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Aug 16, 2022

What a typical day looks like for substitute teachers

If you’re thinking about becoming a substitute teacher, you’re likely wondering what subs do all day? Here’s what you can expect on a typical day:

Accepting your assignment

6:00 a.m. — Your day might begin with a phone call, where you’ll find out what school and class needs a substitute and when to be there. Alternatively, some schools and districts use text- or web-based notifications, so you can view and accept assignments via your phone. 

In an ideal scenario, substitute teacher assignments are posted in advance, so you can have more autonomy over your schedule. Swing Education helps districts proactively plan for subs and lets subs plan their schedules ahead of time. 

Once you’ve accepted a sub assignment, it’s time to get ready for school.

A typical day

8:00 a.m. — When you arrive at school, your first stop is likely the office. The school secretary gives you keys to your classroom and any instructions. You make your way to your destination and find sub plans, a roster, a daily schedule, and information about emergency procedures on the teacher’s desk.

First, familiarize yourself with the plans. Locate all the lesson materials and make sure you understand the information the teacher has left for you. Pop over and introduce yourself to the teachers across the hall and next door. They will likely be your point people for any questions that arise during the day. 

The sub plans should contain all the information you need to be successful: the timing of each class, whether you have a duty to attend (like lunch or bus duty), and what time breaks and lunch are. Students need supervision at all times, so it’s important you’re at the correct place at the correct time. Know where you’re going in advance so there’s no chance you’ll get lost in the halls and end up late.

8:15 a.m. — Before students arrive, write any instructions and your name on the board. Greet students as they enter your class, introduce yourself, and get down to business. Follow the teacher’s plans faithfully. Remember to take attendance!

If you’re teaching middle or high school, be prepared to give the same lesson multiple times for different groups of students. If you’re assigned to an elementary classroom, you’ll escort your students to their different specials (PE, music, or art) and remember those bathroom breaks! 

12:00 p.m. — Time for lunch! If you’re not sure where to eat, head to the teacher’s lounge and introduce yourself; building relationships leads to more work as a substitute.

Finishing strong

2:30 p.m. — As the day draws to a close, have students tidy up and turn in their assignments. Once the bell rings and students leave, there are a few more details to tackle.

It’s expected that you’ll leave a detailed report for the absent teacher. Write them a note and be sure to include important information, such as how the lesson went, where students left off in their work, and any modifications to the lesson that were made.

Most teachers also expect a report on behavior: Who was helpful and on-task? Who needed redirection? If there were any behavior problems, don’t be shy — tell the teacher. They’ll want to know how their students behaved in their absence, and they’ll likely follow up upon their return.

Teachers can often request substitutes, so if you enjoyed working with this group of students, let the teacher know! This will increase the likelihood of repeat bookings. Almost all teachers prefer to go with a sub they know has a proven track record.

Finally, it’s always a good idea to tidy up the room behind you. Bundle and paper clip student work, and label it with class period and date.

2:45 p.m. — Pop into the office to drop off your keys, and you’re officially done. Now head home and put your feet up — you’ve earned a break. Get ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

If you are ready to start substitute teaching, sign up with Swing Education today!

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