The Benefits of Learning a New Language

As a substitute, there are always new skills that you can learn. Some of those skills will help make your job easier; others will make it easier for you to make your way into certain classrooms. Learning a new language has a number of key benefits for a substitute, whether you brush up on those Spanish skills from your own high school days or pick up a new language suited to your area.

How to Learn Language Skills

There are several ways to help build your understanding of a foreign language, from written skills to basic communication. Try some of these strategies to move forward with your language learning.

Work with a teacher at the school where you’re subbing. Teachers are often eager to share their knowledge, especially if it improves their odds of having a great substitute when they can’t be in the classroom.

There’s an app for that. In fact, there’s an app for almost everything! Duolingo and HelloTalk are popular platforms for developing your foreign language skills.

Take a class of your own. Check out your local college or university. Some classes are available online, but most foreign language classes will require you to attend classes at the school to help give you experience in conversation in your new language.

The Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language

Even if you aren’t fluent in a foreign language, there are several benefits to understanding the basics, including:

  • Understanding students who are speaking that language. You’ll never be stuck wondering what a Spanish-speaking student is saying again!
  • Building your ability to help students who speak English as a second language.
  • Improving your odds of being asked to sub in a foreign language classroom.
  • Improving your ability to help students in a foreign language classroom. It’s hard to teach concepts when you don’t understand any of the vocabulary!

Whether you already speak a second language or not, there are plenty of substitute positions available to you! Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you find more placements and make it easier for you to build a job as a substitute.

The Benefits of Eating Lunch with Other Teachers

As a sub, you may feel out of place and even a little bit awkward joining the other teachers in the break room over lunch. They work with each other every day; you’re just there for a day or two here and there. There are several reasons, however, why joining the teachers at your school in the break room for lunch is well worth your while.

1. Get called back more often. Some teachers control which subs are called for their classrooms and when. Over lunch, you have the chance to create a relationship that will lead them to call you when they need to be out for the day.

2. Get to know your kids better. Classroom teachers often know all about the kids you’re struggling with most–and they’ll have the tips, tricks, and strategies that will help you manage them for a more successful day.

3. Learn more about your school. What’s the actual procedure for an assembly? Which classroom is the most difficult to manage–and therefore the hardest to sub in? Are there administrators who are more helpful when things aren’t going well in the classroom than others? As you listen, you’ll learn a great deal about the environment where you’re subbing.

4. Develop connections for future employment opportunities. Do you intend to stay a substitute long-term, or are you looking for future employment opportunities in the school? Whether you want to be a TA or a full-time teacher, networking with the current teachers is a great way to put your name at the top of the list when those opportunities arise.

If you’ve been skipping the break room when lunchtime rolls around, now is the time to stop. There are many opportunities to be had in the break room–and missing out on them may decrease your ability to successfully obtain new sub jobs or even future employment. If you need more sub jobs that will help get you into the break room, contact us today to learn how we can help make your job as a sub easier.

Tips for Substitute Teachers

Being a substitute teacher can be pretty hard work. You are expected to walk into a classroom and instantly know procedures and routines based on what the classroom teacher has left for you for the day! You probably don’t know any of the students and they don’t know you. You’re in for a bit of a challenge, but with a few simple tips, you’ll be able to breeze through your day.

1. Always be prepared.

You might think it’s tough to walk-in feeling prepared for your day, but there are definitely some ways you can try to be prepared for anything. You’ll know what age/grade you will be working with the night before (hopefully!), so have some things “at the ready” in case you end up with extra time. You could find printable word searches, crossword puzzles, or Sudoku online and print copies for the students before your day gets started. If you’re familiar with games like “Heads Up, Seven Up,” “Hangman,” or “I Spy” for younger students, you could use those as time fillers as well!

2. Be confident!

The more confident you are in your own ability to manage a classroom, the more likely it is that the students will respect and listen to you. Your classroom management will become much easier if you reassure the students you know exactly what you’re doing through your actions (even if you have no idea!).

