5 Best Pinterest Boards for Last-Minute Substitute Teacher Ideas

A successful and confident substitute teacher often has a mental bag of tricks to handle whatever lesson-planning and behavior adventures may occur throughout the day.

Pinterest is a smartphone app and a website that allows users to collate bulletin-board like collections of graphic-linked websites. Since they’re linked by graphic images, like photographs, it’s easy for users to skim through a page of photos to choose the ones they find most interesting.

For subs, this means it’s easy to browse through activities and lesson plans during recess so you can be sure you’re covered when the kids get back in. You can also create your own board and re-pin the ones you like the most.

Here are a few great Pinterest boards for substitute teachers:

Substitute Teaching

Mandy Newgard, a Kindermusik instructor from Flagstaff, AZ has compiled over 55 quick printable activities, like mazes and mad libs activities mostly geared for 3rd-7th grade.

School-Sub Teacher

This collection is curated by Karla Carby, a primary school teacher in Kentucky. As a primary teacher, most of her pins are geared for things teachers can do to make a sub’s job easier. Subs will like this collection too, for quick lesson plan ideas and printable writing assignments

Substitute Teaching

Elaine Christensen of Lake Havasu also collects Substitute teaching resources and her board focuses more on behavior advice and ideas for classroom management.

Substitute Teacher Ideas

Texas resident Shanna Piatt has compiled this board that is full of excellent (mostly paint-free) ideas for art activities for substitute teachers. If you get the chance to peek at her other boards you’ll find tons of art projects for every grade level but this board is specifically for substitute teachers so the activities can be completed in a short time.

Substitute Teaching Ideas

Rachel Friedrich, the creator of Sub Hub Online, has over 180 resourceful pins for substitute teachers to take advantage of.  She has literature-based and common-core based printable activities for primary and middle-school grades.

Yes, printable activities and quick project ideas can help, but the first thing you need to do is make it to work. Contact us for help getting email and online notifications of available work.

Photo © Jim Gove

The Benefits of Substitute Teaching at a Private School

Substitute Teaching at a Private School can be a very rewarding experience. They can differ greatly from public schools and offer new learning experiences for both new substitute teachers and veteran subs.

Here are some benefits to subbing at a private school:

  1. Size – Private schools are often smaller, which means that the class sizes are smaller. This can be much easier to manage than the large class sizes found in most public schools.
  2. Frequency of Subbing – This can go both ways. Because the schools are smaller, they may not need Subs as often as public schools. However, because of their smaller size, it is easier to be recognized and remembered. If you do a good job subbing at a private school, you may find yourself on a ‘preferred list’ or a ‘short list’ of subs who get offered the openings first.
  3. Recognition – As you sub in the private schools and become more well-known there is the potential that this recognition will lead to you getting a job. In smaller environments you may be more well known, well liked, and if you have demonstrated yourself to be an effective substitute teacher than you may have a good chance at securing a position.
  4. Pay – This can vary greatly depending on the school, area, and funding available. You may find yourself receiving a higher pay rate than at the public schools nearby.
  5. Students – Students may be more focused and dedicated to their studies at private schools. Some private schools have a primary focus of preparing their students for college and pursuing lifelong careers. Additionally, you may find yourself building a rapport with these students which can be beneficial to their academic development.
  6. New Teacher Mentoring – Private schools may offer new or different forms of teacher mentoring that differ from that offered in public schools. Some public schools do not allow subs to take part in professional development or mentor programs; however, it is possible that private schools would be welcoming. Particularly as well educated subs will serve their school better.

There are just a few of the benefits associated with subbing at a private school.

Please contact us with all your substitute teacher questions.

Bullies: How to Identify Them and What to Do About It

Providing a safe learning environment is critical to the success of a student. However, one in five children will be bullied at some point in their academic career. That shocking statistic makes it very likely that a substitute teacher will witness bullying at some point during his or her career. How can you identify bullies and what steps should you take if you think bullying has occurred?

Identifying Bullying

This is a critical step because mislabeling a student as a bully can result in emotional harm similar to that of a victim of bullying. According to stopbullying.gov, bullying is defined with two factors. First, it is unwanted, aggressive behavior involving a perceived imbalance of power between two individuals. Secondly, bullying behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated. Bullying could involve physical abuse. However, it can also be more subtle, such as spreading rumors, verbal attacks or excluding someone from a group. It’s important to note that students often use social media or electronic communication to bully, making it even harder to spot. As a substitute, it may be difficult to know each student individually. However, as you work for the same schools and teachers, you are likely to become familiar with students. As you do, look for warning signs that a student may be a bullying victim. Here are some examples.

