Summertime for Substitute Teachers

Warm weather, lazy days, endless freedom. That is what most people think of when they imagine teachers enjoying their summer breaks. But the reality is far from that. Summer is filled with constant continuing education classes, the endless search for a better fitting curriculum that meets the district, state and federal guidelines, and trying to fit in a little bit of time for themselves so that they can be rested to give their next group of students their best effort. Being a substitute teacher is different but no less demanding. You still need to maintain your continuing education credits, look for great ways to bring the fun of a substitute to your temporary classes while fulfilling the requirements left by the teacher, and you may still be in search of a permanent school, which leads you to the endless search for a wonderful curriculum. 

If you are looking to sharpen your classroom skills as a substitute there are several opportunities you can take advantage of during those open summer months.

Traveling with students- Many substitute teachers look for a way to travel during the summer for educational purposes. Those can range anywhere from helping to lead a school club trip to another country or working at a summer camp all season, with unlimited opportunities in between. These types of positions allow you to learn alongside the students which will put you in a more desirable position when a school is looking for someone with those unique experiences.

Summer school classes- School districts often offer summer school classes for their students. This is a way to try your hand at a class in a different subject matter than you might normally choose to teach. These positions often don’t have much in the way of competition for placement since full-time teachers tend to need the summer break to pursue their continuing education credits. It is also a way to see if a particular school district is one in which you would like to pursue a possible full-time position.

Tutoring-  This is an excellent way to use your strengths to help others. Tutoring isn’t just with kids anymore. Adults are often looking for a way to improve their skills, especially if they are looking to return to school. Tutoring could open several doors for you.

Webinars and professional development- Take advantage of the extra time that you have during this season too. Don’t forget your ongoing education credits. Take the time to watch those webinars and listen to those podcasts that you had to put off during the school year. Freshen up your resume and work on networking for the next year. If you plan during the summer your year ahead will be smoother. Don’t forget the most important thing either, to update your profile and information so that you can have your most productive year yet!

Online Professional Development- A Great Way to Sharpen Your Skills in the Summer

All teachers are required to complete many hours of professional development each school year. Unfortunately most districts do not offer these courses to their substitute teachers. Whether you are a retired classroom teacher or a stay at home mom looking to make a little extra money, all substitutes could benefit from professional development. 

There are several organizations and websites that offer free online courses so that you can brush up on your classroom skills. Workshops and videos to help substitute teachers can even be found on sites like youtube. You can sit outside in the sunshine and help yourself to prepare for the upcoming school year while enjoying your time. You can do this anywhere you can get a wifi connection!

So I will focus on the three websites that offer free professional development courses in education. This website has an abundant number of webinars to choose from. Try to focus on topics like:

  • The New Teacher Tool Kit Webinar with Lisa Dabbs
  • The Well-Balanced Teacher with Mike Anderson 
  • Ask Dr. Judy: From Negativity to Motivation with Judy Willis This website is broken down into categories to make it easier to select what you are looking for. Try courses in instructional strategies since you will most likely be working in a variety of classrooms. 

  • INST180 Differentiated Instruction
  • INST320 Connecting Family, Community and Schools 
  • INST120 Digital Lesson Planning for Differing Learning Styles This website has tons of professional development courses, both video and written. The three areas to focus on are:

Classroom management:

  • This course focuses on handling challenging behavior.
  • This course focuses on identifying triggers of challenging behavior.

Ethics and Professional Responsibility

  • Talks about signs of human trafficking
  • Talks about laws around child maltreatment

And search the word “substitute”

  • Focuses on Substitute teacher training 
  • More on substitute teacher training 
  • Basics of substitute teaching 

These are just a few examples to get you started. You can always read or watch these courses in your spare time and most will allow you to stop and resume at a later time. It’s always good for even the best in their craft to brush up their skills once in a while. Taking a few hours of online professional development in the summer is a great way to build these skills. 

For more information, contact us

Positive Reinforcement as a Powerful Substitute Teaching Tool

How did you feel the last time someone told you, “Well done?” What went through your mind the last time someone you respected said your name with real affection and palpable pride in your accomplishments? You probably glowed. You probably felt more connected to the person who encouraged you. You likely wanted to keep doing more of the same to earn even more praise for your efforts. You might have been excited to find new ways to earn affirmation. You may have felt relieved of anxiety about not knowing what to do or if you belonged. Now, imagine getting the chance to make your students feel this way.

Positive reinforcement is powerful magic in any classroom. It is the foundation of exceptional student-teacher relationships. It is particularly important for substitute teachers to establish rapport with students as quickly as possible. Through a combination of clear directives, positive reinforcement and consistently setting students up to succeed, you will minimize challenging behaviors and maximize time spent learning.

