17 Surefire Tips for Substitute Teachers

Substitute teaching can be a wonderful “sometimes” job for many people. It’s a great way to learn more about teaching, particularly if you think you might be interested in teaching full time. By substituting, you can try out a variety of age groups and subjects to help you decide where you would best fit should you decide to teach full time.

Substitute teaching is also great because it carries little responsibility with it outside of the time you spend in the classroom. Full time teachers have papers to grade and lesson plans to prepare, but substitutes have no work to take home. In addition, substitutes can turn down an assignment, if they have other plans for the day on which they’ve been asked to teach.

Requirements for substitute teaching vary by state. Some states require a teaching certificate and others require simply that you have a college degree in some field. Check with your local school system for requirements if you think you’d like to try your hand at substituting.

So, now that we have convinced you that substituting is a great way to make a little extra cash and figure out if teaching is your passion; here are 17 tips designed to make your substitute teaching experience pleasant and rewarding.

  1. Know school policies – You should familiarize yourself with basic school policies and schedules before class begins. Know when students will hear announcements, change classes, and go to lunch, as well as policies on behavior, etc.
  2. Get there early – You need time to find your classroom, get information provided by the office and review any notes or lesson plans the teacher has left for you. Life is a lot easier if you can do all these things before the students enter the classroom.
  3. Be professional and prepared – Substitute teachers have been the brunt of every prank known to man. While some ribbing may be unavoidable, the more professional and prepared you are, the fewer traumas you’ll have to endure. Look and act the part of a real teacher.
  4. Have a few activities up your sleeve – When a teacher must take an unexpected day off, he or she may have not prepared lesson plans available for the substitute. Your day will go a lot more smoothly if you have some activities for your class. This means you’ll need a few different activities, designed for the age groups you’ll be teaching.
  5. Check the teacher’s mailbox for information when you arrive in the morning – It may have some important things you need for the day.
  6. Review any notes and assignments the teacher has left for you, and follow them as closely as possible.
  7. Start students off on the right foot – Introduce yourself and let students know your expectations for behavior and work first thing in the morning. Then stick to the plan you’ve laid out for them.
  8. Be in control – Establish rules, such as an acceptable noise level. If you ever let the students take control, it will be difficult to get it back. This is not to say you need to be a tyrant; but you do need to be in charge.
  9. Treat the students with respect – If you want respect from them, treat them with respect, too. Treat them as though they’re your students; because, at least for today, they are!
  10. Walk around the classroom – Walking around not only reminds students that you are in control, but it also makes you more approachable at the same time.
  11. Don’t avoid conflict – If you have a troublemaker in class, he or she is not going to stop making trouble because you ignored it. Get it out in the open and deal with it right away.
  12. Remember that you are not there to babysit – Every school day has the potential to teach and impact a student. So, teach and make an impact while you’re there.
  13. Leave the regular teacher a note at the end of the day explaining any events or issues, as well as letting him or her know what the class completed for the day.
  14. Leave his or her room looking better than you found it.
  15. Grade homework or assignments if you can – Grading papers is usually not required of substitute teachers. But, if the teacher has left the answer key, and you can get the job done; do it. It will be much appreciated by the teacher.
  16. Leave your business card for the teacher if you’d like to substitute for him or her again. Many teachers arrange their own substitutes when they are planning a day off in advance.
  17. Have fun – While we’ve spent a lot of time talking about all that can go wrong; the fact is that you can have a lot of really fun days meeting new kids and teaching them. So, enjoy it!
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