Whether for short stints or as long-term replacements, substitute teachers play a vital role in the teaching system. Over the course of their K-12 career, students will spend over 140 days with a substitute teacher. Despite the urgent need for substitutes, schools are facing a fill rate of only 50-60%, leaving many classrooms without coverage.
So, how can your school not only find the right subs for your teaching needs, but also help these educators enjoy their experience so that they keep coming back when you need them the most?
Let’s dive into some of our top tips to keep substitute teachers coming back happy:
1. Have a plan ready
No matter the grade, let students know in advance that a substitute teacher will be filling in. Setting the tone early on will help prepare them, and also serve as a good opportunity to remind students of classroom expectations.
Check in with the substitute teacher to ensure they have a comprehensive teaching plan that highlights their own original teaching style, lays out goals, materials, and expectations for their time in the classroom. This approach can encourage substitute teachers to actually teach, move the lessons forward, and help keep students on track.
2. Provide the right resources
Make your substitutes feel welcome by planning a thorough orientation for their first day. Presenting a plan for ongoing support will help ensure that subs have the tools and resources they need to be successful.
Just 44% of substitute teachers across the country receive any sort of training at all — set your school district apart by going the extra mile to ensure your subs have the tools, guidance, and support to feel part of the larger education team and be effective in the classroom.
Instead of having them figure it all out on their own, provide a packet of information with items such as:
- School-wide and classroom schedules
- Classroom rules
- Nearby points of contact to help with questions
- Unique student needs
3. Make school substitute teachers part of the team
Traditionally, substitute teaching is thought of as a temporary, almost gig-like role for those looking for flexibility or new opportunities.
Flip the script on this mentality and use your time with each substitute teacher to ensure that they feel valued, appreciated, and welcomed by your district. Incorporate regular subs in school events and celebrations, and share key updates with them. While these are small acts, they can help substitute teachers feel engaged and included in the school’s learning goals and ecosystem.
4. Provide competitive pay — maybe more
Educators have always put their students first, but in a time when there are more substitute teaching jobs than there are subs, pay and benefits play a large role. Pay can vary greatly depending on the school district, with the national average at about $105 per day. School districts should be aware of how competitive their substitute teacher market is and if they are offering compensation that stands out.
In addition to competitive pay, some schools are also considering offering full-time substitute teacher roles. Such a move will provide these full-time substitutes with access to other benefits that can encourage them to change how they think about their role — from viewing subbing as a backup plan to instead seeing it as a rewarding phase of their career.
5. Collect feedback (and actually listen to it!)
Substitute teachers have a unique perspective on how different aspects of schools are run, such as how easy it is to onboard sub roles in your district, and what tools and resources could make the experience better for others in the future.
Take time to collect their feedback and lessons learned on what can be improved and, of course, take the necessary steps to follow through with any changes needed to improve substitutes’ experiences.
School districts will always need high-quality and invested substitute teachers, so taking the appropriate steps will help ensure you have the educators to fill in when you need them the most. When it comes to substitute teachers, know that Swing is here to help take some of that work off your plate.