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Frequent stomach aches or headaches
  • Declining grades or loss of interest in class
  • Self-destructive behaviors

Steps to Take

To restore a safe environment, it’s important that teachers, including substitute teachers, do not ignore the behavior. Circumstances vary. However, the following are actions you should consider.

  • Be familiar with policy. Most schools now have an anti-bullying policy. Read it and know what process is already in place.
  • Be discreet. It may make matters worse for the victim if you jump to his or her defense in front of other students. Instead, find a discreet way to speak to the victim. Assure him or her that you are there to help. Victims often suffer from low self-esteem. Reassurance may give them the courage to speak up.
  • Report. Talk to the regular classroom teacher. This may help you establish whether the behavior you witnessed is a one-time occurrence or a pattern. Lastly, talk to administration. Per anti-bullying policies, administrators must follow-up and investigate reports of bullying.

Sub Sidekick is a one-stop resource for substitute teachers. Learn how our platform can help you succeed in your substitute teaching career. Contact us to learn more.

Photo © Alejandrereyes

Four Tips to Dynamic Discussions

Most educators, while looking forward to their careers in education, no doubt mentally skipped over the long hours of paperwork and the tedium of meetings to instead imagine themselves leading long, scintillating discussions in which students became so deeply invested in a topic that their heated discussions continued even after the bell.

Then they actually began teaching and realized that such moments are sometimes few and far between. But this does not have to be the case.

By employing the following four tips, you will be able to invigorate even the most limp discussions

How to create dynamic discussion questions:

  1. Provide the critical connection to daily life. The overall question that most students want answered is this: “How does this relate to my life?” The mere transfer of information holds little charm for them; therefore, finding a way to demonstrate how the topic intersects with their daily experience is critical.
  2. Allow for the possibility of divergent opinions. In crafting your questions, be careful to phrase them in such a way that provokes debate. Rather than making the discussion time about trying to hedge students toward a particular answer, set the parameters of the question wide enough that argumentation is encouraged.
  3. Play the Devil’s Advocate. There will generally be a student who will do this of his own accord. If you’re not fortunate enough to have one in class on that particular day, take on the role yourself, thereby forcing your students to debunk your logic and/or come up with support to defend their position.
  4. Remember your role as leader. Students – especially intelligent teens – can become frustrated if they feel that the discussion has become unmoored and is drifting from its original intent. Remember that during a discussion, you are not just another participant. It is your job to keep the discussion on target and moving forward, thereby ensuring that the debate does not lose its focus, and thereby its energy.

Rather than offering free-form open-enders that merely ask students what they think about the topic, beginning questions with phrases such as “how would you have…” or “how else might have…” will both allow for connection to daily life as well as provide for divergent opinions.

Examples of crafting more effective questions:

  • If discussing issues relating to a particular war, rather than asking something like, “So what does everybody think about what happened?” you could narrow the focus to “How would you have reacted if this had happened?”
  • If discussing a work of literature, be sure to ask plenty of why questions, such as “Why did the character react in that particular way?” along with “Why do you think this reaction was expected/unexpected?”

Dynamic classroom discussions may not be the easiest activities to oversee, but their importance cannot be ignored. Far from being just another way for students to express their opinions, classroom discussions also promote understanding, encourage collaborative thinking, and contribute to enhanced reasoning skills.

For more tips on classroom improvement, please feel free to contact us.

Photo © CLU_ISS

10 Ways to make a Great First Impression as a Substitute Teacher!

The first day as a substitute teacher or the first day subbing at a new school can be very nerve-wracking. Sometimes it can lead to consistent work. This is if a good first impression is made. First impressions are important for any job, but for subbing they can be crucial! Here are 10 Ways to make a Great First Impression as a Substitute Teacher:

