Advice for Substitute Teaching?

Hey y’all!

I started subbing in some of my district’s schools. I’m hoping that this will open a door to a teaching position…get the schools familiar with my name so when I apply, they’ll give me an extra chance.

I had my first two subbing jobs this week.

My question…

If any of you have subbed and done it successfully, what tips can you offer?

My days went very well. Today, my last class was extremely talkative, which was disruptive to what we needed to do. We got through it, but I think that next time I need to address this issue differently (I didn’t yell, though…good girl!).

Thoughts and ideas?



What age are you working with ?

Oh, sorry! That would help, wouldn’t it?


I’m subbing at middle and high schools. This week was high school, as is next week.

BTW, I accepted a subbing job at my kids’ school, and unknown to me, it’s for my daughter’s history teacher! The thing said “Social Sciences,” so I figured it was safe to accept it.

Fortunately, she doesn’t have this class that day, but a bunch of her friends do! I’m going to pretend like my kids don’t go there and be my usual professional self. :thumbsup:

I have two words for you: whip…chair


I subbed in elementary school while in college so not sure anything I did would be helpful. Subbing pretty much convinced me that I did the right thing NOT following in my mothers teacher footsteps.
My father was a sub while he transitioned out of the Navy and found that standing chatty kids at parade rest in the back of the room really seemed to quiet things down. :rofl:

P.S. you are a brave soul for subbing in high school !

Maybe that’s why I’m getting a lot of assignments?? :teehee:

My subject area certification allows me to teach middle or high school. I’m crossing my fingers for 8th grade history, but I discovered today that I would love to teach a high school government class. THAT would be fun, although some of the kids seem like, :whoosh:

They just need a good teacher to keep them challenged. :thumbsup:

Wow. Good luck to you.

I was a classroom teacher for 7 years, and have done some substitute teaching since resigning my classroom position. I never had any problems as a sub, because I already knew what to do in a classroom, I know what to expect, I know the “tricks”, I know what to say and do when certain situations arise… not to imply that you don’t know what you’re doing, but having 7 years of classroom experience helped. :slight_smile: Thats being said, just the fact that a sub is there changes the dynamic of the classroom. The kids aren’t the same as they would be with the regular teacher, and no amount of experience will change that fact.
The biggest challenge I think subs have is classroom management. There’s lots of things you can do to make sure that the class runs as smoothly as possible:

  1. Call the students by name; if the home teacher didn’t leave a seating chart, make one.

  2. Get the kids working/engaged right away. Do the “business stuff” (attendance, handing out/collecting papers, etc) once they’ve started.

  3. Follow the classroom teacher’s rules as he or she left them… if the rules say no gum chewing, don’t let them chew gum, even when they kids say “but she usually lets us!”

  4. Don’t engage the kids with arguing about what is and isn’t allowed. I call any kind of retort detailing why they “should” be allowed to do or not do something “arguing”. Example:
    –but I was just…
    –I need to…
    –he said I…
    Further, have a line ready so when they “argue”, you put it to rest right away. Something like "This may not be what you’re used to, but this is how it’s going to work today. Thank you."
    As a classroom teacher, I said “I don’t care” a lot… as in “I don’t care why you’re up, please sit down”. You might not be comfortable with this technique

  5. Being the students’ “buddy” never works… it just invites them to push boundries.

  6. Please and thank you work wonders! These little words will show that you respect the students AND eliminate the posibility for discussion.

  7. Get to know the teacher next door; he or she can be helpful.

  8. Get there early and be prepared… have the papers in order, have stuff on the board already, materials/manipulatives ready to be passed out, etc.

  9. Don’t be afraid to call home! “Hi, this is Ms. AuburnChick :wink: and I’m subbing for Mr. Science Teacher today… Joey was in my class 4th period, and I wanted to let you know what happened today…”

  10. Leave detailed notes for the regular teacher, both good and bad stuff!

  11. Don’t leave directives up for discussion… There’s a difference between “Susan, will you please sit down?” and “Susan, please sit down”.

  12. Sending kids to the office is a last resort. Tell them to move their seat, stand in the hallway, whatever, and then talk to them, privately (instead of berating them in front of their peers).

