With these tips for substitute teachers, become confident and ready to prepare for any curveballs in the classroom!

Being a substitute teacher can be scary. Each day you come into work, you might be in a completely different classroom with completely different kids. Each class may have its ups and downs. Even more challenging is that elementary, middle, and high school students can have different needs. We've got you covered from tips for substitute teachers in elementary going up to tips for substitute teachers in high school. So don't sweat it!

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1) Tips for substitute teachers in general

Whether you're subbing for elementary or high school, here are general tips for substitute teachers. It can be hard navigating through someone else's classroom, but there are ways for you to be an effective and capable substitute teacher. It's time to command respect from every classroom!

  1. Earn the respect of your students
    1. You might come in wanting to be that teacher who is friends with everyone. But don't focus on being a friend. You're supposed to be professional and follow the instructions left by the regular teacher. If you try too hard to befriend the class, you might end up cutting corners to avoid upsetting your friends​.
    2. Part of being professional is being clear about your expectations and consequences the minute you enter the classroom. Be authoritative.
    3. You also gain respect by being a prepared substitute teacher.
  2. Follow the schedule
    1. Maintain the flow of instruction so your students can still enjoy consistent learning.
    2. If there's something you're unsure about in the activities that the teacher left behind, ask the students to demonstrate it. This is an easy tactic for the flow to continue without you admitting that you don't know what to do.
    3. But when there are gaps in the lesson plan, always prepare extra activities. 
  3. Leave a note at the end of the day
    1. Help the regular teacher by leaving a note explaining the day. Let them know what you were able to accomplish and if there were any behavioral issues. Definitely include students who were wonderful as well!

2) Tips for substitute teachers in elementary

Now let's talk about tips for substitute teachers teaching in specific grades. Kids of different ages tend to have different needs and wants. Young children are adorable but you may be thinking otherwise when you're struggling to grab their attention in a school setting. Have more patience for elementary school students who may need more time to follow directions. Below are more tips for substitute teachers in elementary.

  1. Be concise and specific
    1. Young children may become confused if your directions are too long or have too many steps. Give a straightforward and short direction. Instead of something like "Sit down and put away your pencils" say "Sit in your seats right now and put your pencils on your desks."
    2. Specify a time at which your students should complete a certain task. Don't leave room for uncertainty and assumptions. If you want your students to do something right now, say "right now."
  2. Don't give false promises or punishments
    1. Be honest. Your actions should follow your words or else you start losing your students' trust in you. 
    2. Avoid promising your students something that you know that you can not give as an award or disciplinary act.
  3. Give positive reinforcement
    1. Elementary schoolers like being told that they did a good job. Whenever a student follows directions, always praise them. Other students will see this and behave better to receive praise as well.
    2. There are creative ways to show praise for your students like this "model citizen" poster from a list of fun ideas for elementary substitute teachers. 

3) Tips for substitute teachers in middle school

Tips for substitute teachers have a slightly different emphasis when they teach in middle school. There might be an increase in behavioral issues in middle school, so be prepared and never, ever lay a hand on a student. That would be a red card that automatically takes you out of the game. And if your school has a block schedule, you'll have to be ready for rotating groups of students that stay in your class for about 40 minutes at a time. With these tips for substitute teachers in middle school, you'll feel less lost with each block and more confident with your teacher game!

  1. Use their names
    1. Be more personal by addressing students by their names. This may be hard for a group that you'll only be with for a short time, but it makes an impact.
    2. Students may start feeling disassociated with school, but calling our their personal name can help bring them back.
  2. Give actual rewards
    1. This doesn't mean that verbal positive reinforcements aren't any good anymore, but consider giving fun erasers or pencils for students who do an exceptional job.
  3. Stand your ground
    1. Middle schoolers may try to strategically get out of class or outright not do their work. If you feel like your students aren't being truthful of what their regular classroom procedures are, feel free to ask the neighboring teacher.
    2. Sometimes, students may purposely try to knock you off your guard. Not engaging, and thus enabling, them is one of the tactics for this situation.
    3. And like we mentioned in general tips for substitute teachers, be authoritative and clear about your expectations. Don't give the impression that your students can walk all over you.
  4. Stay confident
    1. All that confidence you need in middle school will be important in high school too. 

4) Tips for substitute teachers in high school

High school is where you should combine a lot of the tips for substitute teachers in general. High school students are further developed than their younger peers. Thus, they're able to work fairly independently and have thoughtful discussions. They may start feeling the pressure of becoming adults, but ultimately they are still young. Subbing doesn't need to be a difficult day. Succeed with these tips for substitute teachers in high school!

  1. Stay confident
    1. All that confidence you need in middle school will be important in high school too. Students will sense your authority.
    2. Dress well to boost your confidence too. Your outfit can visually communicate that you're the teacher in the classroom.
  2. Treat your students like adults
    1. Many students may be fulfilling an adult role outside of school whether at home or at work. You should acknowledge and respect their outside obligations.
    2. If a particular student is being disruptive in class, try to talk to them privately instead of outing them publically, causing them to potentially lose face in front of their peers. 
  3. Stick exactly to the lesson plan
    1. High school is when using different methods of teaching can be very confusing. For example, the regular teacher may emphasize one theory to teach a math lesson, but if you use a different one, the class will be in turmoil! Well, maybe not that drastic, but if the students haven't already mastered the previous theory, they won't be learning things effectively.

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Here are more useful blogs! 

10 Pillars of a Stellar Sub

7 Classroom Management Secrets For Substitutes

Managing Challenging Behavior As A Substitute Teacher

What other teacher tips would you like?

Send us a message on Instagram @scooteducation or email us at [email protected]. We love helping you!