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Commandments for Effective Substitute Teaching

Classroom Rules Poster © by BarbaraLN

So you want to be a substitute teacher?

Why on earth would you want to do that? Sure, you’ve got the qualification listed by your State’s Department of Education. I know you’ve checked. Yes, you love kids and are excited about education. But are you really ready to walk into the lion’s den? You are? I guess that means you’ve got your football helmet on, shin guards double wrapped, and a riot shield, correct? Those kids will eat you alive…

Is that the reaction you got when you first told someone you might want to do some subbing? Really, it’s not that bad…at all. Actually being a substitute teacher is a rewarding and relaxing career choice. Yes, I said relaxing. No, I’m not crazy. It’s a great way to earn some many or see if full time teaching would be a good fit for you. You’re in each classroom just once or twice then you’re gone. You aren’t held responsible for each students yearly progress, just one day. When you go home, you actually go home, you’re not slaving over lesson plans or grading until the wee hours of the morning. Your day ends at the bell.

In reality, the subbing profession has been given a bad name for all the wrong reasons. It got that way because poorly prepared people stepped into classrooms and did get eaten alive. Unfortunately, some survived to tell their horror stories, causing some people fear subbing.

Being an effective substitute takes some preparation. Many people who start subbing are already in education or are enrolled in an education degree program. But for those of you who may not have educational experience here is a rundown of some effective substitute teaching strategies that can make your day more successful.

1. Dress professionally. Respect starts with appearance. If you dress like a student, they will treat you like a student.

2. Fire drill? When you are signing in at the office ask the secretary if there is a scheduled fire drill today. This may sound unlikely but ask anyway. It’s happened to me roughly a zillion times. It helps to know.

3. Read. Take time to read through anything and everything the teacher has left you. Being familiar with them will show competency and you'll come across more authoritatively.

4. Communications. Check where your phone or intercom is located. The office is home base and they can deploy reinforcements if an emergency or fight arises.

5. Classroom Rules. If the teacher doesn’t leave you a copy of the classroom rules, try to find one. Many teachers post them on the wall or have copies in the desk. If you can find it refer to it to help keep order throughout the day. If the students see you know the normal rules they will less likely to break them.

6. Meet the students at the door. This is proactive. This shows you are not afraid of them. The scent of fear comes before the end.

7. Have a “Do Now” assignment on the board. I don’t care if the teacher didn’t leave one. You've already read about the day's lesson, right? Make up something relevant. Keep them busy. Most classroom disruptions are caused by students with nothing to do. This is most helpful when you are subbing for a teacher who has classes that come and go. .

8. Only one. Only let one student use the restroom at a time.

9. Move the talkers. You are the teacher for the day. If two students can’t stop talking, split them up. It’s your seating chart today.

10. Leave the room as you found it. Clean up the classroom at the end of the day. If everything else went well, when the full-time teacher returns to completed work and a clean classroom, you can bet he/she will remember your name fondly.

These ten commandment may not be all you need to know to be an effective substitute teacher but they are a good start!

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