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Is substitute teaching right for you?

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Are you thinking about becoming a substitute teacher? Congratulations! Whether you’re interested in using it as a segue into a teaching career, you’re getting back into the working world after taking a break, or you’re just looking for a different direction, substitute teaching might be a great opportunity for you.

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself to see if substitute teaching is right for you.

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1. Do I want flexibility?

Substitute teachers work during school hours, obviously, but in many situations, substitutes choose what days work for them. If you need a day off, there’s no need to call in sick — just don’t take an assignment that day. If this type of flexibility sounds appealing, substitute teaching might be a great career move.

2. Am I up for new challenges?

Are you bored stiff from the day-to-day monotony of your 9-5? Substitute teaching is never boring! With a new class nearly every day along with different students or a different school entirely, you’ll undoubtedly be challenged. If you like tackling new and different challenges, subbing is just the ticket.

3. Do I love students and learning?

They say it takes a special type of personality to teach. Working day in and out with children is a different career path, and not one that’s right for everyone. If you enjoy spending time with children and look forward to coming up with new ways to engage students, substitute teaching is definitely a career possibility.

4. Would I enjoy summers and major holidays off?

Maybe you’ve got children of your own at home. Or maybe you just value taking a break every now and then. On the other hand, if you’re going to be bored with all the extra time over summer or winter break, substitute teaching probably isn’t the right gig for you.

5. Am I interested in making a difference in the lives of children?

Working with students can be rewarding. Seeing that light bulb go on when a student finally gets the concept is like no other. And make no mistake — substitute teachers can be very effective in increasing student learning. Students work day after day with their regular classroom teachers; sometimes they just need a different personality or perspective to spark their interest. If you can be that person, subbing may be the right fit.

6. Am I comfortable with the unpredictability of booking jobs?

Being a substitute teacher is a bit unpredictable. Sometimes you’ll book weeks in advance, but there might be other instances when you’ll be waiting for a notification in the morning to see if you’ll be working that day. While there is a degree of uncertainty in this position, the good news is that the best substitutes generally get a lot of work. This is particularly true today, with a nationwide shortage of substitute teachers. But if you need to know where and when you’ll be working days or weeks in advance, subbing probably isn’t for you.

7. Do I feel confident leading a group of students?

A large part of being a substitute is leading a classroom full of students. How confidently you lead them will play a big part in your success. It’s one thing to engage learners you know personally, but it’s another matter entirely to walk into a classroom of strangers and command control. The best subs know how to swiftly take control and get students on-task.

8. Do I feel comfortable interpreting the teacher’s plans?

Another main component of substitute teaching is interpreting and possibly modifying teachers’ plans as needed. Teachers write out their expectations, lesson plans, and class rules, and share them with the substitute. However, even the best-laid plans may need a little tweaking. Recognizing when and how to modify lesson plans is crucial to leading a successful class.

9. Am I prepared to accept whatever might come on any given day?

Whether it’s a different grade, different school, or an emergency absence with no plans, substitute teachers are superb at taking whatever’s thrown their way. They are masters of the unknown. They walk into classrooms, never sure what awaits them. If you’re up for this type of challenge, subbing is definitely the job for you!

10. Am I looking to get a foot in the door to a teaching career?

Many people who want to get into education use substitute teaching as a stepping-stone. If you’re interested in using substitute teaching to find out what being in the classroom is really like or want to get to know a district or school better, subbing might be a strong fit.

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