You may be wondering what role positive reinforcement plays with students who push boundaries. “What if a student’s behavior is so poor that there’s nothing to praise?” you might be asking. It’s important to remember that the roots of all negative behavior are: discomfort, anxiety, sadness, frustration, disconnect, or any combination of these. They may stem from circumstances beyond your awareness and control. As a substitute teacher, this is your chance to make a difference in a scared student’s life. Be sure to reward even the most rudimentary good behavior: It might be as simple as remembering to raise their hand or staying quietly seated. A well-timed smile or nod can go a long way.

Positive reinforcement comes in infinite forms. Here are 3 potent ways to express praise for your students as a substitute teacher:

1. Say your students’ names often, especially to confirm a directive followed. “Everyone please open your books to page 10. I see John’s ready! Jane’s ready! Preston’s ready! Lila’s ready! Everyone’s ready!” When students hear their peers’ names attached to praise, they become eager to hear their own. As humans, we respond automatically and powerfully to this simple acknowledgment.

2. Physical contact speaks volumes. High-fives are amazing to keep students’ energy high, and there are so many variations: You can use fist bumps or create your own handshakes.

3. Grade papers flamboyantly. “A+++++++” may not be a “real grade” in the record book, but there’s no better way to let a student know that you recognize that they surpassed expectations by letting your plus signs go off the paper. Draw googly eyes with the zeros for every “100” earned. Add little cartoons, exclamation points, and praise words like “Beautiful!” For large assignments, write personalized notes commending students’ work and their character.

Abundant use of positive reinforcement is a key to success for any substitute teacher. Building strong bonds with students right off the bat is a magnetic quality that will keep schools calling you with just the right jobs once you’ve made the first connections. SubSidekick can help with that! Please contact us to get started.

Lesson Idea: Origami Bookmarks

Looking for a quick craft project for your class? Personal Creations has created printable templates for making simple origami bookmarks! These little bookmarks are so much fun to make –– they’re also a great way to get kids excited about reading!

With 8 different templates to choose from, there’s an origami bookmark for readers of all ages! Whether you have a superhero-in-training or a classroom full of animal lovers, these bookmarks make the perfect project for substitute teachers, moms, and kids!

For more information on how SubSidekick can help you acheive success as a substitute teacher, please contact us!

Should Substitute Teachers Get Training From The NAEA?

Education in visual arts such as pottery and painting are integral to student growth. It expands the human potential and promotes understanding across cultural divides. And I am not the only one saying this. It is the position of the National Arts Education Association. So, as a substitute teacher, should you check out this organization? Consider the following.

What Is It?

The National Arts Education Association was formed as an advocacy group for visual arts education. The group was created by teachers of the visual arts and its membership is formed of art educators. And they include all types of visual arts educators, from the preschool teacher using finger paints to the university professor teaching theater arts. They are also open to researchers and scholars in the field of arts education and students looking to become art teachers. So long as you are in the territorial US and have something to do teaching the visual arts, this is your professional organization. The organization works hard to ensure that great teachers bring high-quality art education to anyone who wants it. They provide support people in the field through training, networking opportunities, and keeping art education standards high.


The most obvious benefit of getting training by the NAEA in visual arts teaching is that you will expand the number of jobs you will be eligible for. Teaching visual arts can be one of the most rewarding gigs around, and principals will prefer substitutes with specific training in the arts. Some states have mandatory standards that art education for pre-K through high school has to meet, and there is a national standard for art education that is voluntary but influential. Being able to identify these standards and how you achieve them in your work makes you more attractive for teaching positions that involve the visual arts. The NAEA also provides mentoring opportunities, art education conferences, and peer-reviewed magazine articles about pedagogical approaches to that end.

There are more holistic benefits though. You can bring the specific approaches learned in their virtual and face-to-face training to other classes and maybe, when you teach at an elementary class with some free time, add some new art projects to their day. As a substitute teacher, you know that learning can be extrapolated into many fields and it is always good to know more.

Members of the NAEA have other benefits of a practical nature, too. They get free one-time large printings of NAEA publications for school-related functions.

And while you are expanding your professional capabilities, feel free to contact us. We help substitute teachers find positions and grow as teachers.

Bell to Bell: Best Practices for Managing Time in the Classroom

Whether you take over a classroom for a day or for the long haul, your best bet at a rewarding experience is making sure that your time management is on point; keeping these tips in mind will help you make it from morning bell until afternoon dismissal without a hitch!