3. Be flexible.

Substitutes often fill-in for multiple positions throughout the day. Since you are just a substitute teacher for the day, you won’t necessarily need a “planning period.” Oftentimes, the school will re-assign you to a study hall or lunch duty during that time. Be flexible and plan to move around. It’s likely to happen.

4. Be positive.

Choose your battles. As a substitute, you’ll likely be much more successful by rewarding behavior that you expect, instead of punishing those who are misbehaving. You’ll be much more appealing to the students if you can include some way for their day to be more enjoyable than normal. Rewards can be simple: promising a reward of a funny story, two extra minutes of free time, or simply having time to pack-up early will go a long way with a classroom full of students.

Before you leave the school, make sure the staff knows what a great day you had. This will help you with future job opportunities. If they know you had a good day, and they hear good things from the students, they are likely to request that you fill a vacant spot in the upcoming weeks.

5. Set the tone.

The students are waiting to see how far they can push you, so be sure to set your boundaries early. Your expectations should be clear from the moment the students walk in. With younger children, you might need to write it on a poster and hang it up for simple reminders. For older students, your expectations should be set verbally as soon as the bell rings. The key to classroom management is communication.

6. Stay alert!

Sub Sidekick is the perfect way to stay up-to-date with recent job openings. With an account through Sub Sidekick, you’ll be able to accept jobs as quickly as possible. The further in advance you know about a job, the more prepared you’ll likely feel walking into the assignment. Stay alert with Sub Sidekick. Contact us to set up an account.

As a substitute teacher, you are a role model for the day. The connection you make with the students has the opportunity to stay with them for life. The smoother the day goes for the both of you, the better!

Becoming A Preferred Substitute Teacher- Volunteer

Volunteering at a school can be beneficial in two ways for substitute teachers. First, it helps the teachers and in turn allows them to become familiar with you. Second, you will stay busy even when there is not any available jobs.

First, let’s talk about helping the teachers. Teachers always have a list a mile long of things they need to do but can’t find the time for. If you have a few extra hours, you can help them out. When you take a few hours of your own time to help them out they will very likely return the favor. When they are scheduling an absence and a list of available substitutes comes up, they will most likely recognize your name and choose you. Once a few teachers are familiar with you they will talk. They will tell other teachers how helpful you are and you will quickly move to the top of the request lists for many teachers.

Second, there is always the times of the year when very few teachers are out. They are saving their personal time and do not have a lot of training going on. Unless someone unexpectedly becomes sick, there just aren’t any jobs. Use this time to volunteer at the school. More than anything it keeps you busy and gives a sense of satisfaction for helping out.

Try to focus your volunteering to a specific building or age group depending on the set up of your district. The more familiar the teachers and staff are with you the more likely they are to request you. Also the students will become more familiar with you and be more comfortable with you being in their classroom when their teacher has to be gone.

It’s a typical case of “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours!”

For more information, contact us.

Tricks of the Trade: Substitute Teaching

According to the Atlantic, substitute teaching may be one of America’s toughest jobs. However, despite the low pay, insufficient planning time, and difficult job conditions, in 2014, 623,000 Americans answered school districts’ early-morning calls to take on this daunting task. Education Week, a United States national newspaper covering K-12 education, and the National Council on Teacher Quality reported that over their K-12 experience, students spend just under a year being taught by someone other than their classroom teacher. So, what can you, as a professional substitute educator, do to improve your experience, improve student learning, and maximize your chances of being invited back?

Firstly, learn the rules. As you probably remember from your K-12 experience, schools have rules. And, all classroom teachers have classroom rules. Arrive early and learn them (read the class syllabus). Students crave consistency. Learning the teacher’s expectations and “focus areas” will help you emphasize the same things that the classroom teacher emphasizes. For example, “no hats”. Students will “test the sub” for no reason other than to see what they can get away with. Remember that you’re not there to be their friend. You are there to serve as their teacher. Enforcing a simple rule early will let the students know that you are informed, communicating with, and on the same page as the classroom teacher.

Secondly, use first names! Student (and adults) love to hear their own name. When you arrive in the classroom look over the daily attendance sheets. If there is a name that is difficult to pronounce, try to learn the proper pronunciation prior to class starting. As the old saying goes, “nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care”. Demonstrate that you care by learning and pronouncing student names correctly.

