Substitute Teaching in the time of COVID-19: Practicing Compliance to Keep Students and Teachers Safe

As recently as last November, most of us knew nothing and heard little about the Coronavirus or COVID-19. Now, in the United States, it dictates how we live our personal and professional lives. Some States still wrestle with rising numbers, while others seem to show promise in flattening the curve.

But, wherever you live, COVID-19 still represents the reality. Although we know little about this new disease, we know how quickly it spreads through air droplets and sometimes through touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face, particularly your nose, mouth, or eyes, 

COVID-19 may cause mild or even no symptoms in some people and in others severe illness or death. Yet, if you don’t fall into a high-risk category, you most likely know someone who does, so we all need to consider safety guidelines in our daily lives. 

Complying with governmental and institutional regulations:

As a substitute teacher, you enjoy many privileges around scheduling and controlling your time that your full time teaching colleagues do not. So, when it comes to teaching during a pandemic, substitute teachers possess choices. But, along with the options of when and where to teach comes added research.

In addition to keeping up on the coronavirus numbers for a particular area, you need to familiarize yourself with the governmental regulations at all levels and the rules and practices of the individual institutions. 

You will need thorough information about COVID-19 not only for safety considerations but as a teacher dealing with children, you will also need to comply fully with the rules and regulations.  

Finding your comfort level:

The risk of contracting this awful disease and the degree of devastation it causes varies significantly from person to person. Generally speaking, we need to consider our age and other factors such as heart or lung disease or any condition that compromises our immune system. 

When deciding to interact with others and our health risks, we need to consider those living in our household or family member we may visit frequently. Does your spouse suffer from a respiratory condition? Do you regularly visit your elderly mother?  

Trusted resources do exist to help us make thoughtful decisions for the safety of our health and others:

  • The Center for Disease Control or CDC provides all kinds of information regarding health on its website. These days, much of the site includes information on COVID-19. They provide a section specifically with guidelines for schools in which they also remind us to always check with local officials before visiting or working at a school. The CDC also lays out these general guidelines to follow for opening up a school:
  • The lowest risk scenario involves conducting classrooms, tutoring sessions, events, and other activities only virtually. As everyone involved will theoretically log on to the virtual classroom from their home, the risk among teachers, staff, and teachers does not exist.
  • At medium risk, classes occur both online and at the school with small class sizes and social distancing guidelines out in place. Sharing objects such as school supplies or personal items does not take place. Much attention also goes into cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, especially in common areas. Students frequently wash their hands and use hand sanitizer. Teachers and students also wear face coverings or masks whenever possible. The same rules apply to any activities outside the classroom. 
  • The highest risk takes place if the school returns to business as usual. Social distancing does not exist, good hygiene goes unenforced, and masks wearing doesn’t take place. Students also freely share supplies.  
  • The World Health Organization or WHO provides nearly up-to-the-minute statistics regarding COVID-19. It gives you the number of worldwide confirmed cases and confirmed deaths from coronavirus. From their website, you will learn where the virus remains prevalent from the countries to the regional areas. The COVID-19 dashboard will illustrate through graphs and charts where the virus spread decreases, or the curve looks far from flat or receding. The WHO also shows videos on proper hand washing and how to use and care for face coverings. 
  • Tennessee Education Associations or TEA serves as a perfect example of a local or State resource providing teachers and substitute teachers with information specific to their area. This type of site tells you where to get tested and provides local statistics. Many teachers visit the site to get accurate information on the impact of COVID-19 on FMLA and other professional rights.

The TEA site will also provide information on governmental resources at all levels and government agencies such as the NEA. 

Many teachers go to a localized site to get specific information for answers to their questions on matters such as how COVID-19 affects their sick days, tenure as a teacher, or when they might return to work in the physical classroom.

Substitute teachers may also find these types of localized sites helpful, but they should also check the website for their agencies, especially for information that pertains to coronavirus.

Taking the extra step for you and your students:

As a teacher, you own an exclusive responsibility to promote and practice behaviors to reduce this deadly virus. Of course, you won’t want to enter a brick and mortar classroom if you feel ill. If you come into contact with a person who tests positive or even displays symptoms, you should receive a COVID-19 test and quarantine accordingly.

