skip to main content
woman smiling while sitting at desk

How to have a perfect day as a substitute teacher

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Although the schools, classrooms, and students may vary, there are certain strategies that are always important to follow as a substitute teacher. From the minute you accept an assignment through the final bell, here are 10 steps to help you have a great experience.

Sign up to be a sub with Swing today.

After you accept the assignment

1. Add it to your calendar

After accepting a substitute teaching assignment, we recommend immediately doing two things. First, look up your route to the school site and get an estimate for commute time. Then, add the assignment to your calendar, making sure to factor in likely traffic and parking.

The night before the assignment

2. Double check assignment details

Take another look at the assignment details to make sure you are clear what time it begins, what your route will be, where you should park, and where you should check in.

3. Set your alarm and get some rest

After setting your alarm, make sure to get some sleep! A well-rested teacher is an effective teacher, so, if possible, give yourself enough time to catch up on some z’s.

The morning of the assignment

4. Dress for success

Like they do in all professional settings, first impressions matter in the classroom, and dressing professionally is a great way to get off to a strong start on your assignment.

Many schools communicate the dress code to substitute teachers in advance of the assignment. (If you’re a substitute teacher with Swing Education, that information can be found in the “instructions for this school” link, which is found in the assignment details on our online platform.) If this doesn’t happen, it’s still important to dress professionally.

5. Arrive early

Whether it’s your first time as a sub or just your first time at a particular school, try to arrive 15-30 minutes earlier than requested. This will allow you time to familiarize yourself with the school’s office manager/secretary, the campus, the bell schedule, where the adult restroom/staff lounge is, and to ask any questions you have before the morning rush kicks into high gear.

After the first bell

6. Take attendance

Ideally, instructions on taking attendance will be included as part of the day’s sub plans, so this should be pretty straightforward. If they aren’t, consider asking a neighboring teacher or your point of contact in the office. Either way, it’s always important to remember to take attendance!

7. Follow the lesson plan

While the breadth and quality of lesson plans can vary significantly, you will always be best served by sticking as close to the sub plan as possible. Substitute assignments from Swing contain a lesson plan indicator, so you know if a lesson plan will be provided before accepting a request. If you cannot find the plan or are having trouble understanding it, ask the other grade level teachers or one of the school administrators for help. The absent teacher will also appreciate if you collect and label student work so that they can easily see which assignments were submitted in which class.

After the assignment

8. Leave a note

One of the most important things you can do as a substitute teacher is to take notes on student behavior and performance throughout the day. The full-time teacher will greatly appreciate having a full accounting of what went on during their absence. But remember: It’s important to keep the notes private. Avoid writing them on the whiteboard for all students to see. If the teacher or site administrator doesn’t outline a clear process for turning in notes at the end of the day, ask!

9. Tidy up

The assignment is over and students are gone for the day, but before you lock up and check out, make sure to take one, final look around the classroom to make sure everything is in order. Return any books/documents, and make sure the teacher’s desk is as you found it. Absent teachers appreciate returning to a classroom that is organized and clean.

10. Follow check-out procedures

Once you’ve left your note and made sure the classroom is in good shape, it’s time to head home for the day. Ideally, check-out procedures would be communicated to you in advance of the assignment. If they aren’t, make sure to ask your point of contact/someone from administration when you arrive — this is another benefit to getting to campus early! Either way, do always remember to return school property (such as laptops and keys). You can also ask the administrator for feedback as part of your check-out process.

Call to action for user to sign up to become a Swing Sub.