5 Tips for a Sub-Friendly Environment

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The 2019-2020 school year has arrived for students in most states, and with it, another exciting year of learning. And as is the case every year, substitute teachers will play a key role.

Here are five ways your school can help set substitute teachers up to succeed.

1. Create Sub Binders 

A successful substitute teacher welcome starts before the educator steps foot on campus. Creating a sub binder with up-to-date, important information can help the substitute teacher lead a productive day of instruction. This is especially important for new subs who may not be familiar with your school’s policies and procedures. 

Consider including information like:

While some parts of a sub binder might be applicable to all classrooms, it’s also helpful to include information specific to the absent teacher’s classes. For one, the sub folder could have grade-level general sub plans in case the teacher did not leave plans behind. These plans are intentionally general so they can be used for all students within a given grade or grade-level band.

If possible, coordinate with full-time teachers to provide classroom management “cheat sheets” that give substitutes a clear picture of what the students are used to, what expectations the school has for behavior, and how they should proceed given various levels of misbehavior or disruption.

These cheat sheets can include:

  • Ideas for rewards and discipline that the students are familiar with
  • Classroom-specific notes on student helpers and challenging students
  • Basic rules and procedures for the classroom (ie: bathroom pass procedure, discipline procedure, lunch recess procedure, tardy procedure)
  • Backup activities, just in case
  • Seating charts and attendance sheets for every class 

2. Update Your School Profile 

If your school or district is partnered with Swing Education, one of the best ways you can set substitute teachers up to succeed is by updating your school profile. This is a great way to communicate information on important campus policies (parking, check-in and check-out procedures, classroom protocols, and other information) and to make sure subs know what to do when they arrive on campus. Here’s more information on how you can update your school’s profile.

3. Assist with Technology

Technology is an increasingly large part of the modern classroom experience. And while there are numerous benefits to the growing availability of different programs and applications, it can all be a lot for substitute teachers (especially new ones) to take in. 

If possible, make sure your classrooms have detailed, accessible instructions for operating any technology. It can also be helpful to review the technology with the sub before class to make sure they can log in to necessary sites, navigate the required teaching tools, and avoid common difficulties. If they are having trouble with IT, get them the right support right away. 

You also may want to create a central document or resource for logins, online educational resources, and other tools, and encourage full-time teachers to update the list whenever anything changes.

4. Provide a Warm Welcome

We at Swing Education often hear from substitute teachers about how appreciative they are when school administrators go out of their way to provide a warm welcome. Meeting subs with a friendly greeting, warm smile, and welcoming handshake are small but meaningful gestures.

Time permitting, it can also be a good idea to give new subs a tour of your school, highlighting points of interest, such as

  • Bathrooms
  • Break rooms
  • Emergency exits
  • Helpful teacher contacts

Additionally, it might be worth reviewing particularly important campus policies (like your dismissal procedure) even if that information is included in the sub binder.

5. End on a High Note

Substitutes will likely make one last stop in the office to return IDs and keys and to sign any last paperwork at the conclusion of the assignment. This gives you a great opportunity to check in on their experience. Be open to their thoughts about how subbing at your school worked out for them. 

One way you can do this is by having the substitute teacher fill out a card with three questions.

  • How were you treated at school?
  • How was your day?
  • Tell us what we could do better to support you.

Finally, 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 toward ensuring the best substitutes return to your school!

What 1,500+ Schools and Districts Are Doing for Subs

See why 1,500+ schools and districts are using Swing Education to help cover teacher absences. Learn more about how we can help.


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