Classes in the Hargrave mess hall after school
  • driving the 15 minutes just to get a decent cup of iced coffee from Starbucks. How corporate of me, I know.
  • Going for runs and always having to wave at cars driving by.
  • The Lynchburg Farmers’ Market. Will always carry my ‘Lynchburg is for Locivores’ tote!
  • I will always remember Dean LTC Walter Sullivan at our in-services to take faculty back to campus when I worked at Hargrave. He would say, “The tobaccoo is as tall as your eye, that’s when we know it’s time to start the school year.”
  • Discovering a love for hiking, especially those gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains
  • Friends that turned into family in Chatham. Regretfully, I have lost touch with some of these individuals that took me in while I practically needed a passport to navigate the social situations. I will always be grateful to Suzie Brawn, Cindy Watson, the Oditts, Ty Gafford, Mrs. Finkner, Walter Sullivan, Miss Kerry, Blair Sutton…among others.

Before we left Lynchburg, we had to try out the hotel that we blocked rooms out for our wedding! The pictures below are of the Craddock Terry Hotel.  The space is gorgeous. We stayed in a regular, king-sized room. The bus will pick us up and drop us off at this hotel. For those of you who have not received your ‘Save the Date’ yet, they are coming out very soon.

The Craddock Terry Hotel

The picture of southern hospitality. 

A view of the lobby, inside the red door!

Your breakfast comes in this shoeshine box between 6 and 7 am. 

Each door has a unique shoe design on the door. No two rooms are the same! 

This shower was delicious!