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Learning to Be the Substitute Teacher Who Gets Called Back

As a substitute teacher, you'll find that recurring jobs--that is, subbing frequently for the same teacher or department--are the best way to flesh out your schedule. You want regular classroom teachers to call you and recommend you to your colleagues. If you want to be a great substitute teacher, try some of these strategies:

Always show up early. Many schools have policies in place concerning the latest a substitute can arrive. Obviously, this doesn't apply to days when you're called at the last minute; but if you're already scheduled for the day, take the time to plan your morning so you'll be sure to show up a few minutes before the kids are released to their classrooms.

Follow classroom procedures. Don't "let the kids off the hook" for the day just because you don't understand the meaning behind particular procedures. Both teachers and their students need continuity in order to ensure the students' continuing academic success.

Pay attention to the kids. When you substitute at the middle or high school level, you might be able to get by with completing a few basic tasks and then returning to your own interests. A great substitute, however, will ignore this opportunity in favor of interacting with students, paying attention to what's going on in the classroom, and even answering questions.

Leave the room the way you found it--if not better. Some days, it's all you can do to get the kids to stay on task well enough to get through the day. When you reach the end of it, there's paper scattered everywhere. Books have been removed from the shelves. Materials are out of place. Take a few minutes to put everything back neatly. There's nothing that will depress a teacher who's been out sick more than coming back to a classroom that has been left a shambles.

Leave notes for the teacher. How did your day go? Were there any students who caused problems? Did you need to discipline anyone? While there's no guarantee that the teacher will act on the notes you leave behind, it's important to provide that information.

Follow the lesson plan they've provided for you. If you don't understand something, ask another teacher, a teacher's assistant, or one of the students. Your job is to make the day flow as smoothly as possible in the teacher's absence, and following the lesson plan is a critical part of the teacher's schedule.

Being a great substitute requires a dedication to the students that is every bit as intense as the dedication shown by a great teacher. It's not an easy job. There will be days when you go home exhausted, frustrated, or confused. With time, however, you'll learn to be the best substitute in the school--and that means you'll be the one getting called back.

Photo credt: Old Phone by ryan_fung

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