What’s In My Sub Bag

Substitute Teaching Supplies


Every good sub has a bag full of goodies! I’ve only been subbing for a couple of months and already I have pared down what I bring each day. At first I followed those lists of 20-30 items, but I found I just didn’t need a lot at the schools I sub for.


Let’s talk about the bag itself. I purchased this bag when I started student teaching. I wanted a big black bag that looked professional. I had a DSW coupon and this Steve Madden satchel is the one I picked out. I like that it’s sturdy and that I have the option to use a longer strap. I also think the pockets on the inside are perfect and the lining is really cute! While my bag is no longer on their site, you can find many similar ones here.


Inside my bag, I have a clipboard from the Target Dollar Spot. For $3, it’s been holding up pretty good. The kids always are impressed that it’s made out of wood too!


Next I have an accordion style folder. Inside I store labels (in case I want students to wear name tags), the sub form I use, extra paper, my business cards, early finisher art sheets (I’ve never used, but they look so fun!), and some of my sub paperwork (maps, logins, etc.). I know other websites say you should have back up lesson plans for each subject in case the teacher doesn’t leave plans, but when that has happened to me, another teacher in that grade has walked me through a typical day and helped me with what I needed.


Then I have my prize box. Before I finished student teaching, I started collecting odds and ends (mostly pencils and erasers from Dollar Tree and Walmart). I don’t use candy because I don’t want to risk an allergic reaction, but that’s a personal decision. Pencil grips seem to be very popular when I sub so I only replace those every so often. The case I keep my prizes in is from Walmart in the Tupperware section. I chose this one because it is durable and the lid doesn’t come off easily. I can’t imagine if all my erasers fell out of there!


Next I have the read-aloud book that I bring. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar is the one I choose to keep because the chapters are fairly short and you can read them out of order. Before I started subbing, I reread the book and bookmarked my favorite chapters and created some discussion questions.


Then I have my school supply container. Again, I use a Tupperware container to hold my stuff because I can easily see what’s in there and the lid doesn’t come off easily. Inside I keep post-it notes, a couple pens, pencils, highlighter, dry erase markers, stapler and staples, a glue stick, and paperclips. Typically I use the pens, pencil, and post-it notes every time I sub, but I keep everything else in there just in case.


Next I have a mini first aid kit that holds band-aids and gauze. There has only been one classroom that I have subbed for that I have been able to find the band-aids and almost every time I sub a kid asks for one.


In my pockets, I carry a whistle, gum, ibuprofen, toiletries, and sometimes I put any makeup I need to touch up with if I am going somewhere after school.


I also will bring my Thirty-One Thermal Tote, a water bottle, and my wristlet where I keep all my cards, money, and chapstick.


Everyone’s sub bag is going to look a little different, but I hope I gave you some ideas of what to bring when you sub. Let me know what you bring in your sub bag or if you have any questions. I’d love to hear from you!

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!