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9 things substitutes need to know before school starts

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

The other teachers at the school where you’re substitute teaching are an invaluable resource for you. They can help you create a successful subbing experience.

Here are 9 essential questions to ask them.

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1. What are the current lesson plans?

The best way for you to keep students on track and engaged is to get your hands on their regular teacher’s lesson plans. Substitute assignments from Swing contain a lesson plan indicator, so you know if a lesson plan will be provided before accepting a request. Be sure to take a look at lesson plans in advance and look for anything you need clarification on.

Before you head into the classroom, ask the other teachers at the school if they have insight into the following:

  • What important deadlines take place during the time you’re subbing?
  • What books do the lesson plans refer to?
  • What online resources or other digital tools are required to carry out the plans? What do you need to know to access them (websites, passwords, etc.)?
  • Are the students on track with the current plan? Are all students moving through the lesson plan at the same pace?

2. Who at the school should I ask if I need assistance?

You know what they say about the best-laid plans. Even if you’re clear on what’s expected in the classroom, surprising challenges can come up. And even if you’re filling in for the most organized teacher in the world, you might not have essential information at your fingertips.

So, it’s important to know who you can reach out to if you need help — and how best to get in touch with them. Ask the other teachers who has the closest ties to the class you’ll be headed into — perhaps there’s a buddy teacher you can turn to for help and who you might send students who need extra help.

3. How should I submit attendance?

You want to make sure that all students are where they’re supposed to be. If you’re subbing for a teacher with multiple classes, this can be even more important. Ask out teachers about the attendance policies and procedures to make sure no student is skipping out on you and that the teacher knows who has been absent or late.

4. Which students tend to need a bit more attention?

In every classroom, some students are content to work on their own and some students need more guidance, discipline, or individual instruction.

If you have the opportunity, ask other teachers to give you a breakdown of the students who may need a helping hand and the ones who are likely to push the limits. For students who tend to get out of hand, you may want to prepare jobs or special duties to keep them occupied.

You may also want to ask the other teachers if there are any students you can rely on to help you keep things on track.

5. What classroom rules should I know about?

Each teacher runs the classroom a bit differently. And though you will undoubtedly bring your own flair to the classroom, it’s great to have an idea of what the students are used to.

What’s more, it can be easy for kids to get out of hand if they all know all the rules but you don’t. Being aware of the existing classroom expectations can help you blend your own unique teaching style with the habits that the class is used to.

6. What are the typical consequences for breaking the rules?

Other teachers can give you insight into how your class is normally run and what the students’ expectations are for negative consequences. Though you may have your own insight into what motivates deters problematic behavior, the existing disciplinary strategies in the classroom may be ultimately what works best.

7. What are the typical rewards for positive behavior?

It’s just as crucial to know what the students expect in terms of rewards for getting caught being good. Ask the other teachers at the school if they know what kind of reward system the teacher you’re subbing for has in place. It’ll help your class run smoothly if you can give them the treats, points, or gold stars they’re expecting.

8. What extra activities do the students enjoy?

If lesson plans end early or students have a free period, it’s good to have a bank of brief activities to keep everyone engaged and on task. It’s even better if they’re activities that the students know and like.

If the other teachers don’t have insight into extra activities, ask if they know what types of teaching activities tend to work best for the class. One class may be happiest playing games in small groups while another may do better with fun class-wide review sessions — knowing what works best for a specific class can help you come to class prepared.

9. What would you want to know if you were subbing for your class?

An open-ended question like this can help draw out information that the teachers might not otherwise think of. It can encourage them to take a step back and examine their every day from the perspective of an outsider. This question can bring out the practical info, student tendencies, and idiosyncrasies you need to know to have a successful time in the classroom.

Looking for more tips on how to prepare for the next class you teach? Check out our  72+ Tips, Templates, and Classroom Resources for Substitute Teachers.

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