  1. Positive Attitude – Let your positive attitude shine through. Be upbeat, eager to please, and ready to work. Many people you will meet as a substitute teacher will be under a lot of pressure and may be stressed out. Do whatever you can to try to help.
  2. Flexibility – Flexibility can be key as a substitute teacher. Sometimes the lessons you are given might seem vague. Also, sometimes you may be mentally prepared for a subbing for a certain subject, only to find out that the school has had to re-assign you due to an unforeseen circumstance. It can be stressful, but your willingness to be accommodating to the school’s need’s can speak volumes.
  3. Punctuality – Arriving with plenty of time to get the lay of the land and ask questions gives a great impression.
  4. Professional Attire – Dress for success is the motto. Women should wear dress pants or skirt and for their tops they should wear blouses or sweaters. Men should wear dress pants and a dress shirt. A tie would also be a good choice. Dress appropriately and with authority so that you can easily be recognized as a substitute teacher.
  5. Ask Questions – Better to ask questions than to muddle through on your own. Most districts would prefer that the substitute teacher ask questions about specific policies rather than make assumptions.
  6. Leave A Detailed Letter – Take the time to write a very detailed and specific letter for the teacher you are in for. They will greatly appreciate your attention to detail. Mention specific incidences (if there are any) and any misbehaving students. Also do not be afraid to mention GOOD things. Everyone likes to hear the good happenings as well.
  7. Leave Contact Information/Sub Card – This serves several purposes. If the teacher has any questions they know how to reach you. They can also use this information to easily request you in the future or share your name with colleagues. It looks very professional also.
  8. Straighten Up The Room – If possible, try to straighten up the chairs and desks. Make sure the teacher’s desk looks how it did when you arrived there that morning.
  9. Hallway Duties/Additional Duties – Most teachers have extra duties built into their schedules. Some schools do not require substitute teachers to take over these roles during the teacher’s absence. However, try to keep an eye on the hallways between periods to assist other teachers in monitoring student behavior.
  10. Offer to Help – A genuine offer to help out is always well received. Secretaries and other teachers will be happy to see your dedication and will remember you.

These are ten ways to make a good first impression as a substitute teacher. Keep in mind every school is different and accommodating each school’s policies can be a big part of making good impressions.

Want to learn more? Contact us for more information about substitute teaching. We would be glad to help.

Photo © smallnotebook.org

Sub Tub 101

Many people think there is little substitute teachers can do to prepare for last-minute calls into classes. But you can demonstrate professionalism (and know your day will be productive) by planning ahead and packing a sub-tub of your own.

Why a Sub-Tub?

Although classroom teachers often leave materials and plans for substitutes, you are wise not to rely on this being the case in each room you are called into. A sub-tub is a container (perhaps a plastic tub, totebag, or box, whatever is best suited to your needs) stocked ahead of time with supplies that will make your time substituting successful. Simply walking into the classroom with a positive can-do attitude and an organized sub-tub lets everyone see that you have thought ahead and are prepared to teach.

What should a Sub-Tub include?

The items in your tub are basically your traveling classroom and should include two main groups: the things you need to have available to teach, and the things you personally may need during the day.

Teaching supplies start with paperwork. Make up a thick binder with tabs. One tab should include the forms you need for different schools at which you work and some blank seating charts. Another should be blank forms for you to leave for the classroom teacher at the end of the day. Other sections should hold a variety of worksheets appropriate to different subjects and grade levels – switch them out seasonally to maintain interest. Be on the lookout in classrooms you work in for sheets to copy and have available for other assignments, and scour the internet for interesting pages. Add some basic school supplies in case they are lacking in the classroom: a ream of copy paper, a few sharp pencils and erasers, paperclips, some markers, maybe a set of nametags. Bring a bottle of sanitizer, a pair of latex gloves, and a few bandaids.

In case the lesson plans fall short, have some things you can pull out to teach. Plan ahead for this by including two or three literature activities – in lower grades picture books lend themselves to reading aloud and you can add a simple art project; in middle school you can use short stories or something like Encyclopedia Brown cases. Plan for a related activity –  a simple character or plot analysis, or write alternate endings. A book of poetry or a “how-to-draw” book (think Ed Emberley) in your sub-tub also provide enjoyable ways to fill time gaps and spare you being forced to think on your feet.

Include items for your own personal use in the classroom. This is a matter of thinking about what things you need daily. Include some food such as crackers or granola bars, and a bottle or two of water or a travel water bottle. Add a spare shirt, deodorant, and some sneakers in case you end up on recess duty. A comb, a bit of change, and some tylenol often come in handy. Take a copy of your own calendar so you are able to schedule future assignments on the spot.

Get it packed.

Once your sub-tub is packed up, you will be confident that when the call to sub reaches you, you can grab your tub and go, prepared for whatever may come. At the end of the day, replace any supplies you used and add anything else that would be useful in your traveling classroom.

Contact us for practical advice on being well prepared to substitute teach in any situation.

Photo © COEComm7

Creative Writing Emergency Lesson Plans for the English Teacher

We learn language so we can communicate with others. Part of that is learning to express ideas in new ways. Creative Writing is a fun way to practice English language skills. It challenges students to think critically and communicate effectively. Here are a few ideas to get you started.


