How To Treat A Substitute Teacher

upsidedownbook_LargeI am sure there are many jokes that can be made out of the title/subject line of this post. That is not this posting.

Today, this is for the normal classroom teacher.

The next post will be for the subs! Teachers, do not fret. Not picking on you, but there are things that are forgotten in the rush with all you have to do.


  1. Do not assume that the sub knows ANY of your procedures, unless you know them/they’ve been in your room before.
    1. From A to Z: lay it out. No confusion for the kids, no confusion for the sub.
    2. If you write up daily procedures ONE TIME, you have that ready to go.
    3. This is  true with Picking Up Students in the am (where they are; what row; etc)  and especially Dismissal: these procedures vary from school to school, and if a sub works more than one district, it can be confusing, and the safety of your students should not be left up to chance.
    4. If you have “special” names for something, please explain it (i.e. “Switch-a-Roo”: I had NO idea what that was, and it was only between two teachers who used it in the same grade).
  2. Don’t treat a sub like they are stupid, though.
    1. All they want are detailed lesson plans, things lined up for them to use (they don’t’ know your room, know where the copy room is, break room, etc.), and what your signals are for classroom management.
  3. Do NOT say “Just make it a Study Hall” or “Have them do independent reading” unless that IS what YOU would do during that time period.
    1. Study Hall or Independent Reading instead of actual work is futility for a substitute, and the kids normally take advantage of that fact.
  4. Have the sub collect the work you assign so the students DO SOMETHING and are held accountable for it.
    1. Telling them to do work and then allowing them the choice to finish for homework? Another disaster for the sub.
    2. Homework is homework. Classwork should not be interchangeable.
  5. Lay out your plans carefully, step by step, so that when you return, your classroom was run the way it would be if you were there.
  6. Do not expect the sub to be proficient in all core subject matter.
    1. If there is an answer sheet, please provide it for them.
  7. Please provide times for all subjects (when the change is, bell is supposed to ring, etc.). Simple, yes, but not everyone does it.
  8. If the students need to be brought to another room, please provide that room number, not just Art or Music, or that teacher’s name.
  9. If your school allows you to give a heads up on who has an IEP, please provide that. I know this is a tricky one, as things should not be left out that a student could read. There should be a way to let the sub know, not for judgment sake but for a heads up, to be aware who needs modifications for, who might do something that appears disrespectful to the sub but is normal for that child, etc.
  10. If you have an Aide/One-on-One in the room normally, please give them a copy of your plans as well to help the sub out (as well as make it easy on themselves}.
  11. Please make sure your Sub Folder is current with students attendance sheets, allergies, dismissals, etc.
    1. When you have a change in the classroom, please update your Sub Folder.
  12. Please find out, if not automatically given by the office, which usually does NOT have the info, a Substitute log-in so they can use your Smart Board, etc. This will save time and frustration all the way around.
  13. Please indicate who can help the sub out if needed by teachers you are surrounded by/work with on a regular basis.
  14. If you encounter a substitute in the school, at lunch, etc, please be welcoming. It goes a long way to be made to feel welcome as opposed to being dismissed as “just a sub”
    1. Some of your students will do that already; don’t do the same, please.


    Again, I will write out something for Subs, as I’ve heard enough stories about what subs shouldn’t do in classrooms, but do anyway.

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Li @ FlashFiction
    Feb 20, 2013 @ 18:37:20

    Excellent list! Every teacher should have a comprehensive sub folder with all of this information listed. Not only does it maintain consistency for students and support staff; it also helps to keep everyone safe. (And sane.)


  2. ellenparsons
    Feb 21, 2013 @ 00:34:34

    This is wonderful. I have subbed often and it would have been wonderful if all teachers would do these things. Thanks again.


    • StuHN
      Feb 21, 2013 @ 09:25:43

      Ellen, you’re welcome. Yes, it would be wonderful. Would make the day much easier. It would give the sub some confidence, instead of muddling through.


  3. Marie
    Feb 21, 2013 @ 09:27:57

    I think this is one of the hardest jobs out there. Which is why I always tell my kids it’s their job to help the sub.


  4. Janet Graff
    Feb 21, 2013 @ 12:07:55

    Because I was a sub before becoming a teacher, I’ve always left detailed lesson plans for my “guest teachers. I keep the basic outline in my computer, with write ups for several standard procedures and versions for different schedules, which makes it easier as the need arises. They may have to read through 5 pages of mostly scripted plans, but I usually get huge thank-yous!


    • StuHN
      Feb 21, 2013 @ 15:16:42

      I used to leave lesson plans like that as well. Always got a thank you from the sub. They are doing the classroom teacher a favor by being there when their is a reason to be away: it should not be a toss away.


  5. Anonymous
    Apr 24, 2013 @ 08:43:27

    It’s a great list, Stuart. I am wondering if we mightn’t suggest a “how to prep for /treat subs” workshop during one of the professional development days!


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