Substitute Teaching Tips

Hello! Happy Summer!

This post is going be all about substitute teaching and tips that would be beneficial to new subs! After graduation in May, I applied for my certification and I registered with the substitute teacher service for my county. My goal was to daily sub for the last few weeks of school to get my feet wet, gain some experience, keep me busy until my summer job started, and earn a bit of money.

I highly suggested substitute teaching ASAP once you graduate. If you are anything like me, you still are wondering, even after passing your certification tests and graduating you are still wondering, “Can I do this?”Of course you can, but subbing helped me to gain confidence in my teaching and classroom management right off the bat.

Now, there is daily subbing and long or short term subbing-I only daily subbed since I graduated in May and there weren’t a lot of month long positions available. Through the duration of my substitute teaching I was in five different buildings in four different school districts over the course of about three weeks. The following are just a few tips I have or some reactions I have that may help any other substitute teachers in the same boat!

1. Be Professional: Being professional covers many different topics. As a newly graduate teacher I was all about making first impressions as I applied for a permanent position in three districts I subbed in.

  • Make sure to dress professionally, even if it’s a dress down day, don’t. But remember some schools might not have air conditioning–since I was subbing towards the end of spring this was an issue–so, Ladies, make sure if you have a cardigan or sweater on, the straps underneath are still appropriate to be worn alone if needed.
  • Be on time, or if you’re like me, be early! Make sure you give yourself enough time to get to the school and prepare for your day.
  • Use appropriate language and don’t gossip with the building teachers. You may know some of the teachers in the building if you’re familiar with the area and school or the teachers may talk about other things in front of you. Keep your head down; don’t engage.

2. What to Do When You Arrive: When you arrive to the school for your day, you’ll most likely need to check in at the office. Here you will be directed to the classroom you’ll be in for the day and possibly pick up lesson plans and a school badge. The service I sub for issued me an ID badge, but schools might give you one as well!

3. Stepping into the Classroom: When you first step into the classroom, begin to orient yourself. Figure out where the student bathrooms are in relation to your classroom & the staff bathrooms as well. Find the route to the cafeteria, playground, and any other “specials” the students may have that day.

  • Next, I look for the lesson plans for the day. Typically these will be laid out on the classroom teacher’s desk or a table in the room. Sometimes you might have very detailed plans and other times it may be the bare minimum. No matter what read them. Make sure you do what the teacher wants you to do and execute it in the way they present it, even if you think it could be done better.
  • Familiarize yourself with items in the classroom. Locate the pencil sharpener, tissues, trash cans, and student cubbies or hooks. Other items to look for are classroom rules and a behavior management system like a clip chart, fill-up jar, point system, etc. The teacher should have mention of these systems in his or her lesson plans.
  • Another thing I like to to is walk around the room with a class list and work on saying each student’s name and finding out where he or she sits. Then, when they walk in and sit down I can work on attaching the name to the face.

4. If there are no plans on the desk DON’T FREAK OUT: Story Time…so I went to sub for a full day at a building in the district I grew up in. I got to the school about 45 minutes early (I’m also crazy about being late) so I had enough time to read through the plans but they weren’t there *cue the panic*. All I had were instructions for a directed drawing and the paper that went with it. It turns out one of the team teachers was supposed to print out the plans and bring them to me. She did bring them over and crisis averted.

5. Eat Lunch in the Classroom: This is a handy tip even if you have a permanent teaching position. As a substitute it is good to use the time during lunch to read over the plans for the afternoon and prep if needed. But as I mentioned before, it would be good not to get caught up in the potential drama of the faculty room. Also, I am a shy person so being alone in the classroom is more comfortable to me. But don’t alienate yourself from other teachers in the building. Say hi and smile in the hallway. Introduce yourself to the team teachers. I meshed really well with a few team teachers I subbed with and they offered me really good advice for job hunting, teaching with a family, and working towards my Masters degree!

6. Take Notes: Take notes throughout the day. Write down how the activities and lessons went. Keep an account of student behavior as well. The classroom teacher will appreciate this when he or she gets back.

7. Walk Around the Room: As you instruct walk around the room. Make your presence known. Students will realize that you are in charge and proximity control is a great classroom management tool. Check in with students as they are working. Try and learn a bit about the students throughout the day.

8. Clean the Room Before You Leave: Make sure the classroom is cleaned up from the day. Make it look how it did when you walked in. Don’t go through the teacher’s things, but straighten up and make sure the lesson plans and left over copies are neat on the desk or tables.

9. Fill Out Report and Bring it to the Office: The school may have a form to fill out at the end of your subbing day. These are pretty generic and allow the classroom teacher to evaluate your performance and what you did well. It also allows them to say if they would like you back in their classroom to substitute! Make sure to fill this out in detail and turn it in!

10. Check For Jobs the Night Before: For the substitute service I’m with, I can search for jobs for the following day the night before. This is really helpful because if I secure a position the night before I don’t get any early morning phone calls and I can plan my morning accordingly.

11. Roll With It: One of the biggest things to stress when being a substitute teacher is being flexible. You never know what your day will bring or what the plans will have you doing so being able to roll with the punches is quality that teachers need to have.

I know these “tips” were all over the place but I hope that someone out there finds them helpful. Comment down below with anything that you have to add! Thanks for reading!!




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