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Tips for Substitute teaching

Updated on February 15, 2014

1. Be happy- Smile!

When you get that call at 5am it may be hard to be happy about getting up and going to the unknown; however, once you accept the job for the day it's time to turn on the positive! Start saying to yourself, "It's going to be a great day!" Get excited about what you are about to do. Think about it, you get to walk into somebody's classroom and instantly have a class and be a teacher for a day, without any of the planning, parent conferences and boring faculty meetings! What's not to be happy about?!

When you are genuinely happy, people (kids) know it and they appreciate it. Plus, happiness is contagious!

2. Be prepared!

Even though you don't have to plan the lesson for the day, sometimes there are no lessons or the lesson provided gets finish early and you need to fill time. Have a few tricks up your sleeve. Use what you know! If you play the guitar bring it along and entertain or have a sing along. If you know a few magic tricks bring a deck of cards and dazzle your students! My thing is art. I always bring a stack of 3"x5" index cards with me. If the students finish work early I may give a mini art lesson or let them doodle on the cards. They are a perfect size to carry with me and they can't be made into airplanes or crumpled into balls (for shots at the waste basket). The kids love it! They think the cards are special!

3. Focus on the Positive

This is probably the most important one! Instead of focusing on the negative behavior in the classroom and there will be plenty, zero in on the good behavior. I do this by writing an excellent list on the board. Whoever is quiet and working hard I put their name on a list titled EXCELLENT on the board. It is amazing how quickly the trouble makers turn their behavior around! After all why are they misbehaving? To get attention! And the quiet ones are amazed that they are being recognized! It's truly magical!

4. Never Yell

This is another biggy! Never raise your voice. Even just talking very loud over the noise encourages more noise from the students. I start the class very low key. I don't demand silence in a booming voice. I very calmly and quietly stand in front of the class, while they are talking and in a low speaking voice start to take attendance. At first no one pays attention but within seconds one or two start to notice me and how rude the class is being and feels compelled to help by telling his classmates to quiet down. Sometimes a student will yell, "Quiet! she's trying to talk!" At which point I say, "Thank you, but please don't yell. There is no yelling in here. But I appreciate you trying to help."

Yelling only gets yelling and quiet talking gets quiet:)

5. Be Calm at all times

This goes hand in hand with #4. Kids can sense tension and nervous energy and it is quickly transferred to them. The same is true with calmness. When you are calm you set the mood for the class. Don't let them ruffle your feathers. You don't have to respond to every question. If a student keeps raising her hand and asking questions just to be disruptive the best thing to do is ignore. If they continue you can very matter of factly say, "There are no question right now. Or please don't be rude by interrupting "(if they are calling out).

Move slowing around and purposefully around the class. When you're calm and alert and engaged the students know you're in charge. This makes them fell calm and relaxed. The result is better behavior and respect for you.

6. Take a real interest in the students

This is their education. It's important. They are important. Care about the students in your class. Involve them in class discussion. Talk to them. It's even ok to joke around a little but always maintain professionalism and be appropriate. Kids know when you really care and they know when you don't.

7. Be pleasant

If you follow all of the above this comes naturally! There's no need to scowl and be cold. Kids don't respect that. If you are in a bad mood, leave it at home. It's not going to help you in the classroom. It will only make your day worse. Put on a happy face and before you know it you will genuinely be happy

8. Teach!

Yes the whole reason you are there!
Even though you may not be a science teacher, you can follow the lesson and teach it for the day. It's exciting and fun to teach! You are a Science teacher for a day!! How cool is that?! And there is really no pressure. Nobody expects too much so just have fun with it and teach! It's really rewarding! And believe it or not the kids will appreciate a genuinely happy to be there, prepared, positive, calm, non yelling, engaged, and pleasant substitute TEACHER for a day!

If you don't think you get paid enough to do all of this, think of it this way, it is volunteer work for the community! ( paid volunteerism:))

Good luck and have fun!


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    • chalktalk profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      I'm so glad that you are finding success with focusing on the positive. One trick on getting to know the kids names quickly is to make your own seating chart in the beginning of class as you are taking attendance. The kids are amazed that you know their names so quickly (you really don't , you have a cheat sheet :) )

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Your simple, no nonsense advice has really helped me with subbing. I am getting positive comments from administrators and other teachers. Positive expectations work wonders with elementary kids!

    • profile image

      Elizabeth Lowe 

      8 years ago

      I love the idea of talking quietly and not trying to deal with students getting loud. Just finished my first week of subbing and I was successful with this on occasion but often found I left with a sore throat from trying to get students to quiet down. I will try it from the beginning of the day starting this week! I did try making a list on the board of students showing positive behavior, but this didn't work for me because of not being familiar with everyone's names. I know quite a few names by the end of the day but I don't think I'd try to put them on the board again, for fear I'd upset someone by awarding their points to someone else. Instead, I've got some stickers that I'm hoping to pass out when I catch students showing good behavior.

    • Time4Travel profile image


      10 years ago from Canada

      A well written hub and some great tips here.

    • chalktalk profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      I'm glad you found it helpful! Good luck! and have FUN!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I was nervous about subbing and now I have a goal, plan, and know this will be extremely helpful to prepare me for my first subbiing experience.

      thanks so much for the advice


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