February 2008
Vol 5 No 2

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Teachers.Net Gazette Vol.5 No.2
February 2008
Cover Story:
Rethinking Homework
By Alfie Kohn
Daily homework is the rule in most schools. Why not make it the exception?

»Coaches Are More Effective than Mentors
»Sources for Below Grade Level Reading
»To Promote Responsibility, Elicit Rather Than Impose
»The Busy Educator's Monthly Five for February
»Filtering the Web: Mission Impossible?
»Hot Tips to Stay Healthy; High Speed Sub Plans

»Fighting "February Slump"
»Make That Presentation a Winner!
»Sports Done Right
»Celebrate Dr. Seuss with Read Across America
»Maslow - Alive and Well in the Classroom
»25 Ways to Obtain Children's Attention
»The Year of the Earth Rat - The Chinese Zodiac

»Featured Lessons: February 2008
»The Lighter Side of Teaching
»Book Review: Three Cups of Tea
»Video Bytes: NCLB, Whiteboard, and More
»Creative & Critical Thinking Activities
»Editor's Pick: Travels With Music
»Apple Seeds: Inspiring Quotes for Teachers
»Teachers.Net Craft Favorite: Picasso Faces
»Today Is... Daily Commemoration for February 2008
»Live on Teachers.Net: February 2008
»Chatboard Poll: Do schools need to change, and how?
»Preparing for Your Student Teacher
»Newsdesk: Events & Opportunities for Teachers


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Kathleen Alape Carpenter
Editor in Chief

Columnists & Writers: Alfie Kohn; Harry & Rosemary Wong; Cheryl Sigmon; Dr. Marvin Marshall; Barbara & Sue Gruber; Marjan Glavac; Dr. Rob Reilly; Barb S. HS/MI; Ron Victoria; Brian Hill; Leah Davies; Susan Rismiller; Hal Portner; Karen Hawkes; Emmy; Tim Newlin; Chuck Brickman; Barb Gilman; Grace Viduna Haskins

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Barbara & Sue Gruber

Instant Ideas for Busy Teachers
Archive | Biography | Resources | Discussion

Hot Tips to Stay Healthy
Just in Case: High-speed Substitute Plans!

by Barbara & Sue Gruber
Barbara Gruber Online Courses for K-6 Teachers
Regular contributor to the Gazette
February 1, 2008
Have you managed to stay healthy this year? If so, it’s a miraculous feat considering that everyday you’re surrounded by kids—kids who cough, sneeze and wipe their noses on their sleeves! This is the time of year when we deserve bonus pay for working in dangerous conditions! There’s nothing like getting blasted in the face with a cough from a student with strep throat! Every year at this time I fantasize about dressing for school in a hazardous materials suit, gloves and a full-face shield like a dental hygienist! Of course I'd never do it—it's just fun to think about!

A few years ago I had a medically fragile student in my class. In addition to frequent hand washing, his doctor made the following two recommendations in order to keep that child and the rest of the students healthy. I couldn’t believe the difference these easy ideas made!

  1. At a janitorial supply store buy a clear, plastic holder for a bottle of hand sanitizer. The plastic holder sticks on the wall and the bottle of hand sanitizer screws into it. I installed mine near the tissue box and trashcan. I teach the kids to use a tiny half squirt of hand sanitizer after blowing their noses. Every now and then I mention in a class newsletter that we need more hand sanitizer. Many parents are happy to send bottles of hand sanitizer to school.
  2. Identify the tables in your classroom where groups of students work, eat or play. Wipe down the tops of these tables at least once during the day. Unscented baby wipes are perfect to use. They don’t contain harsh chemicals and are safe for the students to touch. The students in my class know the baby wipe routine! Every day after math I choose a few kids to give the tables a quick wipe. Since we only use four wipes each day, a box seems to last forever. Again, this is an item parents donate willingly.
  3. This idea did not come from the doctor. I have no scientific research to prove its effectiveness. All I know is it seems to help. Keep your own private box of tissues handy inside a drawer of your desk. Just watching how kindergartners take tissues out of the box was enough to convince me that I don’t want to share!

