How to Maintain Positive Classroom Engagement As a Substitute Teacher

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Engaged substitute teacher

An important part of succeeding as a substitute teacher is strong classroom engagement. Although some parts of staying engaged are relatively standard and straightforward — i.e. don’t leave students unattended — there are some nuances that require attention to master.

To that end, here are our suggestions on how to best stay engaged as a sub — and some things you should avoid.

How to Stay Engaged

1. If you need to leave the classroom for any reason, call your point of contact at the school, and do not leave until another qualified adult is in the classroom to relieve you.

2. If you are assisting a student or engaging in other classroom duties, be sure to look up and survey the entire class often. A good rule of thumb to determine how often to check the class is to take the average age of a student in seconds. For example, if you are subbing in a kindergarten class, you should check the rest of the class at least every five seconds.

3. If students are working quietly, resist the temptation to text, surf the web, or read. Here are some alternative activities that schools often love to see:

  • Circulate throughout the room (without hovering)
  • Assist students who ask for help
  • Ask students who are off task if they need help

4. Respond to text messages, emails, etc. during passing or planning periods, lunch, or times when you are not responsible for actively monitoring students.

5. Praise the behaviors you want to see in other students. For instance, if you see a student who is reading intently, you could say “It is so great that (student name) is so focused on reading their book.” Students will automatically adapt their behavior to this praise so they too can receive a compliment from you

6. You can review student work as a class if the students complete the assignment early. Even if you aren’t certain of the answers, you can still engage students by asking them their thoughts

What to Avoid

1. Leaving students unattended to use the bathroom or make a phone call

2. Sitting in the same spot the entire class and not assisting students

3. Not monitoring the classroom by:

  • Reading a book or newspaper
  • Using electronics (cell phones, computers, or headphones)
  • Remaining seated during the entire class

Get More Classroom Management Tips

Check out more blog posts on classroom management, including creative ideas to manage tough classrooms, finding moments of zen in a busy classroom, and more.

Or, if you’re looking for a new way to substitute teach, get started with Swing Education today!


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One Comment on “How to Maintain Positive Classroom Engagement As a Substitute Teacher”

  1. Really a wonderful source of various meaningful and effective teaching learning strategies. Honestly speaking some of the tips mentioned in these resources really effective and have positive output in my personal experience as a full time and substitute teacher .

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