Substitute teachers experience a bit of uncertainty as they don’t know how much the fulltime teacher already covered in the way of handling the prevention of COVID-19. An excellent way to find out how much the students already know involves asking them to share their knowledge about hand washing, the wearing and caring of masks, and other considerations such as sneezing and coughing into a clean tissue or the crook of the elbow. These reviews of COVID-19 prevention serve as a reminder, allowing you to fill any missed information. 

Remember to make sure the space receives as much ventilation as possible and that you watch that students don’t share supplies or personal items. 

We’re all in this together may sound trite at this point, but it remains the reality. We should maintain hope that once a vaccine is effective and gets administered widely, we may return to some of the freedoms we used to take for granted. For now, it remains a good lesson on preventing contagious illnesses of all kinds and realizing the responsibility we share for each other.  For more information on substitute teaching in the time of COVID-19, please contact us here.

Enjoy the Benefits of Long-Term Substitute Teaching: A Guide to Getting Started

Most teacher absences are only for very short periods of time such as one to three days. Other times, teachers may require an extended absence due to personal or health reasons. A long-term substitute would then be needed to cover that person’s leave of absence.

There are several advantages to becoming a long-term substitute. We’ll discuss those advantages, the requirements for becoming a long-term substitute, and ways to increase your chances of finding such as position below.

Provides Stability

For many, the biggest advantage of long-term substitute teaching involves stability. When you are on a long-term teaching assignment, you will not have to worry about when and where you might be working during that period. As such, it eliminates the need to check for open positions on a regular basis.

Having stability will provide you with a number of other advantages, including:

  • Being able to know your students on a more personal level.
  • Providing a steadier, more predictable income.
  • Allowing you to focus only on the grade level or subject you are long-term substituting for.
  • The possibility of qualifying for health insurance or other benefits, depending upon your school system.

Other Advantages

A long-term substitute teaching job can provide you with extensive experience to put on a resume. This could be especially helpful if you are hoping to someday land a permanent teaching position.

Many school systems recognize that long-term substitutes often have more intense duties than regular subs do. For example, they may be heavily involved in creating lesson plans, holding parent-teacher conferences, and grading papers. For this reason, long-term substitutes will sometimes enjoy higher pay.

During your assignment, you can build relationships with parents, other teachers, and school administrators. These relationships can prove very useful should you ever decide to pursue full-time employment within that school system. That’s because you will have already established the fact that you are trustworthy.

Perhaps you are undecided as to whether or not a teaching career would be right for you. In that case, acting as a long-term sub will allow you to “test the waters” so that you can make a more informed decision.

Long-Term Substitute Requirements

The requirements for becoming a long-term substitute teacher vary considerably. Since these are more permanent positions, many locations will require at least a Bachelor’s degree. That degree does not always have to be in a field related to education, although having such schooling would certainly be helpful.

You may need to demonstrate your proficiency in a particular subject if the substitution would require it. An example would be when you are filling in for a foreign language or industrial arts teacher.

A few states require even substitute teachers to obtain a license. Some make testing mandatory for substitute teachers as well as regular teachers. In addition, there may be different licenses for short-term vs. long-term substitutions. If you work in one of those states, you will need to make sure you have the right type of license and have completed all the necessary requirements before applying to any jobs.

Miscellaneous Requirements

Some of the other requirements can include:

  • A criminal background check, including fingerprints.
  • Proof of legal residency in the state for which you are applying.
  • Sex offender registry check.
  • Credit or financial history check.

Some locations may only ask that you have some teaching background. In that case, you could possibly include any previous substitute teaching experience you have gained while using Sub Sidekick.

Preparing for Long-Term Substitution Roles

Remember that these openings often arise without warning, so you will probably have little time to react. As such, knowing what the requirements are for long-term substitutes can help you get ready. For example, in areas that require a degree you can go ahead and request your official transcripts or proof of graduation.

