5 Steps to Retain Subs in a Competitive Landscape

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Heading to work in a positive, constructive environment is a bonus for anyone, but considering the nation-wide shortage of substitute teachers, it’s especially important for schools to encourage subs to return.

Substitute teachers have the advantage of sampling a number of schools and keep their top picks in mind when deciding on their next assignment. Many find that focusing their attention on one or two schools can lead to better familiarity with students, more frequent (and longer-term) job requests, and a more rewarding working environment.

Here are accessible ways to make sure your school entices subs to return.

1. Start with a warm greeting

Consider for a moment how it feels to be the new person walking into an unfamiliar place. You might be a bit tentative, nervous, or insecure.

Keep in mind that substitutes go through this experience on a regular basis! They’re likely to pay special attention to the schools that go out of their way to ease these jitters, right from the get-go.

Meeting subs with a friendly greeting, warm smile, and welcoming handshake are small but meaningful gestures.

2. Be prepared for your sub’s arrival.

Give your subs a great first impression by being prepared for their arrival. Establish a set protocol to make sure each sub receives a thorough onboarding. Keep office paperwork, ID’s, keys, and any other information you supply organized so they can move through those early interactions with ease.

Be sure to devote some time to the orientation process:

  • Introduce subs to the staff they should contact for support.
  • Give them a tour, pointing out the restrooms, break rooms, and other teachers’ classrooms.
  • Provide the bell or daily schedule.
  • Answer any questions they may have about school policies, behavioral standards, and emergency protocols.

3. Have clear lesson plans and activity ideas available.

Ideally, the classroom teacher has left behind thorough lesson plans and schedule, including behavioral notes, ideas for early finishers, and classroom-specific instructions.

Be sure to check in before students enter the classroom to confirm substitutes have the materials they need. You may even want to have backup lesson plans on hand for subs at all grade levels, in case a teacher is unexpectedly absent.

4. Invite them to be part of the team.

Too often, substitutes spend lonely breaks tucked away in their classrooms. To make sure they have social support if they would like it, be sure to reinforce that they are welcome to join staff for breaks and lunch. Err on the side of overemphasizing that they don’t need to hesitate to ask for help — make them feel part of the team!

5. Do their departure right.

Substitutes will likely make one last stop in the office to return IDs and keys and to sign any last paperwork. This gives you a great opportunity to check in on their experience. Ask them how their day went. Be open to their thoughts about how subbing at your school worked out for them. Provide constructive feedback for them on the challenges and successes of their day with you — and thank them for being part of your school team for the day!

Organization, communication, and appreciation will go a long way to ensuring the best substitutes return to your school!

Looking for more tips on finding (and keeping) the best subs? Check out our article on what the best substitute teachers do a bit differently.

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