10 Tips For First Time Substitute Teachers

teachers substituting for the first time should introduce themselves creatively.

Worried About Your First Day?

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Any teacher substituting wants to make a good first impression on both the students and staff they encounter.

Doing so will make it more likely that you’re asked back for more substitute teaching, and perhaps even a permanent position.

To help you not only do well, but also leave a lasting impression, here are 5 quick tips for first time substitute teachers.

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1. Dress The Part

A professional appearance is important, especially on your first day. While some schools have a more lax dress code, you want to make sure you’re at least business casual for your first day of subbing.

You can’t go wrong with a pair of trousers and a dressy top, whether it be a button-down or a blouse. You should also avoid sneakers and stick with comfortable dress shoes that won’t hurt your feet after standing on them for 8 hours.

2. Arrive Early

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Arriving on-time is a must, but arriving early is even better. It shows you are motivated and dependable, two things that administrators look for in new teachers.

Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes to an hour before instruction time begins so you can greet everyone, review the lesson plan, and set up the classroom before students arrive.

Arriving early also allows you to ingratiate yourself and build rapport with other teachers and students who are also early. This also allows you to learn a bit about the school and it’s environment directly from individuals who are there on a daily basis so there’s less “learning on the fly”.

3. Greet The Office Staff Upon Entering

The office staff is often the backbone of a school. They have contact with everyone in the school on a daily basis. If you establish a good rapport with them, you’re more likely to be asked back to sub in the future.

They will also be your go-to source if you have questions about the students in your classroom or any other issues that may arise throughout the day.

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4. Inquire About Students With Special Needs


You want to be fully prepared before stepping foot in the classroom, so asking if there are any students with special needs is important. If there are any students with dietary needs, medical needs, emotional needs, or learning disabilities, you’ll want to know so you can tend to them properly throughout the day. The office staff should have this information, but if they don’t, check with the school nurse.

5. Introduce Yourself To The Students In A Fun Way

A new face at the front of the classroom can be nerve wracking for some students. Set them at ease by introducing yourself in a fun way, whether it be in a silly voice, a song, or telling them a few interesting facts about yourself.

You can then reverse the introductions and have the students tell you a little something about themselves. Make it a point to try to remember names as this will allow you to better connect with your students.

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6. Set The Ground Rules


Just because you’re a substitute doesn’t mean you deserve less respect than any other teacher. Establish rules and parameters for your students early on so they know the behavior expectations for the day. You can even write them out on the chalkboard or display them somewhere as a reminder for younger students. Praise students that are following the rules, and be firm but kind with the students that are struggling with staying focused.

If you can get in touch with their previous/current teacher to discuss pre-existing rules, and keep those rules in place (or with minor alterations), it will allow for a much smoother transition.

7. Stick With The Lesson Plan

Keep the students on track by sticking with the lesson plan left by the regular teacher. If you aren’t able to complete the entire lesson plan while you’re there, clearly make a notation for where you left off. If there isn’t a lesson plan for some reason, bring one along for that specific grade level, just in case. It’s better to be over-prepared than not prepared enough.

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8. Have Some Extra Activities Ready

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Since you won’t know the pace that the students work at before you arrive, it’s best to have a few extra activities prepared just in case you finish early. Bring along a special book to read, have a few songs ready to sing, or prepare a fun game for them to play. You can even leave a fun activity for the end of the day as motivation for following the rules set forth at the start of the day.

9. Expect Some Challenging Moments

If you walk in expecting your first day to go completely smooth, you’ll likely be disappointed. There will inevitably be some snags along the way.

Try not to take it personally if a student is acting out, because it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the change in routine. Also, don’t be frustrated if you aren’t able to finish the entire lesson plan. Just make the best of the time you’re given and focus on one task at a time. It’ll seem less overwhelming that way.

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10. Leave On A Positive Note

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Tell the students how much you enjoyed spending time with them, as that will be something that will stick with them for a long time. Say goodbye to the office staff, administrators, and teachers on your way out the door and let them know that you’ll gladly sub again if they are ever in need.

Being positive and proactive could land you additional substitute teaching positions, either within the same school or at another school in the district.

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Frequently Asked Questions From First Time Substitute Teachers

1. What Should A Substitute Teacher Do On The First Day?

A first time substitute teacher should be prepared to follow the lesson plan and keep the students engaged throughout the day. They should also be aware of any students with special needs so they can make sure that those needs are being met. A thorough note should be left for the regular teacher indicating how the day went, whether or not the lesson plan was completed, and if any issues need to be addressed upon their return. A positive attitude should be exercised at all times since this is a trial run for potential future teaching positions.

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2. Is Substitute Teaching Worth It?

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Substitute teaching is a great way to get your foot in the door when you’re just starting out in the profession. It’s also a good way to determine which grade level is the best fit for you. You may think you want to teach kindergarten, but upon substitute teaching for a kindergarten class, you may realize that you prefer working with older students or vice versa. Substitute teaching is also an excellent way to network and speak with fellow teachers and administrators about potential teaching positions that may be a good fit for you. Take advantage of this opportunity and be open to the possibility of it leading to bigger and better future teaching positions.

3. How Can A Substitute Teacher Control A Classroom?

Establishing ground rules from the start is the best way to keep control of a classroom. Students may act out due to the change in schedule, or simply think that they can get away with the things they normally wouldn’t do when their regular teacher is there. Clearly listing the rules after you make introductions will set the expectations for the day. Make the rules visible somewhere in the classroom as a reminder to students throughout the day.
It may also help to let students be aware that you’re obligation to provide a full report to the regular teacher or principal on the happenings of the day, including the behavior of students individually and collectively.

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4. What Should I Bring As A Substitute Teacher?

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Although most of the materials needed to teach will be provided to you, there are some things you’ll want to bring along for your first day, including:
– A backup lesson plan for that grade level.
– Extra activities in case a lesson plan is completed early.
– A laptop, notepad, and writing utensils if you don’t feel comfortable using the regular teacher’s supplies.
– A lunch, snack, and water bottle since you likely won’t have time to leave the school while it’s in session.
– Business cards for networking, if you have them.
– Some fun prizes for the kids in case you have time to play a game at the end of the day. Steer away from food prizes in case of a food allergy.
– A smile and a positive attitude as this will put your students at ease and make for a much happier experience overall.

Coming fully prepared for the day will show the administrators and other staff members that you are reliable and that you have a great work ethic. It will also make the day go easier as a whole and allow the students to trust you and be more comfortable with you. The more at ease they are with you, the more they’ll be ready to learn and well behaved.

You first day as a substitute teacher doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By following these first time substitute teacher tips, coming fully prepared and with a positive attitude, you can easily show that you have what it takes to step up when the school needs you to. This could lead to further substitute or permanent teaching positions down the road, which is the ultimate goal.

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