You can also prepare a resume and keep it on file “just in case”. That way, you will already be prepared whenever a job opening does come up.

Improving your Odds of Success

School systems want to know that you can be counted on to fulfill your obligation without incurring any unnecessary absences yourself. After all, the last thing they want is to worry about having to fill a vacancy that you yourself have created. Consequently, a steady employment history and good work attendance record can give you an advantage over other applicants.

Learn the procedures for posting a job so that you can better find openings. Some school districts are required to post positions in the same manner that they would any other job. Others will advertise them on substitute teaching boards such as Sub Sidekick.

Still others may make a list of preferred substitutes they can call on to help them whenever a long-term opening arises. In that case, you should find out what the requirements are for getting on the list, and be sure to update your information often so that you do not miss any calls.

Gaining Experience as a Substitute Teacher

Upon learning of an upcoming teacher absence, school administrators immediately start thinking about who they will find to help fill in the gap. More often than not, they turn to someone they are already familiar with and have confidence in. This means that if you are already working as a substitute teacher, you will likely have an advantage over someone from the outside.

A great way to get your foot in the door is to take short-term assignments first. Establish yourself as a viable substitute who can be counted on to do a great job. Once others in the school system have gotten to know you, make them aware that you would be open to any long-term substitute positions that might become available.

Let us Help you Find Openings

Here at Sub Sidekick, we make it easy to find substitute teaching assignments in your area. Download our app and you can quickly begin receiving alerts via text, email, desktop, or mobile app. We make it easy for you to accept positions and better manage your substitute teaching career. To find out more, please contact us.

Classroom Management Bestsellers: Our Top Three Picks

Classroom management is the backbone of any classroom; it provides the structure necessary for all the other parts to work properly. Without classroom management, a substitute teacher’s goal for the day becomes less about actual teaching, and more about trying to keep students safe. That’s not a good feeling to have as an educator. Lesson objectives are thrown out the door if you can’t get every child seated and silent.

Any expert teacher will tell you, a controlled classroom is not always an incredible and productive learning environment, but an out-of-control classroom is never one. Many of the best classrooms are what you might call “controlled chaos” – students are talking and even arguing with each other, while the teacher works with multiple small groups and moves around the room – yet at any time, if the teacher deems it necessary, she is able to call the class to attention, sometimes without saying a word… and within seconds, every student has his eyes on the teacher, seated silently, ready to receive instruction.

This does not happen overnight. It can take one year… or five years! But there are some tried-and-true strategies that teachers use every day in order to master classroom management. And if you’re not sure where to find these strategies or simply want to add more to your repertoire, look no further than the list below. These best-selling titles, authored by  world-renowned educators and leadership consultants, have a permanent place on practically every successful teacher’s shelf. Pick one up and you’ll see why. 

The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong

If you flip past the first few pages, there’s a single page dedicated to answering the question, “Who are Harry and Rosemary Wong?” The answer reads simply, “They are teachers.” This duo has written many excellent books about teaching, but this specific one addresses the key characteristics that make up an excellent teacher, starting with mindset, then discussing management, and finally talking about those things we might first think of when we consider the teaching profession: lesson planning and so on. But from the get-go, these two writers are transparent about the fact that they have walked in your shoes, and thus they correctly prioritize the elements needed to be an excellent teacher, with classroom management right at the top of the list. And if you just can’t get enough of the Wongs, they also have a book specifically focusing on classroom management, titled “THE Classroom Management Book.” 

Teaching With Love & Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom by Jim Fay and David Funk  

Often seen on a syllabus for education majors, under “Required Reading,” this book delves more deeply into child development and the psychological impact that a teacher’s words and actions can have. Going beyond strategies and techniques, this quick read resonates with those of us who are emotive, who find it difficult to take action without understanding the “why” behind the action, and who consider mindset to be just as important as practice, for our mindset is often communicated in subtle, unconscious mannerisms. A must-read for all teachers (and even parents!), “Teaching With Love & Logic” allows educators to work hard, be smart, and teach from the heart – which is a truly important lesson.  