Thirdly, follow the lesson plans. The classroom teacher is expecting to return to class and move to the next lesson. You will enhance your reputation and will be requested more often when the teacher knows that the plans will be followed, and he will not have to “reteach” a lesson.

Finally, be flexible. Let’s face it, teachers don’t miss school with days of notice. They miss school because they woke up ill, an emergency occurred, or due to another unexpected event. As a professional substitute educator, you must be ready to improvise. Plan ahead and have a few tricks up your sleeve. Think of things you can do to assist the classroom teacher. For example, one of the most time consuming and unrewarding tasks classroom teachers are expected to perform is creating bulletin boards. However, this is an area in which students thrive and love to be involved! Use this to your advantage. When the daily substitute lesson plan is complete and there is still time left, hand out 2″ x 2″ sticky notes in multiple colors. Ask the students to write a positive saying or reminder notices. For example, “you can do this”, or “bring a pencil”. (I recommend that you allow ESL students to write in their native language as this adds a multicultural dimension to the board.) Recommend in your note to the teacher that a bulletin board be covered in black paper. In the center, write (or preferably die cut) the words, “TAKE WHAT YOU NEED”. Then, stick the inspirational and reminder notices around the words. You and the students will have created a colorful, interactive bulletin board and your thoughtfulness will have saved the classroom teacher hours of work. In a short time, students will be pulling the sticky notes off the board, handing them to each other, and using them to leave themselves reminders!

By learning the rules, using student names, following the lesson plans, and remaining flexible you will enhance the learning experience for students, increase the chances of being requested again, and survive one of the most difficult but rewarding jobs in America – substitute teaching! For more tips on becoming a professional substitute educator or to learn about SubFinder, our app designed for professional substitute educators, contact us.

Showing Up Strong as a Substitute Teacher

As a guest teacher, you’ve been here before. It’s time to greet your students for the day and you hear the whispers and giggles in the room from the thirty or so new faces glancing your way. Students have extra sensory perception when it comes to interacting with a substitute teacher.  What proactive steps will you take to the be the best substitute teacher possible?  As you consider this question from both the student and classroom teacher perspective, don’t hesitate to contact us with your wonderings.

From the Student’s Perspective

Whether or not they are likely to admit it, students don’t like change.  Especially a big change,  like who’s in charge for the day.  Some students will naturally challenge anything different that comes their way.  This can look like silliness, boredom or even challenging behavior. You can combat all of these issues in the first few minutes of class by simply being as genuine as possible with the students in front of you.  All students, no matter their age,  want to know one thing.  The adult in the room is a competent and capable teacher who likes kids. Breaking the ice by sharing with students who you are and why you are happy to be with them is a sure way to gain their approval for the work that lies ahead.

From the Teacher’s Perspective

Most teachers would prefer not to miss class and prepare substitute lesson plans.  They are hard to write and difficult to design if both students and guest teachers are to be honored.  The very best substitute from a teacher’s perspective will adhere to the following:

  • Follow the lesson plans as closely as possible.  They were written for a reason and the student’s learning trajectory depends upon them being honored.
  • Leave a written and detailed recap of the day’s events calling out what went well and what might have been a challenge.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The teachers across the hall or next door wants you to succeed.  It’s likely they are on the lookout for someone exceptional to cover their class should the need arise.  Show up as a learner and ask for help or clarification when needed.

How to Lesson Plan as a Substitute Teacher

If you’re a substitute teacher, you’re still a teacher, and teachers need lesson plans to make the day go smoothly.  A lesson plan is a game plan of how you’re going to use your classroom time.  Often, the classroom teacher that you’re substituting for will leave outstanding lesson plans for you to follow, in addition to, material for you to use.  Other times, you may go to a classroom as a substitute teacher and find nothing whatsoever in the means of classroom activities, directions, and lesson plans for the class.  The regular teacher may have had an unexpected emergency and was not able to adequately prepare for a substitute teacher, and other times, some regular teachers are just more prepared than others, and you just may not find much left for you to use to get through the class period, therefore, you always need to prepare yourself.

