How to Start Substitute Teaching with Teacher Business Cards


Like many of my fellow graduates of the teaching program I attended, many of us were not able to land a permanent teaching job yet. Whether we are not teaching a subject that is in high demand or just for the fact that we have little experience, it has been difficult for many of us to get a job.

I applied to a major school board this year and got accepted as a substitute teacher. I got excited about the valuable job experience I would be getting. However, with the end of September fast approaching and not a single call to sub, needless to say, I got concerned. Then, I attended substitute teaching conference where I learned some tips that I would like to share with you.

Getting a Job:

Don’t wait for an automated system to call you. It is usually possible to call the automated system yourself and find out if there are any jobs for you to accept. At the conference, I learned that there are some times which are better to find a job at than others. For instance, in my area, between 9 and 11 pm are the best times to secure a position. Try calling at different times to see what time yields the best results. If possible, ask other substitutes for the best times to call, or attend a substitute conference to network with other substitutes.

Also, if you have not gotten a job yet for the day, you can try phoning the substitute help desk (if there is one). This way you will be able to ask a person at the sub desk if there are any jobs available for the day. However, make sure that you are ready to go, as an available job might require a bit of driving to get to.

Networking in the school also works. When you are subbing at a school, talk to as many teachers in the school as you can. Hand out business cards and let them know that you are available to sub. On your business card, make sure you have your name, phone number and specialties (e.g., elementary generalist, math). Some companies, such as, will even give you a certain number of business cards for free as long as you pay the shipping. VistaPrint, for example, at the time of writing this article, offers 250 free business cards with 42 designs to choose from (shipping is extra). These cards are good quality yet they do have the VistaPrint logo on the back. If you pay extra, you can choose the back of the card as well.

After finishing a subbing assignment, don’t forget to write a note to the regular teacher summarizing what happened during the day, as well as leave your business card. That way, the teacher will have a way of reaching you if they need another sub. Furthermore, just before leaving the school, drop off a business card at the office. When a school is desperate for a substitute teacher, the secretaries are often the ones phoning for a sub.

Be Prepared:

To make subbing easier, arrive at a school at least 30 minutes prior to the start of classes. That way, you will have enough time to find the office, the room(s) you will be teaching in, and you’ll also have a chance to review a teacher’s lesson plans (very important).

Because a teacher might have forgotten to leave a lesson plan, or the teacher has not planned enough material for the lesson, or your assignment changes when you arrive at the school, have a few generic lessons with you for different grades and subjects. Carrying various school supplies helps too. For example, in a bag, you should bring: whiteboard markers, overhead pens, paper, picture books (for younger children), etc.

To help prepare myself for subbing, I found the books, Super Sub and Substitute Teaching from A to Z, helpful. Super Sub gives you a few tips on classroom management and a list of what to bring in your sub kit. However, the most useful part of this book are the included lesson plans for grades 1-6 which make up more than half of the book. The lesson plans are useful for sparking ideas. Some of the lessons do require some prep work—but even these lessons would be useful in an extended subbing position.

Substitute Teaching from A to Z provides teachers with answers to some of the more common questions about classroom management, student helpers in the classroom, motivation, teacher voice and more. This book provides an excellent overview of the teaching profession.

Get Organized:

When I go out subbing, I bring a binder with me that contains a map of the city with the schools indicated (to figure out where a school is located and how much driving is required), a timesheet (to track my hours), a calendar (to plan for future jobs), one sheet per school (with the principal’s name, school hours, teacher’s name, etc.) and emergency lesson plans. For the school information sheets, I photocopied the template in the Super Sub book. I also know a few teachers who use The Substitute Teacher’s Organizer, which has tear out sheets in the book that you can pop into a binder and be ready to go.

Last Advice...

You've probably heard this before but... Dress for success and be confident. Act the role of the teacher and go into a school with a positive attitude. Who says subbing can't be fun!

Comments 11 comments

Eco_Ali profile image

Eco_Ali 6 years ago from Central New Jersey ~Trenton/Princeton area

Hi T4T,

Great article to help me get started again. I substituted in my county twenty years ago and now that I am retired from my state government job, I'm looking to subsidies that meager little pension check by substituting again. Your article was very helpful in getting back on that track. Thanks much.

Time4Travel profile image

Time4Travel 6 years ago from Canada Author

I'm glad I could help, Eco_Ali. Good luck with the substituting.

shellyakins profile image

shellyakins 5 years ago from Illinois

Thanks for the tips. I just started subbing this school year. To the sub kit supplies you suggested, I also add pencils because I never know if the teacher has a set of pencils to loan out (I sub for mainly high school.) This way I have my own pencils to give out.

Time4Travel profile image

Time4Travel 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks for the comment, shellyakins. I agree with you. It's so important to go to a school prepared. From my own experience, however, I find if I lend out pencils, I usually never see them again. So, I usually ask students to ask someone else for a pencil. Of course, for test situations, having a few extra pencils in your bag can make things go more smoothly.

Good luck with your subbing!

njsherry 5 years ago


I have been a full time elementary classroom teacher for five years. At the end of this month I will be leaving my position in search of a new job/location more in line with my values. Due to the saturated job market, I am sure I will become a substitute. Even though I have run my own class for many years, it is nice to hear what it will be like as a newcomer to a class. Thanks!

Time4Travel profile image

Time4Travel 5 years ago from Canada Author

Glad you enjoyed the hub, njsherry. Yes, not the ideal time to look for a full time teaching position. A lot of my friends will be subbing next year too.

prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 4 years ago from Canada

This is great advice! I love your idea about handing out business cards. As a teacher, I noticed there were usually one or two business cards for subs on the bulletin boards in the staff room. I always thought that was such a great idea. I have included this hub as an internal link within my hub on substitute teaching, too. Thank you!

Time4Travel profile image

Time4Travel 4 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks for the backlink, prairieprincess! It's great to read your comments and know that you found this hub useful :)

Greg Horlacher profile image

Greg Horlacher 4 years ago from Grand Prairie, TX

Thanks for the great hub and the helpful information! I'm hopeful that subbing (using your advice) will lead to a secure full-time position.

Time4Travel profile image

Time4Travel 4 years ago from Canada Author

So glad I could help :) Good luck with the subbing!

Lola 22 months ago

For me gate openers come in all irdustnies and I have been pleasantly surprised by the sources. I have found that those members that are in person-to-person professions often have the opportunity to talk at some length about the important things going on in their lives daughter getting married, parents moving to the city, new baby on the way all of which lead very often to the purchase of a new home. Hair dressers, handy-men, chiropractors are all examples of the perfect Gate Opener for me. These intimate conversations are a natural time for a gate-opener to say Then you must call Nancy; she can answer questions and perhaps get you pointed in the right direction for a new home. I can take it from there. A 3-way email or giving them my phone number of email address is always very welcome. I only hope they will mention your name so that I can properly thank you for the introduction and pledge to you I will take very good care of your client.

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