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Portrait of a young female substitute teacher standing in a classroom
Aug 25, 2022

What to do on your first day as a substitute teacher

Your first day in a new classroom can be overwhelming and challenging. We’re here to equip you with the best possible tools to ensure you leave a positive first impression. Feel confident in the classroom with these four tips.

Be on time

Make sure you give yourself ample time in the morning to arrive at school before the bell. Whether that means prepping breakfast in advance, keeping an eye out for traffic, or setting multiple alarms, try and plan for any deterrents that’ll prevent you from getting to the classroom. With proper planning, you’ll arrive on time, stress-free, and eager to start the day.

Be prepared

Although you’re an experienced teacher, every school and classroom function a little differently. While you’re learning about your new assignment, set yourself up for success by setting aside time to study any additional resources provided, such as the student handbook or school rules.

Here are some tips to ensure you’re fully prepared to take on your first day:

  • Prepare an emergency lesson plan appropriate for the grade level
  • Bring along your favorite 10-minute activities, games, and contests to keep the class focused if lessons finish early
  • Talk to staff at the school and ask them to give you a quick rundown of students that may need more attention or may be ready to help you out

Keep the kids focused

Even the best students may be tempted to use their teacher’s absence as an opportunity to goof off. Help keep students on track with their school work by limiting excessive free time with these techniques:

  • If students start to break into unfocused chatter, have them do a short physical activity as a group, such as a musical chairs review session or a snowball toss
  • Have “if you finish early” tasks written on the board so that students don’t disrupt the rest of the class when they are done with an assignment
  • Assign jobs to students so they can always do something helpful

Give yourself grace

You are likely drawn to substitute teaching because you want to help and make a difference. However, classrooms can be unpredictable, so it’s important not to be too hard on yourself if things get unruly.

Each student is their own little system of unique qualities, influences, and circumstances, most of which is entirely unrelated to you.

In order to stay calm and confident in the classroom, keep these thoughts in mind:

  • Strengthen your position in the classroom with a plan. Share your go-to ground rules or bring along a list of your favorite classroom management strategies so you can refer to it if things get tense
  • Remain confident. Remember — you’re in charge! And you’re great at what you do!
  • Take a few deep breaths if things go south — it will ease your nerves and give you a chance to find a good solution
  • Take student misbehavior at face value — don’t read anything into it, just nip it in the bud and move on

For more tips to help you prepare for your first day, check out our 72+ Classroom Resources for Substitute Teachers.

Looking for more support in the classroom? Get started with Swing today.

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