How to Succeed as a Substitute Teacher

A substitute teacher asking a question at the front of the class

It’s quite common for new teachers to secure interim jobs as substitutes before they find a regular teaching job in their preferred school district. But for some teachers, being a substitute can also be a solid long-term career choice. If you thrive on change, enjoy meeting new people, and like to immerse yourself in many different teaching settings, from public schools to private, then a career as a substitute could be a great choice for you. As a substitute, you’ll probably have plenty of one-day teaching opportunities to fill in for teachers who may be ill or taking a business day off. But you might also cover longer assignments, such as filling in for a teacher on maternity leave. Regardless, the following strategies can help you succeed.

Proactively Look for Opportunities

Substitute teachers often spend their mornings waiting by the phone to see if they’ll get called in to cover a class when a regular teacher needs a day off. But before you play the waiting game, you’ll have to let school districts know you’re available. Research school districts in your area, and don’t forget to check out the private schools too. Call their offices to learn about their substitute teacher requirements and procedures. Each school district has its own way of doing things. Meet any requirements the districts have, such as attending orientation, and remember to get your paperwork on file with the offices.

Get to School Early

When you land a substitute teaching assignment, get to the school earlier than is required, especially if you’ve never taught at that particular school before. You’ll need a little time to familiarize yourself with the school itself and your new classroom. Check out the available technology and look for a lesson plan that the regular teacher may have left.

Have a Toolbox of Activities and Lesson Plans Ready

Most teachers will leave lesson plans for you to follow, or at the very least, they’ll leave some notes about a current project or assignment. Even so, you should always be prepared to improvise a lesson plan, just in case. Develop your own repertoire of go-to learning experiences for classrooms of varying ages. When introducing yourself to the students, tell them that you will be the Guest Teacher for that day, and familiarize them with your norms and high expectations. The term “Guest Teacher” will alert the students to treat you with respect.

Leave the Classroom Well-organized

Whether you’re filling in for a day or a month, you should always leave the classroom well-organized. Tidy up the books and supplies, correct any assignments that need grading and leave informative notes for the classroom teacher. They will appreciate knowing the status of an ongoing project or how the day went and what the class accomplished. Remember to say thank you for the opportunity. Making the teacher happy with your work will improve your chances of being hired again.

Grand Canyon University has a widely respected teaching college that graduates fully capable and confident teacher candidates. Our welcoming campus embraces Christian values and servant leadership, and we offer a modern and rigorous curriculum to help our students excel in their chosen career paths. Look for the Request Information button on this page to begin your academic journey with us and view our Teaching and School Administration page for listings of educational degrees.

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