Substitute teaching can be extremely rewarding, but, as in any profession, there also challenges.
For example, a short-term assignment might offer a fun introduction to new students and a new school, but there’s also a lot to learn — and not a lot of time do it. The good news, though, is that there are steps you can take to get ahead if you’re on one of these short-term assignments.
This is particularly important if you have never worked in the school before. Although it may not be possible if you don’t get the request until later in the morning, try to arrive 20-30 minutes early. This will give you time to park, check in at the office, fill out any paperwork, find the classroom, and look over the day’s lesson plan. It will also allow you to familiarize yourself with the layout of the classroom and identify things like where the pencils and hall passes are kept. It will make for a much smoother day.
Put on Your Teacher Face
Stand in front of the class when you introduce yourself, demand their attention, and give very specific and detailed instructions. Directions should include both ‘what’ and ‘how,’ since the sub should never assume that students know exactly what to do.
No, you are not their full-time teacher, and yes, you’ll only be there for a day or two, but you have an important role and responsibility. There is no reason to be mean or too strict, but you want to make the sort of first impression that commands respect.
Stick to the Lesson Plan
Given that you’ll only be in the classroom for a short period of time, it’s particularly important to closely follow the full-time teacher’s lesson plan and leave any notes about the lesson on it. Teachers generally leave step-by-step instructions for what they want the substitute to do, so follow their guidelines and expectations. Teachers appreciate when students continue to learn and follow the curriculum in their absence.
Make Use of Prep Periods
Teachers have prep periods so that they can grade and lesson plan. As a substitute, this is often just free time. You can go above and beyond by visiting the office during your preps to see if they need any help. They might have you cover another class, perform hall duty, or help out in the main office. If they don’t need your help with anything, you have the period to relax while everyone in the office talks about how nice it was of you to offer further assistance.
Teachers love knowing exactly what happens in their classroom when they aren’t there. It helps with the next day’s planning as well as discipline and reward systems. Whether they ask for a report or not, I highly recommend giving a summary of each class period. Detail how well the students did or did not work, and give names of students who gave you trouble as well as the ones who were helpful. Also, make sure you leave a list of students who were absent.
Keep in mind, though, that this is sensitive information, so it’s important to be discreet in the way you communicate it. Instead of using the whiteboard to pass along information on students, you’ll want to leave a private note for the teacher. (For that matter, it’s generally wise to refrain from writing student names on the board. People who walk into the room won’t have the appropriate context about why names are on the board.)
Finally, be sure to leave the classroom and teacher’s desk as neat (or neater than) they were when you arrived.