Substitute Teacher Job Description: Requirements and Responsibilities

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Substitute teacher helping girl in homework

There are more than 56 million students enrolled in K-12 schools in the 2018-2019 academic year. Given that the average student spends more than six months of their K-12 career with a substitute teacher, it’s clear that subs play a big role in helping students succeed.

Although specific requirements and duties vary slightly by state (e.g. some regions require permits for substitute teachers, and others don’t), there are several common elements of every substitute teacher job.

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Substitute Teacher Requirements

The specifics vary by region, but, generally, substitute teachers must possess the following qualifications:

  • Clean Background Check: Student safety is of the utmost importance, so substitute teachers will need to pass a thorough background check.
  • College Education: Some regions require a certain number of credit hours, others a full bachelor’s degree. Regardless, at least some college education is often a requirement for substitute teachers.
  • Permit: Some states do not have substitute teaching permits (and some schools do not require them even in regions that do), but, if applicable, obtaining a substitute teaching permit will often open the door to more assignments and higher pay.
  • Communication Skills: Communication is one of the most important parts of being a substitute teacher. Whether you’re interacting with fellow educators or a class of students, it’s important that you speak thoughtfully, confidently, and professionally, and that you are an active and engaged listener. 
  • Confidence: Subbing in a new school environment with new students can be intimidating. To succeed as a substitute teacher, however, you’ll need to have the confidence to communicate clearly, make decisions, and manage the classroom.
  • Passion for Education: In many ways, this is the most important requirement of a substitute teacher. Students respond to educators who care about their success, and the best substitute teachers are passionate about helping students learn.

Substitute Teacher Responsibilities

  • Arrive on Time: Your students and colleagues will counting on you to be punctual.
  • Leave a Note: The absent classroom teacher will very much appreciate the substitute teacher leaving a detailed note on the day’s events. This should include both updates on how students performed in discussion/the day’s lesson as well as any behavioral issues. But remember to keep the notes private between you and the absent teacher rather than writing them on the whiteboard for all to see.
  • Be Professional: As the adult in the room, it’s important to conduct yourself in a professional manner. This means avoiding any improper language, staying engaged with students (rather than falling into the trap of spending time on a mobile device), and dressing for success.
  • Follow Guidelines: This may include directions on where to park/check in, how to take attendance, specifics outlined in the day’s sub plans, and more.
  • Help Students Succeed: This is the at the very core of a substitute teacher’s responsibilities. By bringing your positive presence and skill set to the classroom, you’ll help students continue to learn and develop — even though the full-time teacher is out.

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