What the Best Substitute Teachers Do Differently

Alex MurilloClassroom ManagementLeave a Comment

You don’t want just any substitute filling in at your school — you want the best. And here at Swing, we’ve made it our business to know what sets great subs apart from the pack.

Here’s what the very best substitute teachers do differently.

They are ready for anything.

Stellar substitutes know that anything can happen in another teacher’s classroom. They might arrive on the first day to 20 expectant student faces but zero lesson plans. Maybe the student who everyone thought would be a good helper won’t participate in class at all. Kids get sick, technology goes on the fritz, accidents happen.

Great substitute teachers know to expect the unexpected. They’re organized so they have a bag of tricks at the ready — from emergency lesson plans to quick activities, from extra school supplies to a backup first aid kit.

And, when that fails, when their sub bag doesn’t have the tools to help, they’re adaptable. They remain flexible and think on their feet so that when things go unexpectedly, they can still keep their class on course.

They know their stuff.

Though great substitutes work temporarily in a classroom, their passion for education is enduring. Like any good teacher, they are committed to the growth of students, knowledgeable about educational resources, and dedicated to lifelong learning.

They also know that some of their best learning comes from the students themselves. Visiting multiple classrooms, grade levels, and educational cultures through subbing gives them a unique perspective on what works — and what doesn’t.

And they ask you and the school staff the right questions so they’re familiar with the ins and outs of their class — before the first bell rings.

They’re masters of classroom management.

Great subs know that they aren’t there to be the students’ best friend. They are there to help students continue to learn and remain on track while their teacher is absent.

Here are some classroom management strategies we’ve noticed in the best subs.

  • They review school rules and policies
  • They come with their own classroom expectations and clearly express them to students
  • They discipline students firmly and fairly
  • They remain calm and don’t lose their temper
  • They keep students busy

They’re reliable.

When a teacher is absent, their classroom is disrupted. No matter what the reason for the absence, the students can’t quite go on with business as usual. So, within that changeup, it’s essential for a sub to be reliable and to avoid adding more uncertainty into the mix.

Here are some hallmarks of reliability we see in great subs:

  • They meet the expectations of their position
  • They show up on time (read: early!)
  • They carry out lesson plans
  • They consistently enforce class rules and expectations
  • They follow through with promises made to students

They build rapport easily.

Schools and students both are in tricky spots when their teachers need to miss class. Schools need a sub they can trust to lead and nurture their students. And students need a sub who can connect with them and keep their learning on track.

Great subs can come into this situation and build relationships easily. They go out of their way to make students feel comfortable and to let schools know they can rely on them.

  • They make a point to talk with school staff
  • They find a teacher buddy who can help them if they need it
  • They greet students and make an effort to get to know them
  • They identify and connect with student helpers
  • They show up for their students with warmth, authenticity, and attention
  • They go out of their way to help

Are you looking for a stellar sub? We can help.

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