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What to wear as a substitute teacher

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

With every new classroom you sub for, you’ll be making a first impression. What you wear sets the tone for how students view you and it can also affect how you carry yourself, influencing your demeanor and productivity.  

Many schools outline their expectations for dress code prior to your first day, but if not, we’ve got you covered.

Dress for the part

Schools are looking for reliable, engaged, and professional substitute teachers and often use dress codes as a teaching tool to show students what professionalism looks like.

From the moment you step through the door, you want your students to see someone who appears calm and capable. Dressing for the part will help you earn and retain student’s respect, as well as give you the confidence you need to lead your classroom. 

Basic guidelines

In case the school doesn’t provide specific attire guidance, here’s what we recommend based on an analysis of dress codes at our partner schools:

  • Comfortable dress shoes/flats (avoid sneakers, sandals, or open-toed shoes)
  • Business casual or professional attire
  • Solid colored slacks — avoid jeans
  • Neatly ironed buttoned up collared shirt
  • Blouse and/or knitted sweater/cardigan
  • Be sure to practice good hygiene — stay away from any strong or offensive odors, such as cigarettes or perfumes/colognes
  • Avoid anything tight or revealing

Final thoughts

Keep the age group in mind when dressing and make sure you wear clothes that you’ll be comfortable in all day. For instance, if you know you’ll be spending the day in a kindergarten class sitting on the floor (and let’s be real — cleaning up messes), consider staying away from skirts and dresses.

Finally, feel free to express your individuality. Kid-friendly novelty socks, jewelry, and accessories can be fun conversation starters with your students and are a great way to let your personality shine through. 

For more tips to help you prepare for your first day in a new classroom, check out our 50 activities for when sub lessons run short.

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