Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dos and Don’ts Part 1: For Subs

I would say there is a love/hate relationship between teachers and substitutes. Teachers love the good subs and hate the not-so-good ones. If you want to build work and reputation to be on the love side, here are some dos to follow. And on the contrary, avoid the following don’ts to stay off the hate side.

DO            Be on time.
It stresses the other teachers out if they bring their classes in, and one is left in the hall. Yes, sometimes things happen and you will be late. In that case, call the school and let them know so they can send someone to sit with the class or divide the class up until you get there.

DON’T      Feel like you are alone.
If you are having trouble with a student, or you don’t understand the lesson plans, ask. I have never found a teacher unwilling to help or answer a question.

DO            Follow the teacher’s lesson plans and instructions as closely as possible.
Again, things happen, but as much as you can, follow those lesson plans. The teachers spent time writing them, and made those decisions for a reason. I always leave detailed notes about how the lessons went, if we didn’t get to something, where I left the papers, etc. If there are instructions left about sending home notes or behavior folder, make sure you follow those as well.

DON’T      Use up all the supplies.
Teachers have a certain amount of pencils, eraser, paper, etc. After it’s gone, they buy more out of their own pocket. Don’t let the students con you into getting new pencils and erasers.

DO            Read the lesson plans all the way through first.
I learned this one the hard way. Sometimes crucial information is put in a general section at the end of the plans. Make sure to read it all the way through once first. Then you can go back and focus on the details of each lesson.

DON’T      Send students to the nurse whenever they ask.
This is a tricky one, because unless you have a medical background, it can be difficult to make the call. But be aware, students love to test subs by asking often. If they say they don’t feel good, I feel their head. If they don’t feel warm, I send them back to their seat. Using your best judgment is what is key here.

DO            Fill any extra time with useful activities.
It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally I will get through all the lesson plans and still have some extra time. If it’s just a little bit of time at the end of the day, I may reward the class with some free time for completing all activities. Otherwise, my go-to filler activities are always creative writing or read alouds.

DON’T      Hand out candy or other food as a reward.
Aside from making the teacher look bad if they don’t do the same, school district regulations are more and more concerned with child obesity and allergies. You could very well be violating district policy by handing out food.


  1. At one school, the teachers openingly talk about their good/bad subs and what they don't like happened.

    Most of the time is the sub did their own thing and didn't follow the plans.

    Journey of a Substitute Teacher

  2. Great suggestions! I hadn't thought of the suggestion to read through the lesson plan all the way through first. And I completely agree about not handing out candy/food.

    Well said!

  3. Hi Rachel. I just found you through a comment from Monica Schroeder on facebook ( I was looking for some substitute tips...). So happy to have found your blog and love this list of Dos and Donts! I have taken note:) Wishing you a lovely day.
    Good Morning Mrs Rubie

  4. Just found your blog!! I love all your resources!!


    Miss J @


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