How to Handle Sub Shortages

Getting Substitutes to Prioritize Your Classroom

Many of our readers have shared that there is a sub shortage at their school or district. It may be true that there is a sub shortage right now. But that doesn’t mean that things won’t still happen, and you may need to be out despite a sub shortage…

When a situation like that comes along, you want to be a teacher with a classroom that substitutes prioritize. 

While I was a substitute teacher, there were classrooms that I left at the end of the day, saying to myself, “never again.” The reasons differed, the class’s behavior was terrible (like the class that locked me outside after gym class), the teacher didn’t leave sub plans, or the plans that were there were not enough to fill the time, or the teacher made me feel like a glorified babysitter, instead of someone who could actually teach their class. 

On the other hand, there were teachers that I would substitute for in a heartbeat. I knew that they trusted me and that their efforts to prepare would make it a good day for all of us (them, me, and the students). The more I got to know them and their classrooms, the easier it was to cover their classes.

Keep reading for our tips to help subs prioritize your classroom and help you during a sub shortage.

How to deal with sub shortages and get subs to prioritize your classroom.

How do I get substitutes to prioritize my classroom during a sub shortage? 

Keep a list of good subs- 

Start compiling a list of subs by asking other teachers in your school or district who they recommend. Add to the list every time you have a quality sub come to your class, or a nearby classroom. 

Be sure to write down their contact information. Also, ask how they like to be contacted, one of my favorite subs to have in my classroom preferred email contact to phone calls or texts.  

When you know that you have to be out, contact those subs on your list first before leaving it to chance. 

An extra benefit is that the more the same sub comes to your classroom, the better they will know your students and your classroom, which will make them want to come back more often.

Have great sub plans- 

If you have excellent sub materials, as soon as sub comes into your classroom one time, they’ll LOVE coming into your classroom and will prioritize your classroom. 

Good quality material will help you sub in so many ways. First, it will give your sub a chance to actually teach and help your students instead of just babysitting them. Second, quality learning activities will engage your students. We all know that when students give their full attention to the task at hand, they have better behavior because they aren’t looking for distractions. 

We recently updated all of our Ready-to-Go Sub Plans with fantastic materials. We’ve had hundreds of teachers who have used our sub planning materials tell us that their subs LOVED the sub plans and were very impressed. 

Leave sound classroom management systems- 

We have all taught that student, or students, who will take a mile when given an inch. Speaking from experience, those kids can ruin a substitute’s day. 

Communicate classroom behavior expectations to your students and your sub.  Keep expectations familiar to your students and tell your sub how to enforce those expectations.  

I like to use an additional reward system on sub days to help keep students on their best behavior. Try out this Word of the Day behavior management incentive. 

Help your sub feel supported- 

Don’t leave your sub hanging. Tell them who they can reach out to for help with any questions. This can be other teachers or staff who can assist.

In addition to people to reach out to, leave them answer keys, troubleshooting steps for technology, or any general tips that will come in handy throughout the day.

Say thank you- 

A little appreciation goes a long way. Leave your sub a thank you note along with your sub plans, or send them a note after to thank them for their effort.

The Irish poet, Margaret Cousins, said,

“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” 

We’ve already got Thank You cards made for you. Grab them for free here.

When subs feel appreciated for their work, they will be more willing to come back and help you out again. 

Last but not least, treats never hurt. 

I hope this helps you get subs to your classroom! Do you have other ideas to get subs to prioritize your classroom? Share them in the comments below. 

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