Teach Like A Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College by Doug Lemov

Perhaps the most famous book on classroom management and teaching techniques, this classic deserves a re-read once every two or three years, simply because it is so comprehensive and so exacting that you are bound to come away having learnt a brand-new skill or method to bring into the classroom. These techniques are also relatively simple; you truly can begin using it the very next day. Part of the reason why this book is so well-loved by teachers, substitutes, principals, and deans alike is because of the author’s motivation behind writing it. Doug Lemov says, “Teachers do the most important work in society… They do it with little fanfare–often in the face of immense challenge. And though many of them do it with incredible skill they rarely get studied. That’s what I try to do: watch great teachers and describe what they do that makes them a little different.” It’s absolutely true, and because Lemov has done the work of studying master teachers and then packaged it in an incredibly digestible form, one read of this book is guaranteed to improve your classroom management… as well as, probably a whole lot more! Note: Lemov has since come out with a follow-up to this book, which you can find here

For a substitute teacher looking to gain confidence in classroom management, these recommended reads will undoubtedly do the trick! And if you’re interested in more ways to strengthen your career as a substitute teacher, feel free to contact us any time! We’re serious when it comes to strategizing.

How to Balance Teaching and Your Health

One of the most difficult aspects of teaching is acknowledging that all the tasks that need to be completed for you and your students can not possibly be done in one day. From personal experience, I would spend countless hours in my classroom till late every night (well outside the 8-2 paid hours mind you), trying to put a dent in the never ending paper work that I had to do for administrative purposes, the overflowing amount of student submissions I had to grade, or trying to exhaust every possible idea into functioning lessons to make my students interested in the difference between dependent and independent clauses. In short, I spent a lot of energy on my students, which ultimately is what we teachers are conditioned to do. However, what a lot of education methodology courses in college don’t spend time on is that there is no way you can continue to spend all your energy on your students if you have no energy left. Teacher burnout and turnover is continuing to grow rapidly year to year and in part it is this consistent burning of our creative candle with a thought that we made need to replenish it. In short, educators in particular need to start considering a “work and home” balance in order to be the best for their students. Here are two tips that really made a difference in my overall happiness and ability to manage the stresses I faced everyday in the classroom.

Set Personal Wellness as Part of Your Schedule 

There is usually one particular trait that I have found in most educators, and that is, they usually live and die by their schedules. Many have personal planners that revolve around all the arduous tasks that they need to do for their job. But, just as it is important to plan time to complete these tasks, it is also important to schedule some “me” time. Just to put this into perspective: In my first two years as a teacher, I gained about 20 pounds. This could have been for a number of reasons (stress, long hours working, take out instead of cooking, etc.) but it was really that I didn’t make the time to really take care of myself. I stopped working out just to get 20 more homework assignments graded. Ordering take out meant that I had an additional 30 minutes to make more lesson plans. Ultimately, I was just making excuses to not take care of myself. 

For those of you thinking that’s easier said than done, answer me this: How many minutes a day do you spend checking your Facebook newsfeed mindlessly scrolling? Let’s say an hour. That’s an hour you could spend on the treadmill, or making a home cooked meal. You have the time; you may just have to make some sacrifices and switches in priorities. You will also have to get used to saying, “It can wait till tomorrow.” That being said, if you have a really important event like an observation by the Superintendent that could mean your tenure, you should probably do what you got to do to be successful. But if you only got through 15 out of 30 term papers and in order to finish you have to miss that kickboxing class your friend wants you to try with her, it’s a no brainer. Go to the kickboxing class. No one is going to be devastated if you wait another day.

You need to start scheduling exercising and healthy habits (like laundry and cooking) into your life. Then, and this is the hardest part, you have to stick to it. Once you make it a priority in your life and schedule, you’ll find it easier and easier to keep to it (and your sanity).

Sleep Like You Mean It

For all my years of teaching, I would go to bed at 1am and get up at 5am. That’s a pathetic four hours of sleep. No wonder I burned out. I had no energy in the tank and was still trying to hold myself to a 150% standard in my classroom. You hear it all the time: the average amount of sleep you should get each night to be at optimal health and productivity is 7-8 hours each night. Just like you need to schedule healthy habits you need to put that phone down and get to bed. 

