Substitute teaching can be a rewarding experience. But if you’re new to the profession, you’re bound to encounter some challenges. Properly preparing for your first substitute teaching day is critical to having a successful experience. If you’re a fist-time substitute teacher, follow this helpful advice to mitigate any problems and ensure you have a positive first day.

Before class starts

Make sure you dress the part. The way you dress as a teacher can affect how you are perceived by students. That’s why it’s always best to dress in business-casual attire. Jeans, t-shirts, revealing clothing, flip flops or anything else you wouldn’t wear to an interview should be avoided in the classroom.

Business casual for men

  • Slacks or khakis
  • Button-up dress shirt
  • Dress shoes
  • Short-sleeved polo shirt
  • Dress belt

Business casual for women

  • Dress pants or appropriate length skirt
  • Nice blouse or sweater
  • Conservative footwear
  • Simple or conservative jewelry

Arrive to the school early and introduce yourself to the secretary or another office administrator. Let them know why you are there and that you are happy to help in any way possible. Ask them if there are any students with special situations you need to be aware of. All of these things will help you make a good first impression and increase the likelihood that you will be asked back.

Set the tone early

For younger students, it can be somewhat jarring to see a stranger in place of their regular teacher. Prepare an introduction for yourself ahead of time. Explain to the students that you are their teacher for the day. Create order in the classroom early with some general rules like, “Don’t talk when I’m speaking,” and “Be respectful of others,” to help proactively prevent behavior problems before they start. If a problem arises, don’t let things get out of hand. If problems persist, keep your cool and alert an administrator.

Follow the lesson plans

As not to disrupt what the students have been learning, make sure to follow the lesson plans closely. If you don’t have a chance to finish the lesson plan left for you, let the regular teacher know where you left off by annotating the plans or leaving a detailed note. Bring along some activities for the students or start a class discussion about the material if you finish the lesson plan early.


Your number one priority is to teach, but it doesn’t hurt to do some networking as well if time allows. Introduce yourself to some of the teachers and administrators. Making connections in the school will increase your chances of being asked back.

Before you leave

Tidy up the classroom and leave a full report of what was accomplished that day. If there were any problems, make note of them. Stop by the administration office on the way out and let them know that you’d be happy to return anytime they have a need.

Your fist day substitute teaching can be intimidating. Unfortunately, there is no “how-to” guide to substitute teaching. But hopefully these tips give you an idea of what to expect. Our recruiters have worked with many substitute teachers in the past and are happy to answer any additional questions you have ahead of your first day back in the classroom. Contact us for more information, or to apply today!