5 Tips for New Substitute Teachers


Hello there,

Just for some background, I received my Bachelor’s in English Secondary Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I completed this degree in the Spring of 2012. I took some time off to pursue dreams in singing, song-writing, and performing. I did exactly that for the next three years whilst managing restaurants, salons, and tutoring on the side. I believe those three years of separation from teaching made me grow tougher skin.

Yesterday, I subbed for the first time, and I wanted to share that experience with you and to my future self. It was a 7th grade English classroom in a population demographic that is 65.9% White/Caucasian, 43.6% Hispanic/Latino, 7.4% African American, and about 5.4% Asian American.  I taught and supervised 7 periods: 3 regular, 2 gifted, and 2 supervisory hours. Surprisingly, I wasn’t as nervous and worked up about teaching as I had been when I student taught. I was happy to see the progress.

Here is a compilation of tips (from subbing workshops, teaching experience, and reading up on the internet) that future subs should keep in mind to have a successful day of substitute teaching:

  1. Get the Job
    • Stay up late or wake up early – check Aesop or be ready to receive the 5:30am wake up call to save those kids from a dreary day without their beloved teacher.
    • Once you get to the school and you like what you see, ask to see if they have a preferred sub list. It can be as easy as asking a question.
  2. Be on Time, and Be Open to Help
    • Get to the school at least 15 minutes before the written or stated time. 1st period usually begins after the start time stated on Aesop, so you’ll have additional time to explore and review the lesson plans if you’re early.
    • I was technically done after 7th period, but I went to the Main Office and let them know I’d be down for anything else they needed me to do. Schools need all the help they can get.
  3. Be Present and Fully Engaged
    • Learn the secretary’s name, as he/she is often the gateway to more jobs, positive recommendations, and knowing the ins and outs of the school.
    • Eat in the teacher’s lounge to get to know the other teachers, especially if you like the school.
    • Ultimately, making connections with the employees can possibly get you more jobs at that school.
  4. Manage the Classroom
    • Take attendance, and do it extraordinarily well. How can they learn if they are not present? It may be difficult remembering names or faces in a short period of time, but make your best effort. Often times, teachers will add “student helpers” or “star students” that will aid you in that quest.
    • Students need guidance and guidelines. They need to know your standards. Since you’re the adult, you make the rules.
    • If the teacher doesn’t state anything about group work or partnering up in the lesson plan, make sure it’s absolutely quiet in the room. It’ll make your life easier.
    • DON’T SIT IN ONE POSITION THE WHOLE TIME. Walk around; let the kids know you’re being serious about your guidelines.
    • If some banter breaks out in a corner of the room, nip it in the bud. Take out the seating chart, and call their names out. Let them know you see them and that you’re keeping them accountable to the standards.
    • Don’t just sit, read the paper, and play Candy Crush. You’re being paid to work and supervise the future of America. Don’t be selfish; invest in the next generation.
  5. Write a Letter to the Teacher
    • Let the teacher know how his/her students were. I listed each teaching period and detailed bullet points, both positive and negative, about the students of each period. They’ll want to know how the students were, especially if they were outstanding.
    • This letter will allow the teacher to see you were serious about following her directions and meeting the learning objectives.
    • Leave a business card with updated information so that they could personally contact you to get things done.

I hope that was helpful to you, either as a substitute teacher or classroom teacher. Let me know what you think about the list and if you’d like to add anything. Thanks for joining me onpagetwo.

With Love,




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