Implementing these two small, but impactful, changes into your every day life will make all the difference in your health and happiness. You’ll also find yourself less stressed at work. For more tips to help make this balance more efficient, check out contact us

Prepare to Sub in Special Education Classrooms

Special education classrooms can intimidate some substitute teachers but if you are willing to look past some unpredictable behaviors, students in these programs can leave some indelible marks on both your mind and your heart. If you don’t have experience working with kids with developmental disabilities, you may benefit from some additional training before you enter the classroom. There are plenty of ways to gain confidence and knowledge that can help you enjoy many successful days in classrooms that many substitutes would rather decline simply because they’re unprepared.


There are many organizations that serve people of all ages with developmental disabilities. Some of these agencies provide training to help volunteers understand the population they will be working with. That training can also help you learn how to best communicate and interact with those you may serve as a substitute teacher. You will most likely find opportunities with a wide range of commitment levels. Perhaps you want to help at a one-day event to see if special education is something that may interest you. If you enjoy the experience, you could expand and join a weekly program or even spend time each day serving in a vocational training setting for those with developmental delays. 

Professional Organizations

Look to professional organizations for webinars, articles, or podcasts that can help you understand the joys and challenges of teaching in a special education setting. Remember, there is a wide range of ability within special education. The learning that a teachers experience by working with these students is varied and interesting. 

Keep an Open Mind

If you haven’t had the opportunity to meet and connect with someone with a developmental disability or other delays, you may not realize what you’ve been missing. Often times, students who fall into this category are eager to learn, enter the classroom with joy, extend love to teachers, and express emotion in ways that will help you learn something deeper about your own life.

Contact us for more information on substitute teaching tips.

Pros and Cons of Preferred Substitutes in Schools

If you’re looking at the subject of a preferred substitute teacher through the eyes of a classroom teacher, the logic is pretty simple. It’s the same way that one might look at having a preferred painter, or repair person, or a preferred car wash, for example. When you count on someone to do a job and they knock it out of the park, generally one will return to that person for more business. It’s the same way for a classroom teacher who’s been out of the classroom and had to depend on a substitute teacher to keep the ship afloat in his/her absence. When a teacher returns and finds the room spotless, and no bad reports, and all tasks completed that teacher will more than likely want that particular substitute teacher to return for future work, hence “preferred substitute.” Are there pros and cons? Well, it depends on how you look at it. As a substitute teacher, if you look at it as a challenge of making lemonade out of lemons, then there will be more pros than cons! Let’s go over some possible pros and cons, and let’s start with the cons first.

Possible Cons of a “Preferred” Substitute in School.

Naturally, if a particular campus has a list of preferred substitute teachers, or if a certain teacher has his/her personal choice for a substitute, it could be harder for a new substitute to get a good footing in a school. But this can be the situation for any profession. If you have your mind set on substituting at one particular campus and you’re finding it hard to get a call because that school has established a “go to” list for their subs, then take the initiative and sell yourself! Do whatever it takes! If it means dropping by the lounge with a box of donuts and saying to the teachers… “Hey, I’m a excellent substitute and I’d like a chance if your regular substitute is unable to take an assignment.” You can also call or drop by and visit with the campus secretary. As a substitute teacher, if you’re going to “get in good” with anyone, you better choose the secretary! She’s the one who usually makes the phone calls to call substitutes, and her job can be overwhelming at times. So if you personally introduce yourself to her, hand her a business card and tell her you really, really just want a chance, that in itself will go a long way! So, yes, if you want to know the cons of having the preferred substitute system in place at a certain school, the biggest and maybe only con there is at all is that there’s others in front of you. But that’s life. We’re always waiting in a line somewhere, aren’t we?

The Pros of a “Preferred” Substitute in School.

