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Lessons learned: insights from my time as a substitute teacher

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Formerly a full-time educator, Davi Diaz’s substitute teaching journey began with a desire for change. Burnt out from her previous profession, Davi took a leap of faith and found renewed passion in her work as a substitute teacher with Swing. “It showed me that I didn’t hate teaching,” she reflected, “I just really disliked the position that I was in.”

Hailing from Sacramento, California, Davi has been substitute teaching with Swing Education since summer 2023. Since completing numerous assignments, she has lots of insight on substitute teaching.

Getting started

Getting started with Swing was very smooth. They made it a breeze for credentialed teachers like me to jump right in without any unnecessary hurdles. Within just a couple of weeks, I was all set and ready to go. 

I love working with Swing because I get a taste of all the different campuses and school communities in my area. Without being a substitute, there would be no real way to get that perspective, and I love getting to see all these different little pockets of community around me. 

Another aspect of Swing Education that I appreciate is the responsiveness and support. There have been instances where my contracted time was extended, and Swing handled the logistics seamlessly, allowing me to focus on teaching without any hassle.

Tips for assignments

When I step into a new assignment, I come in with an open mind, a willingness to adapt, and the confidence to ask questions. I understand that what works in one school may not necessarily work in another — every school community is different.  I’m always ready to learn and embrace new approaches. Whether it’s collaborating with fellow educators or tapping into my own arsenal of engaging activities, I’m committed to making the most out of every classroom experience.

I do find it helpful to come prepared with fun games, lessons, or songs to throw in if there’s extra time at the end of class. It’s always nice to have something in your back pocket if you need it. 

Some of my go-tos include:

  • Seasonal activities that relate to holidays, upcoming events, or specific months
  • Dictation practices utilize lots of different skills (and can take up lots of time!)
  • For younger kids, fun and interactive songs or letter recognition games
  • Wordle or a number game can be really engaging with older students

Don’t forget to bring your personal computer—it’s a game-changer in terms of accessing resources and lesson plans on the go.

Advice for subs

Every school site and teaching job is different, and I can have a totally different experience even within the same school. I wish I had known how varied my experiences would be on a day to day basis. It’s surprising and exciting every day!

Since I’ve mainly been substitute teaching in urban environments, I’ve taken advantage of relevant professional development courses. I’ve taken courses like Safe and Civil Schools, which have been invaluable in creating a positive learning environment. I can’t stress enough the importance of trauma-informed training, especially in urban settings where the student population varies greatly from school to school.

My time with Swing Education has been nothing short of fulfilling. From the flexibility to the diverse experiences, it’s been a journey of growth and learning, both for me and the students I have the privilege to teach. I’m excited to see where this adventure takes me next!

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