1. Show up early. You want to arrive at your post at least an hour before the students. This may sound excessive but copy machines break, staff have morning meetings, or you might arrive at a classroom only to find that the teacher did not leave any sort of plan for you and now you have to figure out what to do with your students all day! By arriving early instead of showing up right before the bell, you build in time for yourself to have some coffee, prep any handouts for the kids, and get yourself situated so that you are ready to welcome your class and have a great day- you’ve got this! 

2. Always, always, always over-plan! As a general rule of thumb, you should always have more for your students to do than you think you will need. If you’re substituting, chances are that the classroom teacher will have left you some sort of sub plan- but keep in mind that these plans are not going to be super in-depth and you may find yourself with more time than prepared activity. Get through the work as requested, but come armed with back up! Even if you don’t end up needing it, the extra time you put in up front will help you avoid a room full of students staring at you with nothing to do and 20 minutes left in the period! If you’re looking for ideas of fun and enriching activities, check this page from TeacherVision out to get you started!

3. Break your time up into short increments. Students get distracted- you’ll get their best attention by breaking up the class period into chunks of no more than 20 minutes a piece. This way, you can tier activities that that incorporate group work, individual assignments, and full class discussions and you can better guarantee that they will remain focused instead of asking that they put an entire hour into one activity that may not even strike a chord with all the varied types of learners in your room! As explained by Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching Remember, it is important to remember that when planning your classroom assessments, you want to touch on multiple levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy in order to successfully engage your classroom.

4. Organize your space to help you organize your time. Have a place for everything to help ensure that by the end of the day you aren’t facing a room that it is total ruins. Establish a spot to collect student work, have place for the kids to return borrowed supplies; hold the class accountable by allowing them two minutes to clean up before dismissal. By working as a team with your students and by establishing a system of organization, you do the classroom teacher a favor by leaving everything where they can clearly find it upon their return and you do yourself a favor because if you stay on top of things during the day, you get to go home with no added work or clean up at the end of the school day instead of having to stay even five minutes late! 

5. Establish rules with your students. Don’t waste time disciplining- make your expectations well known and clear from the start. Write them on the board, project them on the screen- and read through them with the kids. You’re the stranger in the room but it’s still up to you -not the students- to set the tone for the day. Give them boundaries that they can respect and you won’t have to lose out on teaching minutes to redirect throughout your time with the kids.

It’s hard to be a classroom teacher and even harder to step in as a substitute- but if you keep these tips in mind and properly manage your time, you’ll have an experience that’s truly rewarding and you’ll be sure to be asked back for repeat visits! 

 contact us

How to Build Work-Life Balance

You’ve probably heard or read about the term “work-life balance.” If you’re consumed by work, the term is likely to sound like a carnival act. If you don’t have enough work, it’s likely to sound like an insult, and if you’re professionally unmotivated, it’s likely to sound like a moot point.

The key to how to build work-life balance is understanding that balance means different things to and for different people. Articles written about work-life balance often come from the perspective that the person reading the article devotes too much time to work. This article, on the other hand, comes from the perspective that attaining balance is an individual path, yet regardless of the path, there are important factors for building work-life balance for all paths.

Relationship Health

If you’re constantly cleaning house, you’re not spending much time with your friends and family. If you’re constantly working, you’re not spending much time with your friends and family. Keeping your relationships healthy requires time, energy, and attention, and all work, whether it’s housework or employment, takes away from that time, energy, and attention.

If you don’t feel you spend enough time with your friends and family, you probably don’t, and it means that some area of your work or work outside of work needs adjustment.


Your body and your mind need and depend on you to take care of you. In order to stay healthy, you must take time to stretch, exercise, and embrace the calmness within, whether you meditate, pray, or simply practice quiet time. Self-care also includes other aspects of mental and emotional health, such as expressing yourself creatively.

Self-care also involves fun time and laughing. Laughter is one of the best therapies and remedies for your entire body, from the inside-out. Laughter increases all of the positive, happy chemicals inside of your body that in turn help the mind focus and build work-life balance.

Values & Success

Establishing and maintaining your values is an extremely important component of building work-life balance. Your parents, your employer, or even your spouse does not have the right to dictate your values to or for you.

If, for example, the price of financial success includes an unhealthy lifestyle or marriage conflict, the money is likely not worth the personal cost no matter how much society labels financial success as the ultimate success. Additionally, if the price of marriage success includes giving-up a career that you love, it’s likely not worth the long-term price to give-up your career.

For more information about building work-life balance while substitute teaching, contact us

National Art Education Association (NAEA)

If you’re in the teaching field, joining one or more professional teachers organizations not only helps you as a teacher, but it can assist your students too by giving you quick access to news and information in the education field. One organization, in particular, is the National Art Education Association, or NAEA. 