There are so many pros for a substitute teacher who works in a school that recognizes a substitute as one who is “preferred.” Not only does “preferred” substitute look and sound great on a resume, but also word gets around about you that you’re knowledgeable, dependable, responsible and have an eye for detail. All of this means that you’ll continue to get calls and your paycheck will be steady. Additionally, if you’re a substitute teacher who’s working toward his/her education degree, having a preferred substitute teacher status means that you have a much greater chance of easing into a contract position at that campus when you complete your degree. You are basically a walking billboard if you’re a substitute teacher who is trying to finish an education degree and get certified. So, if you’ve been selected as that “go to” preferred substitute at a particular campus or school district, you’re a lot closer to getting a full time teaching job in the future because you’ve already made a positive impact on certain faculty and administrators.

So continue to think positive and know that if you have your eye set on a particular campus, anything’s possible! Good luck with your endeavors and should you have any additional questions remember that SubSidekick is just a phone call away. Feel free to contact us anytime!

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”― Malala Yousafzai

Savvy Substitute Teachers Are Always Prepared!

Before you leave for an elementary substitute teaching job, it’s a good idea to have a sub bag ready to grab as you go out the door. What is a sub bag? It’s a tote of your choice filled with supplies to help you survive your day with your students. Here are some great ideas to help you create your own bag.

A very important item in your bag will be a three ring notebook. You need to fill it with ideas for time-filling activities. Divide your notebook into three or more sections. Some examples for your sections might be Activities, Writing Prompts, and Brainteasers/Riddles.  Following are some ideas for each section. Print them out for your use in the classroom. 

Brainteasers and Riddles

Something that kids absolutely love are riddles and brainteasers. In fact, if you sub at a school enough, it is practically guaranteed a child will ask if you are going to give them some. Be prepared and have them in the brainteaser/riddle section so they will be available at a moment’s notice. Here is a website that will help you get started – Brainteasers and Riddles

Writing Prompts

Students sometimes don’t enjoy writing, but you can make it fun and help them think creatively. Here’s an idea for you to use. Hand out paper, and write on the board these fill in the blank statements. “If I was the teacher, I would teach _______. If the students weren’t paying attention, I would ______. To have fun, I would let them ________. Encourage the kids to creatively use their thinking skills, and then let them share with the class when they are finished. There will be lots of giggles! An excellent website for ideas is Story Starters and Writing Ideas .


There are also many small activities that can be used as time fillers, such as “Simon Says” or “Seven Up”. A game children enjoy is this number guessing activity. Tell them you are thinking of a number between one and one hundred. Raise or lower the range based on the age of your students. Tell them to raise their hand when they think of a number. When they guess, tell them your number is “higher” or “lower”, until they narrow it down to the correct number. Another activity involves them listening very carefully. Give each child a piece of paper. Tell them you are going to instruct them to draw items, and you won’t repeat a direction. An example would be:

  1. Draw a large circle in the middle of your paper.
  2. Draw a square in the upper right hand corner.
  3. Draw a star in the middle of the circle.
  4. On the left hand side of the circle, draw three small circles.

Have the students hold up their drawings to see who was able to correctly follow directions. More activities can be found at the Substitute Mini Lessons website.    

Your notebook should be put in your sub bag. Other items to add to the bag are: some tissues, dry erase markers, money for snacks, your cell phone, a small notebook to record problems in case of future questions, hand sanitizer, lotion, a highlighter, a red pen, pencils, flash cards, a whistle for recess duty, stickers for rewards, and last, but not least, books to read for time fillers. Keep a selection at home for different grades and choose which books would be appropriate for that day’s grade level. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us .  

Tips to Find Health Insurance as a Sub

Substitute teachers are basically super heroes for schools. Your job is to come to a new classroom, often on short notice, well briefed enough on daily activities and routines that you students don’t feel the effects of their usual teacher being out too much. Sometimes that does not go so well, but you still persevere and do the best you possibly can for the class. 

For the step-in heroes of the classroom though, there are no benefits beyond the actual pay that comes through, which is not a secure place to be. No retirement, no sick days since you are the sick day backup, and most of all, no group health insurance. It can be a real struggle to find health insurance that suits your needs even if it is provided by your employer. If it isn’t? It’s a thousand times more difficult. To help out with finding reliable, affordable insurance that suits your needs, here are some resources and tips.