Creative Writing Assignment Ideas:


1. Describe either how you get up or how you get ready for bed. (morning or nighttime rituals)


2. Rewrite description for an alien who doesn’t know what things like a hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, pants, shoes, cup, bowl, cereal, etc. are. Example: A hairbrush could be a bunch of bristles bound in a hard plastic base with a plastic handle. Is your brush hard or soft? Are the bristles straight, or do they have small plastic balls on the tips? Does it move easily through your hair or get caught on tangles? What color is the handle?


3. You wake up in a cave. What do you see? Is it dark or light, hot or cold, big or small. Are there interesting rock formations? What color is the rock? Is it dry or slippery when you walk? Do you go deeper into the cave or outside? What do you find?


4. Describe to a blind person what you see walking to the mailbox.


5. Make up a new holiday. When is it? What is it called? Why do we celebrate it? Are there special activities, foods, costumes or candy?


6. Tell a typical day from the point of view of your cat or another animal.


7. Have you been on a roller coaster, swimming, rock climbing, hiking or something else fun or exciting? Describe the experience to someone who has never doen that thing before.


After your students complete their assignments, encourage them to read their writing aloud. It will help to develop public speaking skills, as well as confidence, and it is always interesting to see how other people interpret the same writing task.

Alternately, you can have your students work in teams, with some students reading aloud and other students drawing pictures to illustrate what is being read. The teams can be big or small. Let the pictures show how different minds can interpret the same words in different ways.

Whatever you do, don’t just collect the writing and throw it away at the end of the day. That will teach the students it was only filler work and unimportant. Show them you value their writing. You could be the first person who does, and you never know where that may lead.

If you’re interested in learning more, please don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d love to hear from you!


Emergency Lesson Plans for the English Teacher – contact us

Photo © Jaromir Chalabala

Preventing Teacher Burnout – Why It Happens, Tips and Tricks

Teacher attrition and burnout are some of the most troubling statistics for the Education system. A couple of years ago this Forbe’s article cited the list of teacher turnovers at anywhere from 16.8% to 20+% and in some cases this was higher than the student dropout rate.

Now it is a widely accepted figure that 25% or 1 in 4 teachers leave the field altogether. Not only are valuable teachers being lost but students are losing access to some of these excellent teachers.

The big question is: Why does teacher burnout occur? Perhaps if we answer this question we can figure out why the rate is so high and how we can start preventing teacher burnout.

Why Does It Happen?

  1. Conflict – with administration, parents, students, and colleagues create a great deal of stress for teachers as they try to balance all these relationships appropriate and teach their students.
  2. Lack of support – Feeling as though there are unattainable goals with little assistance from the same parties listed above. Teacher’s feel helpless and stressed out.
  3. Lack of preparation – Teachers face a great deal more problems than many expect or are prepared for through their schooling.
  4. Classroom Management – When students are lacking the motivation or ability to learn it can be very tiring for the teacher. Particularly since each group of kids is different and each student is unique.
  5. Pressure of Administration/Standards – Teachers like to be able to use their creativity in the class and feel flustered and pressured when there is a lot of interference by others.

These are just a few of the most common reasons why teacher burnout occurs. If you notice, many of these are interconnected. A student misbehaving can then be linked to conflict with parents for example. Meaning that it is very seldom that just one of these factors is occurring. There are many other factors also at work such as expectations with student achievement and the impact it may have on the teacher’s job outlook in terms of retaining their current employment.

How Can We Prevent or Fix This Burnout?

Here are some tips and tricks to prevent or help fix teacher burnout

  1. MindTools has created this Burnout Self-Test which could assist in identifying whether or not a teacher is suffering from a burnout.
  2. Recognize that there is a problem. Some of the biggest issues are when dealing with situation like this is lack of awareness of there being a problem.
  3. Identify what things are the most troublesome and try to find solutions for them.

Here are some easily attainable and practical ways to try to work on fixing teacher burnout:

  1. Explore new ways to teacher your content. Try new activities. Make everything fresh and new.
  2. Go home directly after work some days. Is there always work that needs to be done? Absolutely. But some days you are entitled to go home and re-charge.
  3. Establish a routine and balance. Figure out when you are and are not available to assist students, when is your time for emailing parents, when your time for lesson plans is and grading, etc. You only have so many hours to fit everything in and you are entitled to set aside time for specific activities. In fact this can be a big stress reducer.
  4. Focus on your goals for the students and assignments. Do not get distracted by other things. Focus on what you are doing and what your students need to be doing.

Please contact us if you have any questions or comments on the topic of teacher burnout.

Photo © Smart_grades

The Trick To Substitute Teaching with a Student Teacher in the Classroom

A teacher who subs frequently will often find themselves in many unique situations. No two days are exactly the same. One interesting experience can be substitute Teaching with a Student Teacher in the Classroom. Sometimes this can be one of the nicest days for a substitute teacher but it also can sometimes be one of the most challenging.

