It’s a cruel fact that the oversupply of elementary teachers means many teachers – especially new graduates – have to rely increasingly on casual and substitute work. Substitute teaching can be tough: the faces and routines are unfamiliar and all too often students see the absence of their usual teacher as the chance for a holiday. But it’s also necessary, valuable and rewarding, and with adequate foresight and resources substitute teaching can be a positive experience for both teacher and students. The secret? Always be prepared.
Pack Your Substitute Bag
Having a pre-packed bag of supplies ready to go in a pinch is essential to a substitute teacher’s peace of mind. You never know what resources you’ll have on hand when you’re called into a new school. Some good items to have in your inventory include:
- Stationery: pencils and pens, paper, clipboards, scissors, tape, staplers, erasers, highlighters, calculator and folders or binders
- Medical supplies: bandaids, tissues, hand sanitizer
- Learning aids: worksheets, picture books, activity ideas
- A whistle for physical education or yard duty
- Books, knitting or other hobbies for downtime and free periods
- Snacks, tea bags or coffee
Keep A Record
Bring a notebook to every substitute job in order to record the details of your work. Document the school and teacher, the subject, an overview of the day and any other important information. This way you’ll have a readily accessible report of any incidents and a list of schools you might like to return to…or avoid.
Have A Game Plan
In an ideal world, teachers will always leave enough activities for the substitute to keep their class busy. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Don’t rely on the regular teacher: have your own plans ready in case the prescribed activities fall short (or don’t exist). The students will already be more likely to act up with a substitute; keeping them busy with interesting work is a good way to maintain discipline.
Make Yourself Known
Where possible, introduce yourself to other teachers and staff. Volunteer for extra tasks and duties. You may find yourself getting called in to cover other classes. It’s a good idea to have some business cards made up and keep them on hand – leaving your card at the end of the day, along with a note for the teacher, can be a good way to secure repeat business.
Nick Nedeljkovic is a freelance writer and blogger from Sydney. With a love of learning and more degrees than he can afford, he’s a passionate advocate for education in all its forms.