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How community can improve substitute teaching

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Originally from the New Jersey area, Heavon Clark has been substitute teaching with Swing since August 2023. Currently working a permanent assignment, Heavon shared her thoughts on what she looks for in a school community, what makes a substitute teaching assignment successful, and how schools can better support their substitute teachers.

Transparency breeds confidence

Even when sub requests are filled thoroughly and with care, starting a new sub assignment can be a challenging experience. Heavon emphasized the importance of transparency from schools. Before agreeing to an assignment, Heavon wants to have a clear idea of what she’s walking into. 

“If I sign up for an assignment with third graders, I don’t want to walk into a classroom with fifth graders,” she states. This transparency extends beyond just the grade level to encompass crucial details like parking availability, which can significantly impact a sub’s experience, especially in areas where parking can be scarce.

 When seeking assignments, Heavon considers the:

  • Pay rate
  • Location
  • Overall mission statement of the school
  • Age group of the students
  • Subject 

However, while Heavon can be flexible on subject matter and grade of the students, she’s really looking for community, a place where she can fit in. “Every school has its pros and cons, but with the school I’m at now, there are more pros,” she explains. “I love that this school’s administration is willing to listen to me. Sometimes as a sub, you’re only seen as a filler, but I don’t feel like a filler at this school.

“They try and make me feel as included as they possibly can. They included me in their holiday party and they ask for my opinions. They don’t just see me as someone who’s there temporarily, but as a teacher.”

Advice for subs

Building trust with students and staff alike is crucial for substitute teachers, advises Heavon. Her approach revolves around patience. Heavon is intentional about taking the time to observe, getting to know the students before jumping in, and embracing any feedback. “You can’t come in and try to rule with an iron fist,” she adds. 

Heavon explained that if she ever had trouble, the Swing Support team has been a reliable and straightforward experience, “If I ever have any questions about anything, the Support team is extremely helpful and quick to respond.”

Above all else, Heavon’s dominant piece of advice is to, “Be yourself. Don’t feel compelled to be exactly like the absent teacher. I’m going to teach the best as myself, and I think that’s something other substitutes should always try to understand.”

No two sub assignments are alike, but embracing each assignment as an opportunity to learn and grow will allow you to adopt the right mindset to navigate any challenges presented during substitute teaching.

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