I wanted to share some of the killer ways to be a memorable substitute teacher. Right after college, when I hoped to get hired by a school district, I was disappointed to find out that the nearby districts were all on a hiring freeze. However, instead of drowning in my sorrows, I sought out substitute teaching. What wasn’t shared with me during my credential program was how to be an awesome substitute. It was daunting enough being a student teacher, where I at least had some relationship with students, but now I would be walking into a new class everyday, not knowing what to expect and how to prepare for those situations. Here are some tips that will make sure you shine and feel better prepared than I did when I accepted the role of substitute teacher.
- Be early– It is expected of substitutes to show up a few minutes before school, but I always showed up early, first in the parking lot and waiting for the school secretary to open the doors. I usually was the first one to the school. Why is this important? Of course we aren’t all early birds, but we should all know that the school secretary is the eyes and ears of a school and the first person you usually make contact with (they provide the keys and time cards). Be prepared to wait, but being early allows you to not come in when the chaos of the day has started brewing. This also gives you time to find the classroom and nearest restroom. It’s important to plan time to not only read over the lesson plan, but make sure you are able to navigate the room and where all the resources are. This will limit your time trying to find teaching resources during the day.
- Be a presence– If you want to be remembered, people need to know your name. Sit in the lunch room with teachers and try to engage in conversation (sometimes it can be intimidating, but just saying hello and that your are subbing for so and so can get the ball rolling). They will often share with the absent teacher what kind of person you are. And if you shine, like you will, they may request for you to sub their classes. Often times I would be requested by teachers I had never met, but who knew of my positive reputation.
- Bring a journal– This may have been the single best thing to have coming out of subbing and into teaching. At first, I used to keep all the lesson plans that were left for me to follow, but this became cumbersome and honestly, what was I going to do with a hodgepodge of lesson plans from different grades and subjects. In my journal, I kept notes of helpful things that I would help me later in teaching. What was their classroom management style? What tricks did they have for getting student’s attention? How did they do reading instruction? Math? It was also fun to record the silly and crazy things that happened. It will also help you to reflect on the day and learn from your mistakes and know how to better prepare for the next time that issue arises.
- Pull up that sleeve of tricks– This is broad, but be sure to bring your personality or something fun into the classroom with you. If you love art, music, games, trivia, include it in your day. You’ll win more student will some fun in the classroom. When I taught older grades I would bring brain teasers and do them during transition times, before school, before recess. It allowed for students to come in and be intrigued and realize that I had something ‘cool’ that their teacher didn’t do. Remember the kids will share with their teacher how well you did and this business of subbing is all about networking, even if you don’t want to be a teacher. You have to play the game if you want more shots at the basket.
- Always have a Plan B– Sometimes you’ll walk in and there won’ t be a lesson plan or the computer isn’t working. Be prepared! Come with some activities or a read aloud, anything that will fill some time while you get your barrings. However, if you follow number 1 and arrive early, you will have time to fill in lesson wholes or no lesson at all. Also start to practice some classroom management skills because students will likely test you the moment you start class. Whether it’s a list of names for the teacher or a reward system, come each job with some sort of strategy in case the teacher that you are subbing for doesn’t have one.
By following these easy 5 steps you will be collecting substitute jobs and making a great foundation for your first year as a teacher with their own classroom. Just remember that when all else fails a good song, story, and game will fill the space anytime.