Lesson Plans are a much easier to get together if you substitute for a particular grade level, elementary or secondary, for example. Most of the time, that’s the case with substitute teachers.  The majority stick to the same grade levels and even campuses. So, if that’s the case with you, start collecting material that you can use in class, and even reuse in other classes.  You could start by choosing magazines clippings, newspaper articles etc.. involving current events.  Ideas as simple as these can help you and the class easily enjoy and learn something during the first ten or fifteen minutes of class. These activities are sometimes called bell ringers or warm-ups. You can have one small magazine article, of appropriate content, and print off a class set in the teachers workroom and have a “helper” pass out the copies to the class.  Write several questions on the board and ask the students to answer in complete sentences. You could even have this article cover an entertainment story such as a popular music star or a new age-appropriate movie that’s coming out; it needs to me something to catch their attention.  For example, if you pass out an article on the stock exchange and Wall Street as a bell ringer to a group of 6th graders, they’re probably not going to read the first two sentences! ; )… but if you hand them an interesting article on a new G rated animated movie that’s scheduled to be released, they will read every single word.

You can always have things in your “sub bag” to get you through a class, should you accept a substitute assignment where you’ve been left zero instructions by the regular teacher. If you divide the class time into sections of time, it’s easier to visualize what you’re going to need for the students to make it to the end of class time.  And remember, if all else fails, you always have the chalkboard or the whiteboard to handwrite some questions for the students to answer on current events.  It’s ok to be creative! If you’re substituting for a math class, for example, you can keep the class pace going after your bell-ringer handout by writing some math problems on the board and letting the students complete the work on notebook paper. For some, this approach might be old school (no pun intended!) but hey, it works, and it will get you and the class through the class period!

Another activity that is a winner, even in the upper grade levels, is what’s called handwriting practice. You can Google handwriting practice handouts of all lengths and subject matter, that not only help with handwriting but reinforce a lesson.  Believe it or not, the kids love these activities! In a world of smart phone text print, they love to brush up on and practice their personal handwriting skills, and it’s always good to stress that job applications and other applications require handwritten signatures among other types of handwritten statements.

As you’re waiting on the bell to ring for lunch or to end class for the next period or for the day, have activities on hand to keep the students busy and engaged if they’ve finished on their main class assignment. The busier they are, the less restless they’ll be and the less problems you’ll run into. If all you have is a word search, these activities are still very good for improving reading skills and vocabulary, and they’re also entertaining and give the students something to work on.

So just remember, always be on the lookout for little items you may come across in a magazine or a newspaper that you can use as a master copy for a class set. Keep in mind that the bargain and dollar stores usually have an isle that has word search books, puzzles and things along those lines.  All of these things can be gathered for your own personal collection of substitute lesson plan material to bring with you in case you need them!

Should you have any additional questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us at SubSideKick; we would love to assist you with your substitute teaching career!

How to Become a Preferred Substitute Teacher

During my time as a substitute teacher, I have learned a few lessons about becoming a preferred sub. It is hard work, but filling my schedule with jobs that I want make it all worth it. Below are a few tips to land that preferred substitute teaching position:

  1. Leave detailed notes for the teacher. If their lesson plan is broken down into sections, either time blocks or lesson blocks, leave a description of each block. Include exactly what you did, who did well, who struggled, and any modifications from their plan that had to be made.
  2. Follow their notes as closely as possible. Nothing will keep a teacher from requesting you more than not following the plan. If they leave a plan do everything you can to follow it. If you have to make any changes, leave detailed notes on why and what you did.
  3.  Be prepared. Bring everything you will need and mentally prepare yourself for what type of teaching you will be doing. If you are working in kindergarten be ready to be on your toes and on the go the entire time. If you are working in a high school distance learning class, be prepared to sit for long periods of time doing nothing but making sure the students are doing what they are supposed to (i.e. watching their videos or doing online lessons, not watching youtube videos or surfing Facebook.)
  4. Introduce yourself to the rest of the team. In most educational settings teachers work in teams of some sort. For example, all of the first grade teachers may make up a team, or all fine arts teachers in the middle school may make up a team. Most likely you will have planning time and lunch at the same time as the rest of the team. Use this time to introduce yourself and ask questions about the procedures or tips about a particular class.
  5.  Be all in. When you step into a classroom, you are the teacher. Do your very best work as if your entire career was depending on it. Teachers prefer substitutes that put their heart into the job they are doing. Students respond much better to a substitute that is truly dedicated to doing their best.

