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Melissa's Myriad

Tips for Substitute Teachers

Anyone who has ever substitute taught knows that it can be rewarding, yet hard, work. I think substitute teaching is tougher than student teaching in many aspects. At least when I was student teaching I was able to spend time with the students and develop a rapport with them. A substitute is in-and-out. Usually it's a one day shot. Often they don't know you, and you don't know them. The students are used to their classroom teacher, and then they get this "stranger" for one day. All that disruption can become more than they want to handle....

And, if that isn't tough enough--If the classroom teacher is unhappy with what they find when they return, they can (and will) request that the substitute teacher NEVER sets foot in their room again. (I know teachers who have done this....fortunately not to me!) The flip side is, if they are happy with what they find when they return, they will personally request for the substitute the next time they have to be absent.

1. Always, ALWAYS, follow the classroom teacher's lesson plans (or whatever substitute instructions they have left.) The top complaint I have heard from teachers, about substitutes, is that they do not follow the lesson plans.

2. Take time before school to review material that is unfamiliar. If that still does not help, try to find another teacher who will explain it to you. (The second most complaint I have heard from teachers, about substitutes, is that they did not know anything about the subject, and confused the students. Make every attempt to understand the lessons.)

3. Make a discipline plan. Get input from classroom teachers and principals before the final draft is made. Then when subbing, show it to the principal of the school beforehand and ask him to back it. Then follow through with it in the classroom. (Another common complaint about substitutes is lack of classroom control.) [I have two "rule" posters; one for elementary and another for junior high and high school. (I suggest to have a maximum of five rules.) I post the rules at the front of classroom before the students arrive. Often students will see my rule poster as they enter the room, and ask about it. At the start of class I explain each rule, and tell the consequences of breaking the rules. Some things that elementary students really dislike are missing recesses or staying after school. (Some may object by saying that's not the way their teacher does things. My standard reply is I know it is a challenge to have a new person walk in. Nevertheless I am not their regular teacher, and these are the rules I bring with me every time I substitute. The rules posted are the rules for as long as I am their substitute, and I'm sure we will have a pleasant day if we all work together.) At the elementary level I bring work for students to do, in case I keep someone after school. At the high school level I will send them to the office if necessary.]

4. Bring some fun extra things the students can do when, and only when, their work is done. At the elementary level I bring "fun sheets" for the students. Fun sheets can be pictures to color, dot-to-dots,word searches, mazes, or something else along that line. At the upper levels I bring word puzzles and magazines.

5. Leave a note for the teacher at the end of the day. Let the classroom teacher know how the day went. Did the students struggle with a lesson? If so, let the teacher know. Did the students have fun with an activity? Again, let the teacher know. Remember to include the positives of the day as well as the negatives.

6. Make sure the room is in order before leaving. Another common complaint is that the teacher can never find books and papers when they return. Make an effort to stack handed-in assignments in a neat and organized manner where the teacher can easily find them. Put all books away where they were at the start of the day. Be sure the room in general looks orderly.

Doing those things has made substitute teaching easier, and more enjoyable, for me.

Other sites you might be interested in include:
Substitute Teaching
Substitute Teacher Homepage

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