Substitute Teaching Survival Guide
Jan 26, 2010 Teaching 2599 Views
Substitute teaching is a great opportunity to get hands on experience working with students, and it can be a way to help get your foot in the door with a school district or charter school. However, going to a new school and working in a new classroom can be a bit intimidating. As a recruiter for National Heritage Academies, I oversee substitute teacher hiring for 61 schools, and have been able to hear from not only seasoned substitutes but also school administrators regarding best practices for subbing. With that in mind, here are some helpful tips so that you not only "survive" your first day, but that the experience is successful and enjoyable!
Before starting, make or get a map of the school and note the teacher's names and grades on each classroom. That way, whenever you are called in you will know exactly where you are going. It is also a good idea to get to the school early, especially if it is your first time. This will allow you to meet the secretary, principal, next door teacher and find some people to help answer questions as needed. Be sure to ask them about emergency procedures, if any assemblies are scheduled and what the policy is on bathroom/hall passes. It is also a great time to find the teacher's lounge, extra supplies, copy machine or anything else you may need.
Once you are in the classroom, learn the names of each student. Students love to be called by name, and feel special when a substitute remembers who they are. If students do not already have name tags on their desk, have them write their name in large letters and keep it at their desk all day.
Always come prepared with alternative things to do. Some teachers go out on an unplanned absence and may not have left a lesson plan for you. If one is provided, try and get through everything on it. This may not be possible, but teachers really appreciate when substitutes follow their instructions. Leave a note letting the teacher know how far you got and elements of the lesson that either worked well or should be revisited. Also be sure to focus on maintaining student engagement. If you find it difficult to engage certain students, assigning small tasks such as passing out papers can make them feel special and more likely to participate.
Lastly, leave the room as clean (or cleaner) than you found it. Teachers love coming back to a good looking classroom. This task can be made easy by having students help tidy up throughout the day, so that you are not left with a big mess after dismissal.
As always, if you have questions or need help with anything, don't be afraid to ask! Many staff members were also substitutes at some point, and know where you are coming from. Some schools and districts are better than others at providing you with support, so try to position yourself in schools that provide the resources you need to be successful.