Sunday, February 26, 2017

10 Tips for a Substitute Teacher

A substitute teacher needs hundreds of tips--I know, I've collected them all!  Here are my top ten tips:  

Substitute Teacher Guide - Renee Dawn
1)  Safety is your number one priority.  I'll repeat that: Safety is #1.  That means good behavior management, and orderly routines.

2)  Stay focused and present.  Neither be a deer frozen in the headlights, nor frantic.  Keep your cool, calm exterior—even if you’re a bit flustered or overwhelmed.  Take a deep breath and move forward.

3)  Be organized.  Ask yourself, “What absolutely must get done?”  Watch the clock; be on time for lunch, prep classes, and dismissal.  Leave plenty of time for transitions.  If you find you have extra time, you can do a quick “bell ringer” activity, singing, chanting or callbacks.

4)  Be prepared.  Have your materials ready; at the very least, a fun book to read.  Have a back-up plan, and enough high-interest lessons to last a day.  Do the regular teacher’s math and reading lessons first, when possible.  Save the fun stuff for later, as incentives for good behavior.  If a holiday is approaching, you can work it into the day with a book, art, writing or craft.

5)  Actually teach!  Give a mini-lesson and specific instructions for work.  Circulate and help the children complete their assignments.  Don’t just say, “Work on whatever you want,” because kids respond best to structure.

6)  Go with the flow and change plans as necessary.  Cut a lesson short or take a brain break to calm or energize the class.

7)  Be firm; give specific, clear instructions for every action.   And, be kind.  One of the best “rewards” is to say, “Thank you for helping.” 

8)  Ask for help.  Don’t do everything yourself.  Ask the kids where to find things, or how the routines go.  Ask an organized child, or ask the class.  Say, “Raise your hand if you know…”  And ask a nearby teacher if necessary.

9)  Don’t use up the teacher’s supplies, crafts, or pre-printed worksheets.  Don’t use specialty notebooks unless the teacher requests it.  You may use plain copy paper if there’s plenty of it, or bring your own.

10)  Respect the regular teacher’s room!  Leave it clean and tidy.  Don’t leave open food containers, torn posters, or running electrical equipment.

…And one for the road:

Subbing is like a language that you can learn to speak fluently.  You can master this--be prepared, focused, firm, and pleasant all at once.  

Remember to leave a “While you were out” note, including your contact info, for repeat business.
Whether this is your first year subbing, or you simply want a step-by-step guide to taking control of a classroom, I can help show you the way.

NOT JUST FOR SUBS--This makes a great refresher course for a regular teacher, or a perfect sub binder for the days you're absent.

I’m a New York City public school teacher with over twenty  years’ experience.  I’ve observed hundreds of subs and teachers in action, and was a sub myself for three years prior to teaching full time.  Now it’s my pleasure to pass along all I’ve learned to you.

The Ultimate Guide for the Substitute Teacher includes hundreds of tips, teacher scripts, lessons, and printables that you can use all year.
As always, I'm wishing you all the best, 


  1. Love This! And your ultimate guide is awesome.

  2. I'm glad it was helpful, and thanks for getting the Ultimate Guide! -- Renee

  3. These are awesome reminders for subs and teachers alike. My school system recently hired an outsourced company for subs and these tips would be perfect as a flyer for them. Thank you!

    1. Great, Alexa! You're welcome to use it as long as you keep the author's name and link to my blog. Thanks for your generous thoughts! -- Renee

  4. Valuable tips for substitutes. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for letting me know this was helpful, Y-to-L! -- Renee

  5. Thanks for your enthusiasm, Beth! I love your blog, too :-) -- Renee