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What do the best substitute teachers do differently?

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Schools don’t just want anybody filling in at their school — they want the best. And here at Swing, we’ve made it our business to know what sets great subs apart from the pack.

Here’s what the very best substitute teachers do differently.

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They’re ready for anything

Stellar substitutes know that anything can happen in another teacher’s classroom. They might arrive on the first day to 20 expectant student faces but zero lesson plans. Maybe the student who everyone thought would be a good helper won’t participate in class at all. Kids get sick, technology goes on the fritz, accidents happen.

Great substitute teachers know to expect the unexpected. They’re organized so they have a bag of tricks at the ready — from emergency lesson plans to quick activities, from extra school supplies, to a backup first aid kit.

And, if their sub bag doesn’t have the tools to help, they’re adaptable. They remain flexible and think on their feet so that when things go unexpectedly, they can still keep their class on course.

They know their stuff

Though great substitutes work temporarily in a classroom, their passion for education is enduring. Like any good teacher, they are committed to the growth of students, knowledgeable about educational resources, and dedicated to lifelong learning.

They also know that some of their best learning comes from the students themselves. Visiting multiple classrooms, grade levels, and educational cultures through subbing gives them a unique perspective on what works and what doesn’t.

And they ask you and the school staff the right questions so they’re familiar with the ins and outs of their class — before the first bell rings.

They’re masters of classroom management

Great subs know that they aren’t there to be the students’ best friend. They are there to help students continue to learn and remain on track while their teacher is absent.

The best substitutes utilize expert classroom management strategies, such as:

  • Reviewing school rules and policies
  • Coming with their own classroom expectations and clearly expressing them to students
  • Discipling students firmly and fairly
  • Remaining calm and don’t lose their temper
  • Keeping students busy

They’re reliable

When a teacher is absent, their classroom is disrupted. No matter what the reason for the absence, the students can’t quite go on with business as usual. So, within that changeup, it’s essential for a sub to be reliable and to avoid adding more uncertainty into the mix.

Great subs:

  • Meet the expectations of their position
  • Show up on time (read: early!)
  • Carry out lesson plans
  • Consistently enforce class rules and expectations
  • Follow through with promises made to students

They build rapport easily

Schools and students are both in tricky spots when their teachers need to miss class. Schools need a sub they can trust to lead and nurture their students. And students need a sub who can connect with them and keep their learning on track.

Great substitute teachrs can come into this situation and build relationships easily. They go out of their way to make students feel comfortable and to let schools know they can rely on them by:

  • Making a point to talk with school staff
  • Finding a teacher buddy who can help them if they need it
  • Greeting students and making an effort to get to know them
  • Identifying and connecting with student helpers
  • Showing up for their students with warmth, authenticity, and attention
  • Going out of their way to help

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