What are Teachers Looking for in a Substitute Teacher?

Lets play pretend…its September and  you have your first sub job in an art classroom at the local public school.  And running through your head is “What are Teachers Looking for in a Substitute Teacher?”

“Control of classroom and follow lesson plans—don’t sit at desk–stay out in classroom with students and observe what is going on.” This statement has mentioned several times in my conversation with teachers over this weekend.  Classroom control and follow the lesson plans.

Dream Class by Michael Linsin would be an excellent first resource for a first year substitute teacher.   Michael states on his blog that his book addresses:dream-spine-ds-crop21

  • Simple strategies that make classroom management a lot easier.
  • Exactly (step-by-step) how to handle difficult students

Other teachers stated that they look for someone who maintains control of the classroom and keeps the students moving on whatever we are working on.  And not allowing the students to finish work and just sit and goof off.  One commented, …”follow the lesson plan and not try to do their own thing.”

Another said, “My students know that treating a substitute with respect is the way to go. The sub needs to interact with the kids and make sure the kids are active and following instructions left by me. They need to roam the room and cover duties assigned. I appreciate a reflection of the day and any issues, if any….”

“report students that misbehave to the teacher” and have good communication with the teacher.  the home room teacher wants to know who was misbehaving in the classroom.  Based on past history  the teacher may  already know who caused the trouble. 

” I feel that not holding students accountable for their actions undermines both the teacher’s authority and gives the sub the reputation that they can be taken advantage of.”  Wise words from an experienced teacher.

I would have a discussion of the classroom guidelines for behavior.  Maybe they are posted on the wall, or in a sub packet given by the teacher.  If you have a classroom management plan from the teacher, you need to review this plan and allow students to explain each of the classroom rules.  All the advice has stated that it is mandatory for you to set the rules for the day.


Substitute Teachers’ Book Suggestions from Amazon Books

Below are just a few of the books available on Amazon that address the subject of being an effective substitute teachers.  I have posted only the books that received high positive reviews with supporting comments.


This book is available in paperback or kindle. From the author: “Sometimes it feels as though schools feed their students subs. They give you the keys, attendance folders and possibly worksheets and or textbooks. Well, what about specifics…”

From the author : The Substitute Teaching Survival Guide is filled with helpful suggestions and tips for maintaining order in the classroom. The book includes 144 ready-to-use emergency lesson plans for grades K-5 and contains useful suggestions…

From the publisher: Ask any school administrator: a top-notch substitute teacher is golden, and this book gives you the Midas touch. Substitute Teaching from A to Z is a one-stop resource, whether you’re a full-timer, just breaking in, or starting out as a career educator. Reinforced with true life tales from real substitute teachers and the stories of how they solved their biggest challenges, this book is a comprehensive guide written by a veteran teaching expert who specializes in training subs.

More Substitute Teachers’ Links suggestions

Several suggestions from the Linkedin group Substitute Teachers Network have encouraged further researching the topic of educating a teacher to be a substitute.  One presentation from Steve Vitto is here:


 Steven Vitto, M.A. Behavior Specialist, addresses What makes a good substitute teacher? Self-Control vs. External Control, and dealing with Our most challenging children. 

Practical Tips for Classroom Management in Elementary Schools is from the website SubAssistant discusses the biggest challenges of the day…classroom management. (my weakspot).  The article makes a great suggestion “begin each day by reviewing the classroom rules with the students.”  This will show that the substitute teacher is aware of the classroom rules.

From  Substitute Teaching Info comes 23 classroom management tips.  The first three :

  1. Give the student the “evil eye.”
  2. Walk toward the student.
  3. Stand close to the student.

Number two and three address one suggestion made by a fellow teacher “do not sit down, always keep moving around the classroom”.

And finally a post titled Don’t Sweat the small stuff is great advice for a substitute teacher.  Read it here. The web pages from Substitute Teacher Support has more articles worth reading .

One last note: I did stop by a local school district office to pick up a “Sub Teacher Packet”, and  glad I did.  The district states it take about four weeks to get through the paperwork, documentation, and application process before I can sub in this school district.

One further suggested reading : Substitute Survival: Tools You Can Use

Just found this PDF e-book

From Survive to Thrive: What Great Substitute Teachers Do Differently

you manage the classroom. education, instructional techniques, a positive and optimistic …… substitute teachers, classroom management is often even more.



Substitute Teachers’ Links and Suggestions

teaching with mr jordan

art classroom in 2001

Middle of June, one job interview, prospects looking mighty slim for an art teacher job this coming school year.

 I thought I would collect online articles, resources, documents  for the reality of substitute teaching in September.  Links below may help others in the teaching profession as well. 

Ideas for Substitute Teachers’ Business Cards Last year I was asked to leave notes for the homeroom teacher on “how the day went”.  The article addresses a professional manner in which your leaving a business card would appear to the returning teacher.  I would use Overnight Prints.  The cost for 100 cards starts around seven dollars.  I have used them, and the quality of cards is very professional.

My area of concern is classroom managment.  Ideas for Substitute Classroom Management  I get the feeling that  students break lose, carry on, mess off, and just misbehave when a substitute teacher.  “What can he do?  He’s a sub!” Behavior Management is another article on the subject “…Students challenge a substitute’s authority, bend rules…”  And Classroom Management Techniques for Substitute Teachers  further discussess special challenges that Substitute teachers face.

And finally I found the Creating a Substitute Teacher Tool Kit. This is a powerpoint, 29 slide, presentation from Jefferson County Schools.

Thanks to Angela Moore for this presentation. 

If your an Linkedin member you can join the Substitute Teachers Network. Just reading the posts have given me a refreshed outlook on subing.

 If you have suggestions for me and other teachers facing a new school year of substitute teaching, please drop me a line.