It doesn’t take long for people to form an opinion of you. That’s why making a good first impression is so crucial. This is especially true for substitute teachers. When school administrators, teachers, and staff gain a positive first impression of you, you are more likely to be asked back, leading to more consistent work. Make a negative first impression and you’re likely to never substitute at that school again.

To be successful as a substitute teacher, you need to put your best foot forward. Here’s how:

Arrive Early 

You expect students to get to class on time, so you should be able to get to work on time. If you show up late, you’re starting off on the wrong foot before you even get there. And it can be extremely hard to overcome the negative impression others will have when you arrive late. Even if you arrive in the nick of time, that doesn’t cut it. Prepare the night before, get up early, give yourself plenty of time to get there and arrive at your assignment early.

Dress Professionally

According to recent studies, 55 percent of a first impression is based on appearance. With that in mind, you should wear professional dress when you’re substitute teaching. Arrive in anything less and you might be mistaken for a student! If you’re not sure what to wear, don’t be afraid to ask MHED what is appropriate.

Be Friendly

No one likes a negative Nancy. Even if you’re having a dreadful day, you should come to your assignment with a positive attitude. Greet students and staff warmly. Keep a smile on your face. Introduce yourself to other teachers. A stellar attitude can really go a long way.

Leave a Detailed Note

At the end of the day, write a detailed note to the teacher. Let him or her know what you were able to cover in the lesson plan. If there were any major behavioral problems, they will need to know, but mention any positive events as well. Your note should give the teacher the feeling that they didn’t miss anything while they were out.

Tidy up the room

Before you head out, clean up the classroom. Straighten the chairs and desks. Throw away any trash. You should strive to leave the classroom better than you found it. The teacher will appreciate it.


People make snap judgments. It’s a fact of life. And it can be nearly impossible to reverse someone’s negative first impression of you. Rather than fight that uphill battle, do your best to make a positive first impression on all your assignments.