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Your Guide for Survival: Tips and Resources for Substitute Teachers

Even if you're a licensed and experienced teacher, substituting can be an intimidating job. After all, managing your own classroom is an entirely different experience than stepping into a strange classroom and teaching students that you've never met. You might also find that the regular classroom teacher left you with little or no guidance, exacerbating an already challenging situation. Below we will discuss some tips and resources for substitute teachers-- experienced or not-- so that you can begin your next subbing job confident and prepared.

Start your day right. How you begin your day on the job sets the tone for the remainder of the day. Be sure to put your best foot forward by arriving early. Give yourself time to get familiar with the layout of the classroom and review the regular teacher's lesson plans for the day.

Lay out your expectations. Introduce yourself to the students and let them know that you'll be filling in for the day (or more). Discuss your ground rules with the class, but don't overdo it. Keep the rules simple, such as "I'll call on students whose hands are raised" and "I'll listen to one student at a time".

Prepare yourself for the unexpected. Hopefully, the regular classroom teacher left detailed notes and lesson plans for you, but you must be prepared for the unexpected. Maybe the teacher didn't leave enough work to take up the allotted time or maybe she didn't leave any work at all. Either way, you must have a back-up plan for these situations. Bring a few picture books you can read and discuss with students. Worksheets, brain teasers, puzzles, and other printables are also excellent "just in case" activities.

Remember that you're in charge. It might not feel that way initially when you're in an unfamiliar classroom with students that you don't know. However, it's important to portray confidence-- don't let the students see you sweat. While you should follow the regular teacher's lesson plans, it's okay to use your own teaching strategies to keep students interested and engaged.

Utilize available resources. There are many resources out there for substitute teachers. Be sure to take advantage of them. Below are some suggestions:

  • Puzzle Maker allows you to create your own educational puzzles, such as word searches and crossword puzzles.
  • Super Substitute Teachers provides many useful tips and tricks, including discipline strategies and free printables for subs.
  • Sub Hub has a variety of useful tools for substitute teachers, from classroom management techniques to emergency lesson plan ideas.

Are you a current or former substitute teacher? What are your favorite online resources for subs? Share with us!


photo credit: LEEHS 20 - (license)

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