Subsitute Teacher Tips

As a substitute teacher you are called on as the next line defense for the “main” teacher. You are their backup when they are absent, and so now you play the role of teacher. As a substitute teacher for over a year, I have learned some things about being a sub at the high school level, which is very different from subbing for elementary and middle school students:

1.Arrive Early

I am sure everyone knows this; it is common knowledge. Yet as a substitute at any level, you must give yourself time to read over teacher’s notes and instructions and post assignments. Its best you do this before students come in and take a seat, because if you arrive late and spend ample time posting assignments, antsy students will get bored rather quickly and it is hard to get a class back on track after they’ve watched you fiddle around.

2.Put on the Full Armor

You must wear the teacher’s mask while going into a high school classroom. You are not there to become friends with the students. They have enough of those. The mistake I made as a new “sub” is that I brought my very introverted, quiet personality to class, and eventually I got derailed. The students took me as a nice one and begin to ask for multiple bathroom breaks and talk and they whispered, calling me the “Nice one”. Putting on the full armor doesn’t mean you are nasty and neglectful to students, it basically means you are now their teacher for the day and must facilitate the classroom to keep it orderly and running smoothly.

3.No Bathroom Breaks

I learned this from some of the older substitutes. Giving bathroom breaks in the first fifteen or twenty minutes of class is not wise. Why? Half of the class will be asking to go to the restroom and eventually you have only a few who are present to finish their lessons. So my new rule is, as soon as I come to class I make the announcement: No bathroom breaks for the first twenty minutes of class. In high school, students have 5-7 minutes in between switching classes, they should have used the restroom during that time.

4. Don’t Argue With the Student

High school students are adolescents, meaning they are on the brink of adulthood and most don’t take the time to talk to you with respect, they talk back thinking they are on your level. Some students do this, certainly not all. If you find yourself in a situation where a student wants to be mouthy and not do as they are told, don’t go back and forth with them, if the classroom has a class phone, call the main office and let them deal with it. If that doesn’t work, which I imagine it should, just ignore the student. They are looking for attention, and you don’t want to waste thirty minutes giving in to their childish behavior.

5. Finally, don’t be a passive babysitter

As a sub, you may feel that since you have posted up their assignments, that there is nothing left to do but sit at the desk and lean back and read a book. No! This is the perfect time to show the students and yourself that you are capable of doing the job like their teacher, because you are a teacher. You can take moments to sit down and rest, but walk around the classroom occasionally as students are working, look over their shoulders and check their work. Show them you mean business and take your job seriously.

My favorite moment as a substitute teacher was when I was able to help a student with her English lit paper, and she thanked me twice for being so knowledgeable about the subject. That felt real good, and encouraged me. Being a substitute isn’t scary if you follow the above helpful strategies. At the end of the day, they will respect you and will continue to do so if you are strong.