Of course, despite every effort to stay healthy, there are those times when you are going to get sick.

There is nothing worse than having to pull together sub plans when you feel awful. It takes forever to write lesson plans describing exactly how you do everything. I found that by the time I explained how I usually run my reading program, I had written a mini-novel! No matter how good a job I did describing exactly how I run my reading/math lessons, the kids still spent the day telling the substitute teacher that she wasn't doing it the right way! I decided to make life easier for the substitute teacher and myself!

Here's a quick idea to make planning for a substitute a snap! Make some substitute “kits” now while you are healthy. I make about 7 substitute kits and stash them in my closet. At the beginning of each school year I make a few more to replenish my supply. Here’s how to do it:

  • On the computer make and print out some basic schedules for each day of the week. Include information about classroom procedures and routines, library times, behavior plan etc. Leave plenty of room between subjects to jot notes.

  • Start saving left over papers/materials that you've prepared but never used with your students because you ran out of time. Pop them in a file folder labeled "Substitute".

  • Go through your file cabinet, magazines, etc. and search for any stand-alone type instant lessons. Look for the kinds of lessons that give great ideas across the curriculum. There is usually more than enough material for an entire day. Prepare everything you need to go with the instant lessons. When you leave your plans you can ask the substitute to read over the instant lesson and then you indicate which activities you’d like her or him to teach. It's so fast because you don't need to write out detailed plans...everything is described in the instant lesson!

  • Make the substitute kits by packaging one day's worth of "stuff" and a schedule for the day in a manila envelope. Teaching is always a race against the clock. There is so much to cover and so little time. I want every day in my classroom to be a learning day so I make sure my substitute kits focus on the same concepts that I need to teach.

The teachers who have substituted for me have responded positively to the substitute kits. They love it because I'm not expecting them to step into my shoes and run my math and reading programs exactly my way. The kids love it because it's a totally different kind of day for them. The kids are always excited about the experience they had while I was away and they're anxious to share what they learned. I love the kits because I don't have to write pages of lesson plans!

A few years ago I was having one of “those” days, I pulled a substitute kit off the shelf and used it myself!

Here’s to a healthy school year!

Sue Gruber and Barbara Gruber
Barbara Gruber Online Courses for K-6 Teachers
Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers
Copyright 2008: Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers

» More Gazette articles...

About Barbara & Sue Gruber...

Barbara Gruber, M.A. & Sue Gruber, M.A.
Barbara Gruber Online Courses for Teachers

Barbara Gruber and Sue Gruber are a mother-daughter writing team who share a passion for teaching and writing. Barbara is a former teacher who was employed by Frank Schaffer Publications from l980 to l996. She developed and presented curriculum seminars nationwide for K-6 teachers. Barbara was involved in product development and was a freelance writer exclusively for Frank Schaffer Publications. After “retiring,” she continued writing best-selling products for other publishers. Barbara and her husband live on a farm in Healdsburg, in Sonoma County, California. She has four grown children and four grandchildren. Barbara earned her M.A. at Santa Clara University in California.

Sue Gruber taught grades three, four, five and currently teaches kindergarten. Sue, her husband and son live in Sonoma County, as well. Sue’s first experience as a writer was helping Barbara write a science book for Frank Schaffer Publications. Sue has a degree in geology and a strong science background. They continued as a writing team and created dozens of products for Frank Schaffer Publications, Scholastic and other publishers. Sue earned her M.A. at Sonoma State University in California.

Barbara and Sue are partners in Barbara Gruber Online Courses for Teachers. They personally write each course with today’s busy teachers in mind. Teachers can do coursework completely on their own, or, if they wish, interact on line with others. They can earn one, two or three semester units from University of the Pacific. Barbara and Sue present information on a practical level. It can be put into action immediately in classrooms. Barbara and Sue provide instructional strategies and management ideas without creating more work for teachers.

The internet allows Barbara & Sue to do the work they love most—work directly with teachers. They are thrilled with the response by teachers to their courses. They have a fresh, teacher-friendly approach to affordably-priced courses. Barbara Gruber & Sue Gruber have created exactly what today’s teachers are looking for! You can find out about their courses at

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