For more information contact us

Substitute Survival: 5 Tips to Success

Being a substitute teacher can be stressful and tiring. Here are five tips you can follow to help you feel less stressed and more prepared.  These five tips will lead to enjoyable days of substituting and you will find yourself on the path to becoming a preferred substitute.

Tip #1 Be Confident

Students are experienced when it comes to having substitutes.  They know when someone is confident and will show respect to those that are.  Being confident in a classroom means dressing the part and a willingness to take charge of a classroom that you are just stepping into.

Tip #2 Be Prepared

Go prepared with your own plans.  There are numerous websites that have discussion questions to use with high-interest books.  I suggest selecting books related to other content areas such as science.  It has been my experience cross-curricular books generate the highest level of engagement amongst students. Remember teachers work to create plans for you but sometimes things don’t work out but your preparedness will be for those times.

Tip #3 Know Your Expectations

Teachers establish classroom expectations but there is no harm in preparing your own.  Keep your expectations clear but simple. This will help establish you are a visiting teacher that is confident and supportive of a positive classroom environment during your visit.

Tip #4  Make a Substitute Binder

Create your own binder containing your expectations you share with each classroom you visit as well as your own lesson plans.  I advise getting some plastic sleeves to place picture books in with your guiding questions and/ or lessons.  Have originals of accompanying assignments in the event you need some other back up materials.  Other great materials to include are poems, spreadsheets to fill in student names to track behavior, and any other materials you feel will help you be prepared and confident.

Tip #5  Know Your Audience

Select jobs that align with your preferences, knowledge, and skills. It is challenging to be in a classroom with an age group you are uncomfortable with or you have limited knowledge of their developmental stages.  It may be hard to turn down a job or two but working with students you can help or understand the stage of life they are in will give you and them confidence.  The benefit is you will be happy and will feel more fulfilled.

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Substitute Teachers: Positive Reinforcement in the Classroom

Stepping into a classroom as a substitute teacher is daunting. Substitute teachers may not know the students in the class, and therefore have not developed a positive rapport like the regular teacher. Many students think that when a substitute teacher enters the classroom, it is time for silliness. Here are some ways to incorporate positive reinforcement in the classroom to make the school day go smoothly and to meet the objectives the regular teacher has set for the substitute to teach:

Use Positive Reinforcement Techniques Used By The Regular Teacher

Most classrooms have their own version of positive reinforcement, whether it is earning marbles in a jar for extra recess or earning tickets that allows a student to pick a prize from a prize box. Use whatever method that is already in place in the classroom. Students are already familiar with these methods and are likely already motivated by the outcomes.

Add an Extra Incentive Into The School Day

At the beginning of the school day, the substitute should set expectations for the classroom. Provide students with an additional incentive so they are not only working towards the incentives used everyday, but for the substitute as well. For example, students can work towards a class goal. Every time the entire class is showing the expected behavior, write a letter on the whiteboard for everyone to see. Once students earn every letter of the word, “HAPPY,” or another chosen word, students will receive a whole class reward. An extra recess at the end of the school day is one option.

Provide Short Term and Individual Rewards to Students

Give individual students tickets or stickers to reinforce positive behavior throughout the school day. If they earn a certain amount of tickets or stickers, reward them with whatever the goal is. This could be having lunch with the substitute teacher or picking a prize from a prize box.

As a substitute teacher, it is very important to set expectations at the beginning of the day and to positively reinforce the expected behavior early and often. These are the keys to managing a classroom.

For more information on substitute teaching, visit Sub Sidekick.