Portrait of diligent schoolkids and their teacher talking at lesson


While substitute teaching can be very rewarding, it can also be extremely challenging. Substitutes are expected to command a classroom full of kids they’ve likely never met and teach subjects in which they may not be an expert. They are expected to adapt to a number of factors outside their control. And, the majority of the time, they are asked to do it on very short notice.

To help you overcome these challenges and have a successful substitute teaching experience, follow these 5 tips:

Accept Jobs as Often as Possible

Flexibility and availability are key when you’re a substitute teacher. Try and accept as many jobs as possible, because the more jobs you accept, the more you will get asked back. View each job as a networking opportunity: get to know the administrative staff and the other teachers. Building these relationships will increase the likelihood that they will request you specifically next time they need a sub.

Make a Good First Impression

Like any new job, you want to make a good first impression. Start by arriving early to work and introducing yourself to the administrative staff. If possible, introduce yourself to the principal and teachers. Take this extra time to locate the class roster(s) and lesson plans.

Follow the Lesson Plan as Closely as Possible

The teacher you are subbing for is counting on you to teach the lesson plan they left so when they get back, they can easily pick up where you left off. Unforeseen factors may come up, but try not to deviate from the lesson plan too much. Make sure and bring extra activities in case you finish the lesson plan early.

Familiarize Yourself with Emergency Protocols

Before class starts, find out what you need to do in the case of a fire or other emergency. If the teacher didn’t leave any instructions for emergency protocols, check with the administrators.

Maintain Classroom Control

Some kids may try to get away with more than they would their regular teacher. It’s your job to set an authoritative tone early. From the onset you need to establish that, while you may not be their regular teacher, they are expected to follow the regular rules. It’s also a good idea to use the class roster to call students by name. This establishes a connection and makes it more likely the students are cooperative.

Above all, be flexible and have a sense of humor — things rarely go as planned for teachers or substitutes.