There are many different things to take into consideration as a sub walking into a student teacher’s classroom. The most important thing to do first is to read the sub plans provided by the main teacher. Getting information right from the source is always the best bet. Sometimes the notes will go into specific details on what you should be doing to assist the student teacher. But sometimes the notes will simply say something like “let the student teacher teach their lesson and help with classroom management” or provide little guidance.

If it is anywhere past halfway through the student teacher’s placement, they are most likely teaching at least parts of the lesson. In many cases they are dealing with the brunt of the work and the supervising teacher’s job is simply to observe and assist.

This does not mean a substitute teacher has nothing to do. In many cases students are not on their best behavior for student teachers. Combine this with the generalized excitement and chaos of a substitute teacher being present and students can be different to keep on track. Even though the student teacher may have more of a rapport with the students, it is still your duty to maintain order and control of the classroom. This is not a ‘free’ pass.

Sometimes you may be called to sub near the beginning of a student teacher’s placement. In this case they may not be doing any actual teaching of their own. Instead they may be assisting you as you carry out the lesson plans left by the supervising teacher. This can be very helpful because they will be able to help you get used to the routine and answer any questions you may have. They can truly make the day go by easier.

Substitute teaching while there is a student teacher can be a very rewarding experience. You have the chance to shape a new teacher and model successful substitute teaching. It also can be very challenging. Even if the student teacher is supposed to be doing the teaching and handling classroom management, the classroom is still your responsibility. Determining whether or not to step in when a situation arises, how to step in, etc. can be difficult. There is often no right or wrong answer! Patience and understanding is the key to everyone enjoying a successful day.

Please contact us if you wish to learn more information about substitute teaching.

Photo © COEComm

Specials Are Special – Substitute Teaching in Art, Music, and PE

By now, the regular classroom may be familiar territory to you, but what about substitute teaching in specials like Art, Music, and PE?  Specials classrooms come with their own unique set of challenges and rewards.  Taking some extra time to make sure you are ready will help you to have a successful day.

  • Plan ahead. If at all possible, take a few moments to meet with the teacher ahead of time.  Be sure to get a copy of the class schedule.  Specials teachers often have blocks of time built in for planning, so you may not have every class back to back.  On the other hand, you may have several classes back to back with no built-in transition time.  Some specials teachers may not have their own classrooms.  Be sure to ask when and where you need to be, and get a map of the campus from the teacher or front office.  Also, be sure to ask about picking up or dropping off students at their classrooms, lunch, or recess.  You may need to do this with all or only certain classes.  Ask where to find critical supplies, especially if you are subbing in an Art classroom.  In Physical Education, make sure you have access to emergency protocol equipment such as a radio to connect you to the front office.  If you have been called in as an emergency substitute and there is no opportunity to speak with the teacher, arrive early and visit with a nearby teacher and the front office to get any information you can.
  • Be prepared.  The old boyscout adage is doubly important in a specials class.  Dressing appropriately is critical.  You do not want to be caught on the football field in high heels and a skirt.  Likewise, glue and paint are not dress-clothes friendly.  However, specials teachers in Music and Art likely have to conform to the same dress codes as the rest of the school.  Dress smart, but choose an easy-care fabric.  Take a full apron and stain remover pen to Art, and wear long hair pinned back.  For P.E., make sure to add a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, whistle, and layered clothing to your repertoire.  As for Music, you may be sitting in a chair while the students (in lower grades) sit on the floor, so avoid skirts and dresses.
  • Manage like a pro.  Specials teachers know the value of a strong relationship with classroom teachers.  Because students only come to a specials class once or twice a week, it is difficult to enforce real consequences within the specials class itself.  However, regular classroom teachers often play a supportive role by using specials teachers’ reports of good or bad behavior to determine privileges within the regular classroom.  Make it clear to the students that what happens in the specials classroom will not stay in the specials classroom.  Write headers on a few sticky notes for each class, with topics like “I had trouble listening today” or other common problems.  Also include a list or two for students with good behavior, and don’t forget to use it.  Every student will want to be on this list.  Then jot down the names of students who are repeat offenders, or who have consistent good behavior.  When the classroom teachers pick up their classes, give them the lists so they can offer corrective feedback and positive reinforcement to the students in a timely manner.  Of course, you can use your usual classroom management techniques in specials classes as well, but this extra step will make it easier for you the next time you substitute in a specials class because the students will know that the consequences of misbehavior will follow through to their regular classroom.

If you have any questions, please contact us.