50 Things to Know About Substitute Teaching

50 things to know about substitute teaching“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

-Benjamin Franklin



Congratulations! Your job as a substitute is very important for any school to run smoothly. Knowing your way around a classroom is only the beginning.

This book will help you navigate this sometimes difficult job. By filling your toolbox with behavior management solutions and ways to engage your students, you will not only become a better substitute, but a more confident one as a well.

Try out these tips in the classroom and keep what works for you! As you become more comfortable in the classroom, remember to keep track of your own tips and tricks to pass on to others. Enjoy this guide to being the best substitute teacher you can be!

1.  Arrive Early

Arriving early is the single most important thing to do to start your day off on the right foot. You are about to take over a class in what is, typically, an unfamiliar setting. By arriving early, you give yourself more time to prepare by looking over the plans, scanning the room, orienting yourself to the space, and taking a few deep, cleansing breaths.

2.  Dress Comfortable Chic

Many daily substitutes are told the type of classroom they will oversee that day. In this case, dress the part! If you know you will be a physical education teacher, don’t forget the sneakers! If you will be in a science class, be prepared with older clothes in case there is a lab going on. For building substitutes, you rarely know the classroom(s) you will you be in ahead of time. Always wear comfortable shoes to make switching classrooms a breeze. Dress professionally, yet comfortably, and always take advantage of casual Fridays.

3.  Revamp Attendance

Most classes will begin with taking attendance. There are countless ways to make this task rewarding for both substitute and students alike. A favorite way to do this is to turn it into a Mad Libs ™. By using pre-made online templates, call each student’s name and ask for a certain type of word (adjective, verb, etc.). After filling out the template, read the Mad Lib ™ aloud to the students for an exciting class starter.  Not only will students be instantly engaged, but they will also practice using the correct parts of speech. Alternative activities include asking a “get to know you question” for students to answer when called on, or having students share a fun fact about themselves.

4.  Bring Back the Name Tags

It can be very difficult to address students when you do not know their name. Having students create name tags can make this task much easier. Whether you want to address a student’s behavior or call on a student to answer a question, calling them by their names will immediately make the environment friendlier and begin building positive rapport from the start.

5. Clarify Classroom Rules

Students will be used to classroom expectations. There will be times, however, when students try to get away with misbehavior when a substitute is in charge. After attendance, I make sure to clearly state my classroom rules. I acknowledge that I will not be doing everything the same way their teacher does, but I will make sure that everything goes smoothly. Keep these rules brief and simple. I like to list three: 1. Stay on task 2. Ask questions when you are unsure and 3. Respect the teacher and your peers.

6. Write Directions Out

Students of any grade typically have a difficult time remembering instructions for multi-step assignments. Have a bulleted list of directions written on the board to supplement any oral instructions. Remind students that they are to reference the board if they forget any step. Do your best to deliver written and oral instructions for the most clarity.

Read all 50 Things to Know About Substitute Teaching in the book.