Going from sub jobs to real jobs
Subbing may be a career choice for those people who want more flexibility their job, or it may be the unfortunately necessary step that a candidate must endure before finding a permanent position. Either way, being a substitute will definitely sharpen your skills as a professional educator.
Getting asked back is the whole point of substitute teaching. If you follow the proper steps, you will receive multiple invitations to return to the same school. Perhaps the most critical item is how you leave the classroom for the regular teacher when she comes back; that and the all-important “what happened while you were away” note.
And make no mistake: What you leave out of that note is more important than what you put in it. More on that below.
Like student teaching candidates, good substitute teachers understand that there is much to be learned that will serve one well in any number of teaching careers. Make the most of the experience and you'll never regret that you spent some time in such a wide variety of challenging situations. And if you handle it well, you could find a full-time job waiting at the end.
Waiting for the call
The first step is to become established in the school district's system. Every district has a different method of registering sub teachers, but once you are in and assigned some kind of identifying number (for the larger districts), you are all set to start… waiting by the phone.
You can market your subbing services, but you can't do it in advance by cold-calling schools to give a sales pitch; your marketing comes after you get a call and you demonstrate what a great guest teacher you are.
But don't worry – eventually you will be called in as a guest teacher. There are always situations where all available substitute teachers are called in, such as training that pulls in a large number of classroom school teachers or certain holidays where many teachers take off an extra day.
And once you are in, you have the chance to follow these steps to keep your foot in the door.
“Be prepared”: The successful substitute teacher's mantra
The first thing to consider is what you can expect when you show up in the classroom, and how best to prepare for anything you might encounter. Subs are called in for all kinds of emergencies, and you must be confidently ready for a whole range of circumstances.
Be sure to read the article at the link above. Managing “sub behavior” is critical… “when the cat's away, the mice will play.”
Getting the day started right is the next step… you will want to be well settled and confident of your direction for the day before you face the kids.
Getting asked back: Marketing your services
Now that you have made a great impression from your substitute teaching assignment (you have, haven't you?), you can market yourself a little so that teachers start requesting you by name. That's the critical next step toward building up your options when full-time job openings become available.
Simple marketing for continuous sub teacher jobs
Start by printing some cards with your color picture and your sub number or identifier and your cell phone number. The picture is important because it helps staff remember who you are even if they don't recall your name. Leave one on the classroom teacher's desk and also one in the office.
More important than leaving behind a card, however, is leaving behind a classroom that welcomes the regular teacher back.
- Leave a positive note explaining how the day went
- List the things that you accomplished
- Explain the status of lessons or projects that are not finished
- Correct any papers that can be corrected
- Note any extreme discipline issues that occurred (things that involved the principal)
- Tidy up the room, leaving it cleaner than you found it
- Leave the classroom in a mess
- Leave a tattle-tale list of behavior issues
About that last item: Remember the issue of “sub behavior” (above)? Every teacher knows their classroom will misbehave to a certain extent for a substitute teacher. And they certainly know which students in particular will be the main behavior problems.
Believe me, they really don't want to come back to a list of “nasties” left by a substitute teacher that confirms all of this. If you had a really rough day and feel that someone needs to know about the horrors you faced… well, that's what spouses and non-teacher friends are for!
Don't fool yourself that the troublesome students will face any sort of consequences just because you left a “tattle” note.
How to become my favorite substitute teacher
I've had some good (and not-so-good) substitute teachers during my time in the classroom. Recently however, I had the greatest sub ever. I wanted to share a few things that she did to impress me so much.
First of all, she was extraordinarily devoted to not only following my schedule but ensuring that the children were actively engaged in curriculum and learning at all times.
That alone raises her to the top of the list in my book!
How did I know that was way she handled my classroom? Because when I returned, I found not only stacks of corrected papers but also six pages of notes letting me know exactly what happened every single day.
Now… this might be a little over-the-top, and I certainly wouldn't expect a sub to go to these lengths every time. But it was great to see exactly what was happening, and more importantly, to know that the substitute cared enough to track individual kids and let me know how they performed.
I’ve included a little bit from one of her notes below.
If you are substitute teaching, classroom teachers who really care about the academic progress and behavior of their students will love you for taking a similar approach.
Sub marketing tips from teachers
Here are some great tips on getting asked back for more substitute teaching jobs, shared by my readers. Teaching careers come from minding the details!
Fact sheets are better than cards
“I know some people have cards made up and I have some, too, in my purse in case someone asks for something. But I usually leave a sheet of my information for the teacher and for the office. I think that having larger type on colored paper (with my picture) makes a more memorable impression.
“I print them off using colored ink, too. Classroom teachers get all kinds of different subs and they blur together.”
~ Lannette – Colorado
Be sure to e-mail a thank you!
“After I get home from a day of subbing, I like to send the classroom teacher an e-mail with my contact information. That way it's easier for her (or him) to copy and paste my info into a contact list or document or whatever they use for sub teachers they like. I can usually find their e-mail address on the district website or the school website.
“They don't all like me of course but most do! I think this helps.”
~ Dan Stinson – Murray, Utah