The best thing you can do is go in there and know what you’re doing. Even if you’re not sure, pretend; if you look like you don’tknow what you’re doing, the kids will pick up on it and all hell could break loose!

Finally, only offer to sub in classes where you honestly think you’ll do a good job. As the music teacher, I got subs all the time who just thought it would be fun to sub for music, and then they had a hell of a time in the classroom :wall:

Again, good luck! :hug:

I meant to add, I’ve found that in high school, the kids are generally well-behaved. The real jerks will hear there’s a sub and cut your class anyway.

Wow! Thanks so much for all of this info!

I did get to class early so I could calm my nerves and check the teachers’ notes. That helped a lot!

I think that subbing will help me when I have my own classroom…give me a different perspective and more appreciation for the subs!


Two more words: DUCT TAPE! LOL

Subbing before you teach in your own classroom will help you. I subbed for a year before I was hired as a full time teacher. It was the hardest job I have ever done. Now, when I have a sub I always leave almost too detailed notes, I spend way too much time the day before getting ready for one, even if I’m sick I get up to school very early to leave everything the way I would want it if I was the one subbing. I always think back to the times when I subbed and had nothing left for me to follow. I now get notes from my subs saying they would love to sub for me again because I leave everything so ready for them

As far as advice, Hildegard said it all perfectly. I especially second the one where she said only take the jobs you are comfortable with. I always turned down the PE jobs because they scared the living daylights out of me, and I knew the kids would pick up on that.

Good luck! Good substitutes are appreciated more than you will ever know. :cheering:

Thank you for all of the wonderful tips! Y’all are the best! :muah:

I had been an elementary school sub for about 6 years, and I never even thought about this before my two stints at student teaching: both my master teachers advised that first thing in the morning, I should always establish myself as a presence in the room the moment the students walk in, e.g. standing by the door instead of sitting obscured behind a desk reading notes. These were classes where the students came in the door when the bell rang, as opposed to the ones where I had to go out to the playground to pick up their line, so this may be something that can be applied to middle/high school as well. I noticed that it often made a difference in how orderly the students went to their seats.

I taught adults for years and let me tell you they’re no different than HS students at times. My advice: walk tall and carry a big stick… just kidding. Students are like dogs: they smell fear. Have tough love. Make them accountable and responsible for their own work and actions. Never hand-hold (not literally). If you start by helping them through everything, they’ll expect it, rely on it and never dig deep to find their own answers.

Oh- and the first year teaching is the hardest. If you get a position - just remember that. Subs are kinda like the fun parent and staff educators are like the disciplinarian. (My education director told me this my first year and it stuck.)

Awww…thank you!!!

Y’all are so sweet!

I’ve now subbed four times and have another half-day assignment on Friday afternoon. It’s interesting…having kids who are my kids’ friends…in my classes. They are super good though, surprising because you’d figure that they would try to get away with more. Maybe she’s just picked the right friends, eh?

Yesterday I subbed at a middle school, and I felt affirmation that teaching IS what I’m supposed to do with my life (nice to finally grow up, eh?). I really taught two sixth grade classes…math, no less…go figure from a non-math person. I followed the teacher’s instructions, and it was SO COOL!


HI!! I am happy you have chosen to sub. However, there are some things you need to know especially since you are teaching middle school.
You must be firm with the students. DO NOT TRY AND BE THEIR FRIEND. Unfortunately, the students will see this as a weakness.

Follow the teacher’s lesson plans strictly. She/He knows the students, and the lesson that was planned was designed to keep behavior incidents down.

As far as the talkative class is concerned, the students need to know up front that you know that talking without permission will not be tolerated. If the students are still being talkative after you have addressed the issue, the teacher should have some type of discipline cycle for the students and the students would be very familiar with the discipline cycle. If this is a long-term substitute position, you can create your own discipline cycle and incentives for good behavior.

I hope this has helped.!!!:cheering:

Thanks! You bring up some good points!

I’ve subbed for two weeks now, and thing seem to be going well. When I walked into church this morning, two girls sitting behind me remembered that I had subbed in their class. :teehee:

I also had a friend, a teacher who I subbed for on Friday, come by and tell me how much another teacher loved me…and wants her to get me back in there!

Now, if only they would pay be a wee bit more…then I could give up my other job.

Hopefully one day soon I’ll get my own class.