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Substitute teacher’s best tips on how to overcome first day anxiety

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

You’ve landed a gig in the classroom, congrats! Substitute teaching is an excellent way to gain experience in education and discover what you’re most passionate about. However, like any new job, it’s common to experience anxiety on your first day.

Luckily, there’s plenty of educators out there that have been in your shoes. Teachers and substitutes all over the Internet all seem to agree on a few things:

Make sure you feel – and look – your best

Kids can smell fear — do what you can to appear confident and dress for success.

“I just try to dress professionally to set myself apart from students. I also keep a straight look on my face when walking in the halls amongst the kids and walk with purpose even if I don’t exactly know where I’m going. Basically poker face and fake it ‘til you make it.”


Organize what you can and prepare for what you can’t

Sticking to the lesson plans left for you is important, but they don’t always last the entire class.

“Follow the lesson plan that is left to the best of your ability. Have a generic backup just in case you are [s]ubbing for someone who is out due to unexpected and/or traumatic circumstances (that could prevent a prepare[d] plan coming to you from the teacher).”

— Debra P

Be kind and be adaptable

Remember why you’re there and that the teacher you’re covering for isn’t expecting perfection.

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have a perfect first day. Things will be so far out of your control, all you can do is roll with the punches and don’t sweat it. Tomorrow’s a new day and a new chance to get it right.”

– Allison H

Staying flexible is key when substitute teaching. The unexpected may happen, so accept that the plan will change. At the end of the day, your main priority is keeping the students safe. While following and completing the day’s lesson plan is important, most teachers just want to return to a classroom that is still standing. Be sure to leave any notes for the returning teacher, and get ready to do it all again!

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