Substitute Teachers: How to Treat A Classroom

flipped_classroomYesterday, I left some suggestions for classroom teachers in what substitutes need. I’m sure there is more to the list, as each classroom and school differs from another.

As I mentioned, Substitutes also have a responsibility, and I’ve heard from teachers and students alike on things that need to be done:

Substitute Teachers

  1. Be on time.
    1. This means, to me, being at least fifteen minutes early to where you are supposed to report (usually the main office).
    2. Dress appropriately.
    3. Ask for a security badge if not given one automatically.
    4. Ask for the Substitute Folder if it is kept in the main office.
      1. Make sure you have CURRENT attendance sheets.
  2. Come prepared with at least one pen: don’t assume any will be left for you.
  3. Get to the room you need to report to and read the lesson plans from start to finish.
    1. Hopefully, the teacher will have left you all material you need with the lesson plan.
    2. If not, round it up/locate it before the students come in.
  4. If the teacher assigns a Study Hall or Individual Reading for that time period:
    1. Do not:
      1. Read the newspaper; text; be on the computer; discuss your personal life; comment on other classes/schools; listen to your own music with ear plugs; etc.
    2. Do:
      1. State you are in charge
        1. They have work to do: do it
      2. Take names if they are disrespectful to you
      3. Keep your calm
  5. Leave the classroom, especially the teacher’s desk/work area, as you found it.
  6. Leave the teacher notes on how the day was: good and not so good behavior.
    1. Don’t leave a novel: just highlights/bullets
    2. Some schools use some sort of feedback system, whether online or paper: follow through on it.
  7. If you are working with any classroom aides or paras: thank them for their help at the end of the class/day.
  8. When students say “..the teacher always lets us…” well, that is up to you and the feel of the kids, but more times than not the teacher does not  let them do whatever they’ve just told you.
    1. Apologize, tell them you have no notes to that effect, and they’ll have to do it your way for today.  Tell them you’ll leave a note for the teacher that you said no. They’ll usually stop at that.

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.

While I have been slumbering, figuring out what to say/do with this blog, someone “liked it’ this morning: rereading it, it gave me a renewed sense of purpose. I am job hunting, and that has taken over most of my concentration. Today I have two interviews, both for Director/Manager of Education position in arts administration. This post already has helped clear some of the cobwebs I’ve laid in my own way. Thanks for the like, Isurrett2.


One of the most disturbing things that I have heard  from a student was:

“Why should I try? I’ll only be working at McDonald’s.”

I was an Artist-in-Residence for a year for a large school district in Westchester County, NY. Still early in my profession, that statement was both a shock and a revelation of a point of view I had never considered before: low expectations given, and projected; leading this student to live  that that is all they can do. The young lady who said that to me was in a ninth grade repeat class. Most of them, I was told much later, were on their THIRD repeat of ninth grade.

Yes: she was a third timer.

It was not that working at McDonald’s is such a negative job, but the expectation of that is all she could expect in life is. There are jobs that many would never…

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