Things Teachers Like in a Substitute Teacher: Tips to Stand Out
written by: Pamela Rice-Linn
• edited by: Wendy Finn
• updated: 7/12/2012
If you’re brave enough to walk into a strange class every day, gain the advantage over other substitutes by learning what teachers look for in a substitute. You’ll soon secure a reputation as a reliable, trustworthy and hard-working colleague and, in turn, earn more jobs than you can handle.
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Tips for Substitutes
Be on time. If teachers are called away for a half-day or have an emergency to get to, be a lifesaver in their eyes by being readily available. Wake up each day as if it were a working day. Campuses will appreciate your promptness and dependability should you be needed at the last minute.
Follow teacher directions. If the teacher took the time to plan a lesson, please make sure students complete the work. After all, that’s what they’re expecting to see upon their return. This is one of the main aspects teachers look for in a substitute. Also, don’t minimize a task. If a worksheet has a part A and part B section, make sure students complete the entire paper. Better to do too much than to do too little.
Think on your feet. Should students finish their work early, keep a bag of tricks available for every subject area. Word puzzles, word and number games, and any activity to reinforce a skill would be greatly appreciated. These activities will keep students busy and out of trouble.
Be friendly but strict with the class. Substitute teachers are acting in part for the teacher, and since most teachers don’t get very far by being pushovers, don’t aim to win favorites by trying to act ‘cool’ for the students. Stick to your rules as well as the classroom rules. Be respectful and in turn be respected.
Know how to manage kids. Before you step into a classroom of teenagers or kindergarten students, give yourself an opportunity to gain experience working with that age group of students. Can you handle kids who lose their tempers, break into tears or develop an attitude? Try hanging around your children’s friends, nieces and nephews, public libraries, toy stores and other such places. You need not interact to think about how you might respond to situations.
Stay involved in the class. Even if you don’t understand the subject area, move around the class to assist with the student work however you can. This will keep behavior issues to a minimum and make you aware should any problems arise. Remember: substitutes aren’t babysitters, so please don’t stay seated behind a desk all day.
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A Few Additional Reminders for Substitute Teachers
Keep the student work organized. Use paper clips and folders to categorize work by subject or period and then make sure to label each stack. Should the work be assigned a grade, teachers and students will appreciate being able to find the work they submitted.
Keep it clean. Make sure the classroom is neat and tidy before the class leaves or you leave for the day. Erase chalkboards, pick up trash and put books, papers and supplies back in place.
Make notes. Leave notes for the teacher before you leave for the day. Absences, tardies, behavior issues, classroom visitors and your opinion of the class are all valuable tidbits of information.
Get to know the students. If you have an opportunity, devise a way to get to know student names. Younger students might enjoy a pretty name tag. Older students might be willing to participate in a name/favorite food or animal game. This way you’ll learn about the students while at the same time break the ice. Also, as students work, observe behaviors. Should you ever be called back to the school, it would be nice to recognize faces. Students will be happy to know you remembered their names as well.
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In close, what teachers look for in a substitute is an intelligent, confident and caring person. Don’t be the sub that tells the students about their entire lives all through class, preaches their religion or is so strict that every breath a child takes is offensive. What teachers look for in a substitute is someone they can trust. Be a person teachers can count on to do the right thing and you’ll earn all the substitute jobs you can handle.