How To Be An Effective Substitute Teacher- 7 Must Dos!

Inside: Tips for how to be an effective substitute teacher so that you can be prepared and effectively manage the classroom

Being a substitute teacher is hard work. Taking over a classroom teacher’s lesson plans, navigating different buildings, and getting to know (and leaving) staff members are some of the challenges of a career in substitute teaching.

Perhaps, the most difficult thing about being a guest teacher, however, is gaining the respect of a classroom full of students that don’t know you very well or at all. Knowing how to get students to respect you as a substitute teacher will help your sub jobs go smoothly and make your career a lot more rewarding. Add these to your substitute teacher bag of tricks to help earn the trust and respect of your students.

substitute teacher giving a student a high five- how to be an effective substitute teacher

Ask students what they want to be called

Start class off right by getting to know a little bit about your students! Even if you are just with your students for a class period, when you call attendance, make sure to know how to pronounce their names correctly and call them by their preferred names.

Children with unique names may say it’s OK when you call them by a shortened name, but some names are a part of a child’s culture. Calling them by their proper name shows respect for your students and their background. 

You’ll be amazed how something simple like knowing students’ names can help so much with classroom management.

Introduce yourself

Make sure you leave time to teach the lesson the classroom teacher provides, but don’t hesitate to start the day or class period with your own introduction. Share your education story and expertise, give a little info about your family, and relate to the content in some way. Be a prepared substitute teacher and have this content planned ahead of time. For example, if you’re teaching Language Arts, share your favorite book and encourage your students to do the same!

When students are able to know a little bit more about you as their substitute teacher, they will feel more comfortable with you in their classroom.

Have high expectations

Share your rules and expectations with students right away. Tell your students you believe they will treat each other and all adults in the building (including you) with respect. This is an important way to encourage students to be on their best behavior for you as their substitute. By telling your students that you expect them to behave in a safe, respectful, and responsible manner, they are more likely to live up to those expectations.

Answer questions or refer to “experts”.

Students can become frustrated when they feel they have to wait for their classroom teacher to return before they can have content-related questions answered. Do your best to answer the students’ questions, but if there is something you are unable to answer, check with another teacher or student for help. If acceptable for the assignment, you may also use online resources to help your students. They’ll be thankful for the assistance.

Move around!

Proximity is one of the most effective classroom management tools at your disposal. Don’t believe me? Check out these articles here and here.

Even if the classroom teacher leaves you a video or independent work for the students to complete, don’t spend the whole day sitting at a desk. By using proximity, you’ll be able to engage with the students and see what they are doing in the classroom. When the students see you being present and active in the classroom, they’ll know how much you care!

Be Prepared

Being a prepared substitute teacher can help you gain respect from your students. No matter how young they are, students can tell when you are unprepared and flustered. Being prepared can help you gain control of the classroom and their respect. One way to do this is to be armed with materials, so even if inadequate plans are left (or none at all!) you know exactly what to do.

The Substitute Teacher Resource Binder can help you be prepared! It is a comprehensive resource created with substitutes in mind. (I used it myself as a substitute teacher!) This resource includes ready-to-go lessons with more than a full day of activities for Kindergarten through 6th grades. It also includes a planner to keep track of your sub dates, an info sheet to give to teachers to help you get more jobs, substitute punch cards to help you manage the classroom, and much more! You can see even more information in my shop below!

Bring a substitute teacher reward system

In addition to being prepared with your sub binder, bring along a reward system to help positively incentivize your students.

Our Word of the Day Substitute Teacher Reward Toolkit is the perfect answer! You will fill in the pdf with the letters from a word of your choice. It could be something seasonal or the school mascot! Then, print out the letters of the word. Throughout the school day, students will earn letters to spell out the word. When they finish the word they earn a reward!

By knowing how to get students to respect you as a substitute teacher, the boys and girls in your classroom will not only behave appropriately, but they’ll also show you respect and kindness. Building relationships with the students in the classrooms you visit will earn you a reputation as a teacher that deserves respect and respects their students.

Now that I’ve shared my tips for your substitute teacher bag of tricks! What other tips would you add for how to be an effective substitute teacher?

One Response

  1. Hi ,
    I have been substituting for almost 20 years with the same school board. All of your suggestions are excellent. I do the same everyday when I am in the classroom with my students. Building a rapport with them is important at the begging of the day. I always make a seating plan with their names so when I take attendance I know where they are sitting this is a great way, as well , to know how to pronounce their names.

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