How to Substitute Teach: Tips

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Substitute teaching can be either rewarding or frustrating, but days spent at school always go better when you have a few teacher tips and tools on hand to get you through the day. To help you further your mission, you should plan ahead and prepare a toolkit, and when done, leave a note for the teacher you covered for.

Gather your toolkit. Whether you've gone through a substitute teacher service and they've provided you with a few tools or you're just looking for your own substitute teacher tips, a toolkit will help you be prepared. A sturdy tote works nicely. You should gather items like pens, pencils, blank paper, photocopied worksheets that can be used in any situation and a nice supply of group games, like Mafia or Heads Up 7 Up.

Plan for the unexpected. No matter how many times you substitute or how prepared you might be, there will be times when you walk into a situation where there is no material for you to teach. Perhaps the teacher had a last-minute emergency, for example. This is where your toolkit will come in handy. You should have plenty of activities, including writing and group assignments that you can pull from your toolkit and use.

Leave the teacher detailed notes. Teachers appreciate knowing who was helpful, who wasn't and what work was completed. Try to leave detailed notes with names, as well. However, be careful about only leaving a note of complaint. This is very discouraging to teachers. Instead, point out what the class does well while the teacher is gone and what they might want to work on for next time.


Always keep a positive attitude. Try to locate a friendly student who will share the routines with you. For high school classes, ask the first student in the room if there are any kids you should watch out for and have him or her discreetly point that kid out. It is surprising how greeting this student by name goes a long way toward having a less disruptive class period.


Never lose your temper or threaten the class. Children can sense this and the entire class may collapse into chaos. Instead, have a discipline system in place before you start. This might include two warnings and then a trip to the office. Obviously, there are some situations where you simply call in help or go ahead and send the student to the principle. These include situations where the other students are in danger or extreme disruption and disrespect, such as the student cursing at you.


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