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Tips for Substitute Teachers

Aastha Dogra
Substitute teachers should be well prepared, assertive and creative in the classroom, if they want to teach, discipline and have fun with the students. Read on...
If you do not want to be overburdened with the day-to-day responsibilities of a teacher, but at the same time, you enjoy teaching more than anything else, taking up substitute teaching is a good alternative for you. Substitute teachers have lesser responsibility, flexible timings and it is much easier to become one than a full-time teacher.
And in case you plan to become a full-time teacher in the future, your experience as a substitute teacher will count a lot in finding employment. Although, let me tell you, all is not hunky dory as far as substitute teaching is concerned. Substitute teachers have their own set of challenges, which need some good planning and strategies, to be taken care of.

Substitute Teacher Tips and Tricks


Making a good first impression on the students is extremely important. So, dress well and reach the school on time. Secondly, carry an ensemble of things that you would need, such as, markers, whistle, chalk, amongst others. These will make your life easy in the class and thus, you can teach without any kind of worries over shortage of teaching supplies.

Instructions and Updates

As a substitute teacher, you are obviously replacing someone. So, you need to get hold of all the instructions that the absentee teacher might have left for you. Check the particular teacher's mailbox for such updates.
Otherwise, the school authorities would most probably hand you over any such instructions/assignments/ lesson plans that she wanted you to take up in the class. Updating yourself with this information and accordingly taking the lectures, is an important part of substitute teacher job description.

Relationship Building

Build a good rapport with your students. The easiest way to do this is to learn their names as fast as you can and from day one itself, start calling them by their names. Socialize with fellow teachers at the school.
This will make you feel comfortable and a part of your new environment. Moreover, you can always take help or tips from full-time teachers, in case you are facing some issues in your own class. Meet the principal and the secretary as well. This will help you in getting future assignments at the same school.

Break the Ice

On the first day, plan some fun activities with your students, which will help break the ice as well as give you an opportunity to know them. You can play games like "two truths and a lie" which is a fun way of knowing your students. In this game, every student makes three statements about himself, out of which two are true and one is false.
The other students have to identify the statement which is false. Or you can simply keep a fun activity wherein each of the students get five minutes to introduce themselves in the most interesting manner. They can paint some pictures or tell a story or do anything they feel is the best way to depict themselves.
Afterwards, you can give prizes to the students who made most creative self-introductions.

Classroom Management

Tip # 1 : One of the most useful classroom management tips is to prepare a list of behavioral expectations from your students, before you actually go to teach and from the first day itself, make the students aware of these 'rules of your class".
Do not ever let some students get away with breaking these rules, otherwise the rest will follow suit soon! Have fixed rewards and punishments in place so that the students know what is expected from them.
Tip # 2 : From the first day itself, keep a track of the students. Those that you find notorious or those who you think disturb others, make them do various kinds of 'tasks' in the classroom, such as distributing assignments or keeping the board clean.
This will keep them occupied and happy and will also make your life a bit easier. Making such students sit in the front benches, instead of at the back, is a good idea too.
Tip # 3 : Plan some extra activities. There will always be some students in your class who would finish their work early. To keep these students occupied, you should be ready with some extra assignments, otherwise they can create indiscipline in the class.

Rounding Off

At the end of the day, always leave a note for the absentee teacher, describing how well the day went. Do not write anything negative, do not complain, instead, mention the positives that you are taking along.
Leave your business card for the teacher too. Also, before leaving the classroom, make sure that it is as clean as it was in the morning. This will leave a good impression on the school authorities.
With these tips, you can definitely handle the students well, maintain classroom discipline and teach effectively. One last tip before I sign off - Have fun yourself while teaching! This will ensure that the students enjoy your lecture too and thus, you won't have any discipline issues!