Substitute Teaching Tips

Six Substitute Teaching Tips


I have been subbing for a short while, a couple times a week since I graduated college in December. There certainly have been good days, as well as bad. Today, I want to share with you my tips to make your subbing experience successful!

1. Download a subbing app!  My whole world changed drastically when I realized these existed!  The districts I sub for use Frontline Education (formally Aesop), an online platform for teachers to post jobs.  My first month of subbing, I was constantly refreshing my browser until a coworker of mine told me she uses an app.  There are a few different apps you can use, but I personally chose to download SubstituteAlert because they have a 21 day free trial where you don’t have to enter your credit card number.  Now I end up getting so many more jobs because I get the notifications right away to my phone!  Needless to say, I did end up purchasing it when my trial ended for a whopping $4.95 a month.  They have a discount if you buy a yearly subscription, but as I am hoping to get a full-time job in the fall, I chose the month to month.

2. Prepare how you are going to introduce yourself and your expectations. Every time I start subbing for the day, I rattle off the same introduction about how I will be their XYZ teacher for the day. I also like to let students know I will be leaving notes for their regular teacher and I am on the look out for students who go above and beyond.

3. Use a behavior management system that works for you. While teachers usually give an explanation of the system they use and it is good to refer to this, I usually find that it is better to add in my own system, which is Beat the Teacher. This is a game where you give points to the students for positive behavior (on task, showing respect, quiet in the hall) and points to yourself if redirection is needed as a whole class. Some of the classrooms I sub for use this already, but I start a new game and explain to students that I give out TONS of points. I typically create higher stakes when we are walking in the hallway. For example, I let students know before we leave, “If we can make it to Art without me reminding someone to be quiet, I will give you 5 points, if not, I will give myself 5 points.” For most classes, this works extremely well, but I have learned not to let students know if they earned the points until you get back into the classroom (one time I had a student start screaming because he had talked and his classmates blamed him). If students have more points than me, I try to make time to play a class game before lunch and let 2-3 students choose prizes at the end of the day. If I win for the day, no rewards are given. Mrs. Laffin’s Laughings has a great post about how she uses it in her regular classroom here.

4. Check in with a teacher next door. I like to introduce myself to the neighboring teacher in the morning. That way, if any problems or questions arise, it is easier to ask for help. I also make sure to thank that teacher before I leave.

5. Always leave a note! I currently use this template from TeachersPayTeachers. Typically throughout the day, I jot notes on a separate piece of paper and then during prep times, I transfer it to the template to ensure nothing changes and it looks nicer. I also created my own business cards and leave those for teachers whose class I would like to sub for again. I presume most of the time, my card is thrown away, but there have been times when I’ve come back to a classroom for a second, third, etc. time and my card is posted somewhere in their classroom.

6. Remember you are only there for one day. The first few days I subbed, I was very hard on myself because I would mess up a procedure or didn’t feel confident teaching a lesson. As I subbed more, I came to the realization that I am only there for one day. I will not be making a huge difference on these kids’ lives as a sub. Subs are mainly there to ensure no one gets hurt and routines stay consistent. After I realized this, I began to enjoy subbing more because I spent more time getting to know students and making time for fun activities (if they were good). Kids love when you make time for a game or free choice time and they typically respond positively to a new read aloud. Happier kids are easier to work with and bribing works pretty well when you’re only around for one day.

I hope these tips gave you a little more insight as to what to expect with subbing and how to succeed. If you have any questions or have any more tips to share, please leave a comment—I’d love to hear them!