Substitute teaching is an essential part of the education career field. It’s an opportunity for new educators to develop classroom skills and network with schools and potential full time employers. It’s also a way for retired teachers to continue to use their wisdom and know-how.
Whether you’re new to the field or a veteran, the substitute teacher role has plenty of fulfilling challenges. The very nature of being the teacher on call, to fill in wherever and whenever, can be unexpected. The key is to anticipate your needs, as well as those of the school, students, and the teacher you’re filling in for, and you’ll be set up for success.
HAVE A SUBSTITUTE TEACHER KIT
There will be plenty of substitute-teaching scenarios where the regular teacher has left you lesson plans and prepared you for what to expect from the classes. But sometimes the absence is due to an emergency, and there is no time. It’s situations like these where having your own kit will help keep you ahead of the game.
Your kit can be a folder or binder and should include the following:
- Roster Sheets – Use these to take attendance.
- Mini-Lesson Plan – Choose lesson plans that can fit into multiple subject areas and have them ready to go for any grade level.
- Discipline Report Sheets – Use these for any students who may act out or are disruptive to report to their regular teacher.
- Class Report Sheets – Use these to leave detailed notes to the teacher about what you did with the class during his or her absence.
Be prepared when you’re on call and be ready to head to school as soon as possible, especially if it’s your first time at that location. You’ll want to sign in and learn the lay of the school and your classroom, and whether you will be moving to multiple rooms throughout the day. Also be sure to find out about the bathrooms (you’ll be thankful you did later in the day!)
LEARN STUDENTS’ NAMES FAST
It’s tough to learn all the students’ names right away, but learn a few, so you can display your control over the class early. One way to help engage students early on is to have them make name cards and put them on their desk. This will help you identify students throughout the class and give them a quick assignment as the class begins.
MEET THE TEACHER NEXT DOOR
Do your best to introduce yourself to as many teachers as you can, but most importantly to your immediate neighbors. Having an ally nearby can turn into a useful resource for you throughout your time at the school.
FINISH THE DAY STRONG
As the day wraps up, make sure the students help you make the classroom as neat and organized as you found it (having students do this throughout the day will make this easier at the end). After the students leave, take your time to finish your reports and notes to the teacher. Be sure to praise the students who were helpful and worked hard. You want to make sure you impress whomever you subbed for so they will request you for next time.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SECRETARY
Often, it is the school secretary who is the coordinator for the substitute teachers. Do your best to create a warm, helpful, and professional relationship with her. You want her to remember you as someone she can count on, so she will be more likely to call you back in for more assignments.
What advice would you give to substitute teachers?