First things first: check the government websites. These sites are good ways to find information on any form of health insurance you need, at an array of costs. provides information on regular private health insurance, as well as Medicare, Medicaid, disability, and long term care needs for you or your family. It is still a lot of information to sift through, but it’s a great jumping off point from a credible source. is the site you’ll want to visit to find information on how to get insurance through the Affordable Health Care Act. It likes you to your states local site for specific plans available and provides filters for your insurance needs, including premium and deductible costs. The state site will also provide you with online or phone assistance to filter your specific needs.

Second, you’ll want to know what you need.  Depending on your medical needs, a too high deductible or premium can cause problems. If you make regular visits to your doctor, go for a higher premium and lower deductible, it will help spare you some out of pocket costs in the long run. 

Make sure that when you review the insurance plan that it covers your specific needs.

  • Double check that childcare or mental health costs will be covered.
  • Check co-pay and co-insurance percentages. 
  • Make sure you select insurance that your preferred doctor accepts. 

It can be overwhelming to sift through all of the information, but make use of available credible resources and have your own needs in mind, and you can find insurance that will help you be ready to be the substitute teacher you want to be, without all the stress of having no health coverage.

For more content for substitute teachers, visit our site or follow us on Twitter!

May I Have Your Attention, Please?

It’s often said that teachers must have a “bag of tricks”.  If teachers need a bag, then substitute teachers better have a whole trunk! There aren’t many jobs more challenging than that of a substitute teacher, but with a bag, or a trunk, of tricks it can be infinitely easier.

Close your eyes and picture a classroom equipped with dimmable lights and a microphone. When you were ready to teach, you could dim the lights, get on the microphone, and say in a big, deep voice, “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please?”  A hush would fall over the classroom, and your audience would wait with bated breath for the wisdom you are about to extol.  Okay, time to wake up, because that’s not happening! But…you can pull some tricks from your trunk to get the attention of your learners.

The Whisper

Whisper? You’re thinking, “That’s insane!”  Often times in the classroom, teachers try to talk over students.  The kids are loud, so the adults in the room get louder.  Some teachers can handle that level of noise, but not all, so what do you do? Whisper.  Maybe not a full-blown whisper but a very quiet voice.  If they want to hear you, the decibel level has to drop.  Those that want to hear you will help to quiet their peers.  The noise level comes down, and you can teach or give directions. 

The Whisper-Clap

This trick will likely work quicker than the plain old whisper.  With this strategy, position yourself next to a student who was designated in the sub folder as being helpful. In a low voice, say, “If you can hear my voice, clap three times.”  The student, and potentially some others, will clap.  In that same low voice, say, “If you can hear my voice, clap four times.”  More students join the clapping, and at this point, those who aren’t are looking around and wondering why their classmates are clapping.  If you repeat the process a third time, you will typically have all the students clapping.  For good measure, end with, “If you can hear my voice, clap once.”  The classroom is quiet.  You didn’t have to scream.  You can proceed with your agenda.

Finish My Line

If the students are finishing my line, they’re talking.  Isn’t their talking going to interfere with getting their attention? Not necessarily! Let’s face it.  Kids like to talk.  We just have to find a way to get that talking to work to our advantage. To utilize this method, start your day with the students explaining how this is going to work. Tell them that you are going to say something, and then they are going to respond, and then get quiet after they say their part.  It’s best to practice a few times, because getting instantly quiet after they say their part can be tricky, but they catch on quickly after practicing a few times.  Sing out, “Red Robin,” and the students will instantly respond with, “Yummmmm.”  Another favorite is, “Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?” which will promptly be followed with a resounding, “SpongeBob SquarePants.”  Just pay attention to catchy jingles and theme songs.  You will have an arsenal of attention grabbers at the ready, and the kids will have fun getting quiet.  It’s a win-win!

Until all those classrooms get equipped with dimmable lights and microphones, keep pulling from your trunk of tricks and keep visiting SubSidekick, and you’ll make substitute teaching look easy! Don’t hesitate to contact us as you continue to grow in your career as a substitute teacher. 

