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Aug 02, 2018

7 qualities the best substitutes look for in a school

While substitute teachers get to repeatedly practice the art of the first impression, schools have fewer opportunities to wow new subs.

Subs gather valuable information during their time at your school: they learn about the school’s culture both through what you tell them about your guidelines and expectations and how you deliver that information. Here are seven qualities the best subs look for in a school.

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1. A warm welcome

Picture it. You’re heading into a new school, and you’re excited to start teaching. You introduce yourself to a teacher and they brush you off, pointing down the hall to the front office. At the front office, you can’t get the attention of the person who answers the phones — they just distractedly push a folder full of papers at you. Class is about to start soon, and you can’t make heads or tails of the bell schedule or the classroom map. Your excitement has turned to nerves.

No sub wants to feel like a nuisance or like the school doesn’t have time to show them a few ropes. Be sure your subs are greeted with a smile and a warm hello. A little attention and guidance will go a long way!

2. Readily-available resources

One of the very first impressions a substitute will have upon arrival is your check-in and orientation protocols. Having an organized and consistent procedure in place to welcome subs is another great way to make a strong first impression.

Here’s a quick checklist of the resources you want to prepare for each sub that comes through your doors:

 School map
 School schedule
 Emergency protocol info
 Attendance procedure
 Class list
 Wifi passwords
 Out-of-class procedures (bathroom, water fountain, etc.)
 End-of-the-day procedures
 School-wide behavior management plan
 Directory with staff contact information

Looking for more on how to get ready for your subs? Check out our blog on how to set your subs up for success.

3. A system of support

No sub should feel like they’re on an island, and schools with built-in support for visiting teachers create the best work environments. A school that surrounds substitute teachers with a system of support makes even the most difficult days a little bit easier.

Determine who will step in to make sure your subs feel supported:

  • Who will take responsibility for showing the subs where the break room or communal space is and introducing them to other teachers and staff members?
  • Who can be available in case the substitute has questions? This may be an aide, team teacher, or neighboring teacher.
  • Who in the office will be the point-person if sub plans are unclear or altogether missing?

Along with designating a clear point person to answer for your subs’ various administrative and classroom needs, you want to make sure they feel generally comfortable and welcome, too. Invite them into the faculty room for their breaks, encourage your teachers and staff to include them in conversation, and keep up the kind of friendly atmosphere that’s welcoming to a newcomer.

4. Crystal clear communication

There is nothing worse than feeling unsure of what your job expectations are. A substitute in a new school doesn’t have the luxury of familiarity. Be sure to clearly communicate what you need from your subs, what your school policies are, and what other protocols they’re responsible for understanding.

Here are some examples of how to provide clarity for your substitutes:

  • A streamlined protocol for their first day.
  • A consistent school-wide system for behavioral expectations and consequences.
  • Easy instructions for operating technology.
  • Templates and precise guides for end-of-day report forms.

5. Respect and responsibility

Sometimes, it’s easy to confuse being in a new environment with being inexperienced. Though subs may be unfamiliar with your school, they are likely very familiar with the classroom. As skilled educators, subs may seek a degree of autonomy to flex their pedagogical muscles — and that’s a great thing!

As long as you provide clear expectations and ground rules, welcome subs to make the classroom their own, too. Invite them to use lessons, activities, rewards, and other techniques they’ve used in the past. Students may benefit from a new style, and your teachers may gain new insights into how to improve their classrooms.

6. Feedback for the future

Many subs move into the field for the opportunity to grow professionally. They may be recently returning to the workforce after a hiatus. Or, they may be on a path to become permanent teachers and looking to grow their classroom experience. Whatever the path that brings them to substitute teaching, in all likelihood, they are looking for the kind of professional development that can only come from candid feedback.

So, let your subs know what they did well and where they could improve. Because they’re temporary employees, subs often miss out on discussions about their missteps. But, that frank talk might be just what it takes to make a sub a better teacher.

And don’t hesitate to praise subs when they shine, too — some subs may not know what tactics and behaviors to bring into the classroom more often until they get positive feedback from an experienced educator.

7. Appreciation

Most teachers enjoy a lot of recognition — they get thank-yous from parents, cards from students, and even schoolwide days of celebration. Because of the nature of subs’ jobs, they can miss out on the accolades. To really stand out from other schools, consider reaching out to your subs in thanks appreciation for all they do.

  • Send them a warm greeting on their birthdays
  • Have students make thank you cards
  • Include them in teacher recognition events
  • Celebrate Sub Appreciation Week the first full week of May

Looking for more on how to keep your subs happy? Check out How to Prepare Your Substitutes for Success in the Classroom.