7 Quick Ways for Subs to Beat Stress

Swing EducationCareer Tips5 Comments


Let’s face it, even if you love your job, it comes with its challenges. The students take their time getting used to you, the teacher you’re subbing for doesn’t always leave you prepared, and often you may feel like you’re just winging it.

So, if you’re feeling stressed out, here are some quick ways to achieve a little relaxation and peace as a substitute educator.

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Be yourself

When you’re subbing, you’re stepping into someone else’s classroom. But that doesn’t mean you have to step into their teaching style or attempt to do things just as they did. It’s challenging to emulate another person — and there’s no need to! Students may point out how their teachers tend to do things, but they often appreciate it when you acknowledge that you’re your own unique person. Bring your own flair, ideas, and personality to lesson plans, relax into the adventure of the unknown, and know that you’re the best teacher when you’re being yourself.

Ask for help

There’s no need for your first days at a new school to be overwhelmed with unknowns. Reach out to the school’s other staff members, introduce yourself, and be proactive in getting any support you need to do your best work. This will help you build your social network at the school and help make sure you’re constantly learning from your fellow teachers.

Make new friends

It may be tempting to keep your head down and just get your work done. But your substitute teaching positions are great opportunities to meet people. And, you guessed it — friendships are great stress relievers — strong, positive relationships can boost your immune system and even help you live longer! Show your fellow teachers that you’re up for new connections — be open and friendly, ask them about themselves, and join them during school events and downtime in the faculty lounge.

Keep a gratitude journal

It’s easy to get bogged down by little annoyances — the bus is late, the classroom is tricky to find, the students are too rowdy. Focusing on what your grateful for can boost happiness and even have positive effects on your health. Start each day by writing down some of the good stuff: small successes (like getting the class to quiet down on the first try), the picture a student drew for you, or the exciting opportunity you have to work in a new classroom.

You can also incorporate thankfulness with your students. Ask them to share what they are thankful for, in their lives, in their school, and in their friends.

Stay hydrated

Being even a little dehydrated can increase your stress levels and lead to a bad cycle: stress can cause dehydration and dehydration, in turn, can cause more stress. So, when you’re heading into the classroom, bring a reusable water bottle to help you build a healthy water habit.

Get more sleep

Sleep can be tricky — especially when you are up late prepping for your class or getting up early to greet the very first students who arrive. But the less sleep you get, the more stressed out you are. Practice good sleep hygiene, like going to bed at the same time every day or developing a before-sleep ritual. This will help you get the 7 – 9 hours that you need each night to be that much more refreshed in the classroom.

Practice mindfulness

You’ve heard about mindfulness. Everyone from Google’s leadership team to Oprah is on the mindfulness train — and with good reason. Not only does practicing mindfulness help you reduce stress, it also helps boost your memory, improve your focus, and even increase your levels of compassion, all of which will help you when you’re subbing. You can start out just by sitting in silence for a few minutes taking deep breaths or paying attention to the info you’re getting from your senses.

Want to take it to the next level? Mindfulness can be great for students, too. Here are some tips for introducing mindfulness techniques to your class.

Anything we missed? Share your stress relief tips in the comments!

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5 Comments on “7 Quick Ways for Subs to Beat Stress”

  1. Pingback: 3 Tips for Staying Positive As a Substitute Teacher - Teacher Habits

  2. Very good info. I have been a sub for seven years with no teaching experience. I found caring for the students is monumental in having a good relationship with the school and staff.bob

  3. I’ve been a sub for 5 years and these are all good tips. I think it’s hardest to sub in high school when they will use every trick in the book to leave the class.

  4. Excellent information! I’ve been complimented by staff for my unique style as a substitute teacher. I purchase colored name labels & ask students to wear them to help me easily identify them when they get out of their seats or transition in the hallway. They love requesting “”special colors!” I also ordered a timer that has a classical chime. I caution students if their bathroom breaks turn into a 20 minute “”lunch break” then if the classical music timer goes off I will alert the office. This seems to encourage students to immediately hussle back to class. I always bring grade related word search puzzles or American sign language alphabet so students can “”quietly”” practice how to spell their name using sign language if they complete an assignment early. (The lesson plan directive of “””read a book silently”” never seems to work for me! Students ignore me & goof off!) I also always bring interesting articles from the internet to project on the Promethean Board. “””the revolving house””” in Switzerland, dancing baby bear cubs in Finland, underwater restaurant, frozen lake Michigan(Breathtaking! March 2019) largest flower in the world (3 feet wide–15 pounds– Indonesia), strange animals we didn’t know existed, like the hairy ant,& lastly, the article of Malia Obama being told rudely to””SHUT UP””by a comedian since she kept disrespecting him by TALKING while he is performing. I remind my students “”the world will not be AS PATIENT with you all as teachers are so please don’t talk out of turn!””(that strategy works 80% of the time). My company has a “”hands off”” policy regarding touching students. (No hugs, no hand shakes, so I do a military salute or wave. (Teacher’s get blamed for EVERYTHING & parents tend to think their students are angels ,,NOT!!) I bring my horrifying alarm clock chime to class & put it on the desk of sleeping students. I remind them some students have medical issues so I can’t allow them to sleep in class. Staff request I simply “”shake””students awake. I reminded staff of my company’s hands off policy , which is best practice.( Can’t you imagine the student accusing the sub teacher of “””touching”‘ them inappropriately?)

    For last resort time fillers I play wordsmith games with the students. I’m a guest teacher for any grade or subject needed. (K-12)For music class I ask the students to figure out how many words they can create out of the word “”instrument””.(I told them Google indicates hundreds!) For math class I used the word “”mathematics””(Google indicates 400 words!) For science class I used “”photosynthesis””(Google indicated over 700 words!) This trick is what my sister suggested I do when the lesson plan doesn’t offer “”fillers””. That’s what my sister’s teacher did back in the 1960’s!(some teaching strategies never go out of style). I tell my students this is a form of critical thinking that they WILL need for standardized tests. Students are amazed & engaged & even start challenging each other with the amount of words they can find!

    Lastly, for students with colorful language (profanity) I hand them a grade appropriate “Scripps” spelling bee list of words & suggest they write down THOSE words & use them in their vocabulary in lieu of profanity! I remind them to share with their parents that if they make it to the national spelling bee they could win thousands of dollars! I had a LINE of high school students at my desk, begging for a spelling bee list, while the student who used profanity just sat their, looking silly! Happy teaching!

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