What to do when There is a Fight in the Classroom

Having spent most of the last 20 years serving as an English teacher in various behavioral alternative schools, I can tell you first hand, the short answer is there is no short answer! There are many variables that play a part in what a teacher or substitute teacher should do if a fight breaks out under their supervision. There are a lot of moving parts and often split second decisions have to be made in these situations.  There’s no need to sugarcoat this subject; we all watch the news and are well aware of how fast things can spiral out of control in a matter of seconds in a school setting. Some classroom or school fights are mediocre at best and some can be aggressive and violent. What you do in the first seconds of a fight could prevent more serve injuries to those in fight and also to those student spectators that will try to gather around to watch. So here are just a few thoughts and ideas to take into consideration as a substitute teacher.

Send a Student to get Help.

You can always quickly send a kid to go get help as soon as a fight starts; in my experience, I’ve never had this backfire on me. By doing that one thing you can at least count on some adult backup in minutes. Now keep in mind, many times those minutes can seem like hours when something violent in going on, just mentally talk to yourself to stay calm and remember that help’s on the way.

Use your Classroom Phone

If you’ve got a desk phone in your classroom, think fast and use it! Call the front office and let them know you need help because there’s a fight in your room. In five seconds or less, you can pick your phone up and call someone in the building, and if all you can do is yell into the receiver “There’s a fight,” then do that!

Distance Between Fighters and Student Spectators

Often if two kids don’t have a student audience, it’s easier to talk to them and get them to weigh the pros and cons of a school fight. Now getting some distance between the classroom and the two or more involved in a fight depends on age group of students, size of class, and where the fighters are in relation to the exit. You’ve got to think on your feet! If you’ve got a small class of high school kids and they’re sitting close to the exit door and the fight is on the other side of the class, tell those students that aren’t involved to get out in the hall and send one to go get help. Normally in these situations, you can depend on a student to go get help in the form of another teacher or a nearby administrator.

Keep a Whistle on You

This might sound funny but it helps! If you don’t have a phone in your room and when all else fails, open your classroom door, blow your whistle as loud as you can and scream “I’ve got a Fight!” Believe me when I say this, it works! Depending on where your classroom is in relation to the rest of the campus, you could be in a wing out in the middle of nowhere, so you want to be able to get someone’s attention. A whistle will do just that, especially the bright orange marine safety whistles! And as I write this post I can say that I just spoke with a substitute teacher last week that said she had to use her whistle during a fight; she keeps it in her pocket.

Extra Thoughts

I can promise you that fights among elementary age kids are not going to be near as frightening as seeing older kids fight. When you get to senior guys that play football level, they can destroy a classroom and the only thing you and everyone else can do is get out of the way; you’re outnumbered an undersized. And boy fight are usually not near as fast and scary to watch as those fights between girls. Those boy fights usually involve having fists up in the air like boxers and those girls fight like wildcats, pulling hair, biting, you name it. I tell you all of this because if you can de-escalate a fight before it even starts, it’s definitely to your advantage! If you know two girls, for example, are using threatening words toward each other and are just about to tie into it, get one of them in the hallway as fast as you can. It’s those little things that help the most.

School Policy

Many ISD school policies now have rules that instruct teachers and substitute teachers to not get physically involved in a fight. In otherwords, don’t try to break it up. This looks and sounds great on paper but often times it’s not realistic or morally the right thing to do. That’s going to be your personal judgement call on what you feel comfortable doing. As a human being, I would have a hard time not helping someone that’s getting serioulsly hurt, and as a teacher I’ve been in situations like that before.

The Good News

What I’ve mentioned about classroom fights might sound extreme, but they are by for not at all unrealistic. The good news is that most of your days will be fight free. In fact, you may go a whole school year or more without a classroom fight. But as my Dad always told me, “It’s better to be safe than sorry!” So be aware and stay on your toes and thank you for your service to the next generation of minds. And please don’t forget to contact us with any of you subsitute teaching questions are concerns!

“Of all the hard jobs around, one of the hardest is being a good teacher.” ~ Maggie Gallagher