5 Things Substitutes Wish Full Time Teachers Knew (Guest Post)

Subs Wished Teachers KnewAbout the Author: Christine writes her own blog called Confessions of a Modern Day Substitute Teacher. She has been working in the education field for 7 years as both a teacher and substitute.

1) Substitute teaching jobs can be hard to find

Sometimes there are A LOT of substitutes in a division or district. This means that it is difficult to pick up sub days for a substitute. As a substitute teacher I wish that any teacher that liked what I did with his or her class and didn’t have a regular substitute already would ALWAYS book me. Maybe this seems greedy but it gives me a day that I don’t have to try to compete for online.

2) A substitute’s time is valuable too

So please give us a bit of a break at some point throughout the day. I’ve been a teacher so I know that we often work through recess breaks, on our preps, and maybe even for part of our lunch as well but you don’t have to fill up a substitute’s time with marking on her prep and recess’… because sometimes we need a break too. Don’t get me wrong… I’m more than happy to do some marking. Just don’t leave a large stack of it expecting me to get through it.

3) Please talk to us

I wish regular teachers knew how awkward it can be in a staff room for a substitute teacher. I’m not the most outgoing person so having to sit in a room filled with people I don’t know… well it’s awkward. The other week I was at a school, in a crowded staff room, and no one said anything to me. It was awkward and I quickly ate and left.

4) Try to make the day run as smoothly as possible

I wish teachers realized that I don’t know your students names (and I likely won’t learn them all by the end of the day)… so if at all possible seating plans are a HUGE help. That way instead of saying “you in the red shirt, sit down!”, and having everyone check the colour of their shirt, I can just use that student’s name. When I was a full time teacher I used a little whiteboard that I tacked above my desk to draw in all the tables and where students sat. I moved students around as they began to cause trouble where they were so using a whiteboard meant I didn’t have to redraw and write everything every time.

Be wary of leaving a bunch of extra time for a substitute teacher to fill. I’m experienced enough that I could probably get through an entire day without a proper plan… but that doesn’t mean I want it to happen! Other substitutes don’t come with as much experience or ideas on what they could do to fill time. If a substitute arrives at your classroom with no plan I think it is unfair to expect the day to go well. I wish teachers knew that any visitor to their class does not know where to find things. Keeping things neat, tidy, and organized helps a lot. This way substitutes don’t have to waste a bunch of time trying to hunt things down that to the regular classroom teacher would easily find.

Fire drills, lock downs, and other events students practice for are often scheduled in advance and staff members usually know about them (at least in my school we always did). If you know there is going to be a drill of some kind I wish the regular teacher would let their substitute know about it. Once I was in a middle school that despite being with a different class every period I was required to find my homeroom outside and take their attendance. What chaos! I couldn’t remember what my class looked like to even attempt to find them then I had to figure out if they were in the front or back of the school! For lock-downs, remember to leave a key and tell me where the kids normally sit.

5) But most importantly…

My wish for teachers is to keep in mind that for the most part substitutes are in a different school or classroom or subject every day. This means new rules, procedures, students, and assignments every day. Although it can all fall under the umbrella of “teaching” it can also seem a bit like a new job every single day. Can you imagine going to a new job every day? Do you think some of your days may be a little off? So regular teachers, my wish for you is to be prepared and understanding when a substitute comes into your class.

Thank you, Christine, for this thought-provoking post! 🙂 -Mindy

Emergency Sub Plans

Every teacher/class needs emergency sub plans. These are for the day when you’re too sick, stressed, caught off guard to write sub plans… *gasp!* Things you must have in your emergency sub plans:

Substitute Folder Checklist
Use this checklist to prepare a notebook for substitute teachers. It will ensure that
your classroom runs as smoothly as possible in your absence.
____1. Fire Drill Procedures
____2. Evacuation Procedures
____3. Emergency Situation Procedures/Key Codes
____4. School Discipline Plan (including names of teachers the sub can contact if they need help with a student)
____5. Classroom Discipline Plan (including notes about students with unique circumstances, and something to help the teacher gauge how much to use the plan/what warrants certain rewards)
____6. Discipline Forms (referral forms, detention forms)
____7. CURRENT Seating Charts with essential student information included for all classes and students who come in your room (photos if possible)
____8. Emergency Procedures
____9. Daily Schedule (with duty location, parent helpers who come in weekly, special classes, etc.)
____10. Bell Schedule
____11. List of contact people (helpful students, staff members)
____12. Lesson Plans for the week–or–suggested activities to reinforce
concepts and/or skills

Numbers 9 and 12 are the zingers in my opinion. How do you keep updated plans in your sub folder and how can you write a schedule when every day is so different!?

Here are some tips:

A. Use old math assessments (from the previous units or grade). Chances are most kids will have seen them before. When you finish a math unit, stick a class set of the unit test in the folder. Even if you never have to use it when a sub comes, you can use the copies at the end of the year to review for testing.

B. Writing activities. Choose a fun writing activity (that includes an example and good instructions). Leave directions for how to publish the final draft (does it get glued on colored paper? Does it need to be accompanied by a picture?)

C. Just do it. Some teachers put off gathering sub plans and then they regret it. Just do it at the beginning of the year, and then set yourself a reminder (in your planner, Google calendar, whatever) to check it every month. It’s always better to prepare than to repair.

D. Put the sub plans in an obvious place and let your team teacher know where they are also. I put mine in a neon pink binder with huge letters labeling it “Emergency Sub Plans.”

E. Extra milers will prepare plans for each day of the week. Many schools have weekly schedules, where days of the week vary because of fine arts classes, computer lab times or library schedules. Save yourself some time and do it all at the beginning of the year. Again, anything you don’t use during the year can be used for end-of the year review and activities.

emergency sub plans


Also make sure that your sub plans satisfy the requirements of your school and/or district. Good luck!