The NAEA was organized and formed in 1947 and is the largest professional art association in the world. This group is very active in voicing their concerns about the increased funding needed in our public schools for art programs and the overall need to keep art classes and art teachers in our schools.

There are a lot of perks for those that become NAEA members, one in particular is a downloadable app called Art Standards Toolbox. This app was designed to give you assistance with art curriculum and instant help with lessons and planning around that curriculum.

Other great membership benefits include various ways to connect with fellow teachers in the art community, whether it be on a local, state, or national level. Additionally, you will have instant access to events pertaining to the arts that are scheduled throughout the year.

Current featured NAEA events include:

Another great benefit for members is being able to shop on the NAEA website for art books, teaching material, and art advocacy items such as art posters and NAEA t-shirts. 

If you’re interested in art education, if you often time substitute teach art classes, or if you’re wanting to become more informed about art education in the public school systems, becoming a NAEA member is simple and you can join in several different ways: online, fax, u.s. mail, telephone, and email.

As always, we at SubSidekick are always just a phone call away. We look forward to hearing you and feel free to contact us should you have any questions or concerns.

“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” – Brad Henry

Long-Term Sub Plans for March

March is a long month in the world of education. Weather is often unpredictable, students are preparing for standardized testing and, in many schools, there are no scheduled days off. Providing themes for your students that are both fun and brain stimulating will help hold off the sillies and keep them focused on learning. The following are four themes to incorporate into your classroom complete with free activities for your students.

National Nutrition Month

March is national nutrition month. Incorporate nutrition lessons into your classroom using ideas from the National Education Association‘s website. The NEA provides links to activities for students from kindergarten through twelfth grade.  The Teacher’s Corner offers a free thematic unit on health and nutrition for upper elementary grades. There are activities for every grade level. You can also gather resources from the NFL’s Fuel to Play 60.

Women’s History Month

March is also Women’s History Month. International Women’s Day is March 8. The NEA offers activities for elementarymiddle and high school students on their website. Another great place to find free resources for Women’s History Month is the Education World website. Education World has complete lesson plans for a wide range of grade levels. Time for Kids and the Library of Congress provide even more resources for planning lessons on the history of women in the United States.

First Day of Spring

The first day of spring is March 20th. This is the perfect time to focus on things like flowers, butterflies and rainbows. A to Z Teacher Stuff offers plenty of printable sheets and activities for spring including a unit on butterflies and caterpillars. Spring is a great theme for your youngest students during a month when weather is variable and bringing the outdoors inside is needed.

There are so many great options for thematic units in March that will help any long-term substitute. What will your classroom be learning about?

Retail discounts for teachers in a pinch!

Are you strapped for cash? In this day and age, sometimes the stuff we need can be a bit expensive, and no one knows that more than a teacher. Between supplies, rewards, and everything in between it can really add up fast. As a teacher you strive to educate our future leaders of the world, and you deserve to be rewarded. I am hoping you find some great discounts for items you need, to help make your focus on teaching and not breaking the bank. The list below is current at time of posting for discounts/ and or rewards programs.

Are you an NEA Member? If so make sure you are registered for their click & save program.  This is an exclusive shopping service, for NEA members only that offers savings on a variety of brand name items from clothing, and electronics, to restaurants, jewelry and more!

Barnes & Noble  Here educators can receive 20% off all publishers list price for all classroom purchases. 25% on Educator Appreciation Days, and valuable emails filled with events, and deals.

The Container Store offers an Organized Teacher discount program that gives special discounts throughout the year to help keep your class and supplies organized.

Lakeshore Learning provides more than 1,000 free resources for use in the classroom or home, including lesson plans, printable worksheets and an award maker to name a few.

A.C. Moore has a rewards program where you earn points for every purchase. Use rewards to earn rewards certificates.

PBS LearningMedia gives free access to digital content and professional development opportunities that are designed to improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement. Content includes quiz makers, puzzle builders, storyboard tools and much more!

Half Price Books offers discounted books, textbooks and a variety of educational materials at half the publishers price or less! Not to mention teachers can receive an additional 10% off with their Educators Discount Card. BONUS TIP: If you buy a Half Priced Books Gift Cards to use for your purchases you can save even more, as these gift cards are discounted by up to 35%. Gift Cards can be bought for a variety of retailers Half Priced Books included, make sure to check back often to find your faves. has 10% off everything, every day. Save on pencils, notebooks and other classroom supplies.

Loft Loves Teachers and gives major perks on clothing including 15% off full priced purchases every day. Exclusive teachers only sweepstakes, seasonal style guides and special Teacher Appreciation events.

As you can see there is a variety of discounts out there just for you, sometimes you just have to know where to find them, and hopefully this list will make your saving less stressful and teaching that much easier.

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