Alright, y’all. I am officially at that awkward stage in life where I have the Golden Teaching Certificate, but not a place in sight to put it to good use. What does one do in this stage between graduating college and walking into that perfect classroom you can’t wait to call home?? – substitute teach.
I subbed back in June while the kiddos were still in school, but after being thrown into the classroom atmosphere for 40+ hours a week, this time is different! I am less scared going into a random classroom or worried about what the day might bring. I find it more exciting this time around that I do not necessarily know what I will be teaching or who I will be teaching. As long as this girl has her sub plans waiting for her and the students are not arranging a spit-wad militia attack against you – it is smooth sailing.
Things to remember while subbing 💭:
- Introduce yourself! I always ask if they’ve heard of CMU. Depending on how old the students are, you may only get a few, but right then and there you are making connections!
- It might sound like common sense, but write your name on the board. It alleviates awkward encounters of students forgetting your name or them resulting to talking to other students to ask a question when they can simply ask you!
- Set your expectations right off the bat. I go with one rule. RESPECT. I explain that respect to me is not speaking when someone else is. That means me or a peer. I even throw in a joke saying, “If you came up and asked me a question and I turned and talked over you, would that be okay?” That gets a laugh, but probably because I do a weird accent when I act out talking over them. (You gotta do what ya gotta do 💁🏻)
- Seek out the kid who will not lie to you – BE THEIR FRIEND. Ask them what the teacher does to get their attention, how do you know when to be quiet, what are class procedures (listening to music, phones, hall passes, etc.) It might sound like you’re trying to utilize the teacher’s pet, but there is at least one student in a classroom who lives above the influence where he/she knows being a help to the teacher isn’t AT ALL a nerd-alert.
- Use these same procedures. Showing the students that you know your stuff helps them put their faith in your teaching. It also makes the day’s routine stay generally the same. Students live on routine and any little change could make the whole day go haywire. Keeping consistency is key 🔑
- Stick to your word. If you tell students that you need it to be quiet, stick with it. Just because you’re the sub doesn’t mean you do not know how to put your foot down. One time I did this and a student goes, “It isn’t going to work. They talk all the time over our teacher and she tries to get them to be quiet and it never works”. Well if that doesn’t stop you in your tracks, I don’t know what does. My reply? Well, I got the whole class’ attention and asked if they did this with with Mrs. SoAndSo. Of course they said that they did. So I simply said, “Well I am not Mrs. SoAndSo. This might work for her, but it does NOT work for me. When she is in here, that is her prerogative – but not mine” and then I went on with my expectations.
- Leave your business card for the teacher and a note of students who were really helpful and those who needed reminders on their behavior. Be specific of what activities students needed help with, where you left off, or activities you accomplished.
- HAVE FUN! The last thing students want is a boring sub. Of course you might not be able to fit in Heads Up, Seven Up EVERY time, but at least joking around and being personable is always an option.
Be Like Mary Poppins and Pack a Bag 👜:
Giant teacher bags are your friend so utilize them! Ones with pockets, thick straps, and one that is really deep so you can stuff all our tricks and secrets in it 😏 I was fortunate enough to get one for graduation – let’s just say, Vera and I are are besties.
- Stickers! No matter their age, everyone wants a sticker. One time I asked for students to get out a worksheet and only three people paid attention. Once I gave those three students stickers, EVERYONE wanted a sticker. Within 30 seconds, students had the assignment out and ready to learn. These kids were in middle school …
- Sticky Notes, pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, Sharpies, mini stapler, paper clips, basically a mini staples store. You shouldn’t rely on using the teacher’s supplies. Bring your own so you aren’t accidentally walking away with his/her favorite pen.
- A pack of MadLibs. You’d hate to walk into a class with subplans that only take up half of the hour. Bringing a silly activity can keep kids occupied where chaos may result without.
- Business Cards! VistaPrint is amazing. There are so many styles and layouts you can choose to make this scary task of adulting super easy. Leave these behind for your teacher to have for future reference AND so he/she can share with friends!
The best thing about subbing is that you never have to come back. If you have an awful, awful day. All you have to do is count down the hours and never step into that classroom again. It might be the only plus to not having your own classroom. You’re like the fun aunt. You get to help out when needed, but you can just hand them off to the parents when their acting out.
Overall, subbing is a great experience. You’re getting a first-hand look of different classrooms, different routines, and different grade levels! Walking away from every sub experience you make a mental list of what you liked, what you didn’t, or even a grade levels you enjoy teaching more.
The more you know about what makes you successful, the nore