Friday, October 21, 2011

Free-Wheeling Friday--Top 10 Ways to Be the Best Substitute Teacher Ever

I have now been a substitute teacher for three years, and I thought I would take a moment to give prospective substitute teachers and current ones some tidbits of wisdom I have learned.  I guess I was thinking about this today due to where I subbed today.  I talked in depth with a paraprofessional (who really took charge of the class today), and it made me realize just how much I have learned!

1.  Decide what your strengths/weaknesses are as a teacher/substitute.  Do you prefer elementary, middle school, high school, or a mixture of any of these?  What subjects do you feel comfortable teaching (even if you are not certified to teach them!)?  What subjects/grade levels will you not teach?  You may wish to list these somewhere to sort your thoughts, or perhaps you can just make a mental note.  I believe that this is the single most important step when becoming a substitute teacher.

2.  Examine the surrounding districts in your area.  How  far are you willing to drive?  What are the requirements for becoming a substitute in these districts?  Read all manuals, and fill out all required paperwork.  Every district is different, but depending on state requirements, most will require some sort of certification.  It is to your benefit to apply in every district you may be interested in.  I am one of the strange subs who does not mind driving an hour to work if needed, and I currently work in ten districts.  I realize that is a little extreme, but I think it is wise to consider at least 2 or 3 districts.  The more districts, the more steady your work.

3.  Invest in a good smartphone or portable computer.  I would venture to say that the majority of districts in the country deal with substitute jobs online.  It is not like the old days when they would call the subs to come in.  Having a wireless device you can carry with you and check for jobs frequently will make it more likely for you to get the job you want.

4.  Make good quality business cards or the like.  (I recommend  Be sure to list your experience, areas in which you are certified and/or willing to work, phone number (home/cell/etc.), and e-mail address.  I am currently using a flyer that has room for me to write my sub number (each district assigns me one) and any other information I would like to tell the teacher.  

5.  Invest in a good GPS.  This is crucial if you are going to be driving in more than one district.  I went to a school yesterday in a district that I know quite well, but I had never been to this particular school.  Without my GPS, I never would have found it.  You may have a good GPS on your phone--I got by with that for a while.  But my phone was old, and the GPS became very unreliable.

6.  Leave a note for the teacher every time (unless a student teacher, paraprofessional, or team teacher is in charge of the class--you'll understand why when in that situation).  Make sure that you make the note as detailed as you need to.  I am one of those subs who generally leaves 2-3 pages for the teacher.  I tend to tell them everything I feel is pertinent.  Leave good notes and bad notes. Be as honest as possible.

7.  Be flexible.  This is an important one.  A perfect example is my last two days.  I was put into an elementary class at the last minute yesterday, and today I was placed in a different job when I got there due to a mix-up in the schedule.  The more flexible you are, the easier subbing will be for you.  

8.  Use paper clips and sticky notes.  Teachers always have a big supply of these, and they are very important.  Paper clip homework/classwork together that students turn into you, and place an identifying sticky note on the top of them.  I think the teacher will appreciate that you took the time to do this.

9.  Don't be afraid to ask questions.  When I sub, I ask a lot of questions.  I am always the one going into the office and asking how to get to the room or the cafeteria, or whatever.  Don't be afraid to ask the kids what their teacher normally does in a situation if you are unsure.  Honestly, most students will be helpful.  If you get lost in the school, don't be afriad to ask.   You will occasionally find unfriendly people, but the majority of people will go out of their way to help you.  

10.  Don't be a control freak!  This probably the most important one.  I have heard from so many students (and staff members) that this is a  real problem.  For some reason, subs go into a classroom and decide to crack the whip on the students and keep tight reins on everything.  They try to force the students to do the work left by the teacher, and they really create a great deal of work for themselves.  Do you really think that you, as a sub, are going to be able to gain the same level of respect as the normal teacher in the classroom when you are only there for one day?  Do you really think you are going to be able to keep them on task and keep the class from becoming a social hour?  I think subs do a lot better when they go in with the mindset that enforcing every rule is not going to happen.  My philosophy is that as long as they are not killing each other and they are not disrespecting me, it has been a good day.  All I can do is encourage them to do the work.  If they do not do it, that is not your responsibility.  They will have to face the consequences.  

I have found that these ten things (and of course, I could have gone on) really make subbing an enjoyable career for me.  I often become a very popular sub amongst the students and the teachers.  And generally, I can work every day that I want to.


Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Your Ad Here