Having a Teacher Mentor: Who to Seek Out?

It is difficult to come into an environment as a substitute, especially at a school you are unfamiliar with. Getting adjusted quickly is a lot easier if you are able to find a teacher mentor: someone you can go to for simple questions or for advice in the event of a classroom problem such as a disruptive student. 

Introductions to other faculty and staff will be much easier if you have someone to guide you and remind you of peoples’ names. You will also have someone to point out problems that are likely to arise before you are faced with them, so that you have time to work out a strategy beforehand. 

Who should you choose? 

Take note of the teachers who are friendly to you. Usually, there will be one or two teachers who go out of their way to make sure you feel comfortable at the school. Generally, your teacher mentor will be the one who is actively taking you under their wing. 

If there is no one actively mentoring you, make an effort to say hello to the teachers in classrooms nearest the one you will be teaching in for the day. Ask for directions to the bathroom or ask where to get extra supplies, or any simple question that won’t be too much of a hassle for them to answer, and notice which teacher you feel a stronger connection to. This is likely to be a good teacher mentor for you. 

You can ask your preferred teacher to be your mentor. Everyone loves flattery, and most teachers will be happy to show you around and help you get to know the school. You might even ask your teacher mentor if you can sit in on one of their classes during your free period. 

Best of luck finding your own teacher mentor! For a better chance at snagging substitute teaching jobs, please contact us

Building a Tool Kit to be the Best Substitute Teacher

Every good tradesman needs the right tools and the same is certainly true for substitute teachers.  The kit you carry into the classroom should have key tools that will work for a variety of students.

The graphic organizer is versatile.  It is a concise and easy way for students to organize information.  Often substitute lesson plans have students watching a movie, reading an article, or playing a learning review game.  Having a graphic organizer ready to pull from your tool box helps the students summarize information and can fill in those last few minutes of time when the lesson is complete.  There are many to choose from; investigate which ones would work for you and add them to your kit. 

Conversations cards  and questions are an indispensable tool for a substitute teacher.  Substitutes need to think on their feet, but sometimes we all stumble.  Having cards and questions prepared and ready to be pulled from your box is smart.  There are cards for problem solving, math, discussion starters, holidays and more.  They can be used to supplement a lesson, create a lesson, or simply to fill time and keep students engaged.

Another must-have item for every substitute teacher toolbox is a pack of index cards.  A full size sheet of paper can be intimidating to some students because it seems like a lot of empty space to fill.  An index card is friendlier, and can be used in a variety of ways.  Students might write or draw a question, one thing they learned from the lesson, or one thing they wish their regular teacher would follow up on when he or she returns.  Think how impressed the teacher will be when the substitute leaves the cards and the teacher is easily able to assess what students learned – or what they still need help with – in her absence!

To be the best substitute teacher, you need the best tools.  Make sure you have your tool kit filled and ready for your next job. contact us

Positive Preparation for Long-Term Subbing

Long-term subbing without the proper preparation can be disastrous. Not only can you find yourself in a daily power struggle, but you can also mar your good reputation. Here are some tips to help you have the best long-term subbing experience possible.

Know the Expectations

Meet with the teacher beforehand to discuss classroom procedures, expectations, and the school policies. The more informed you are the better! Students need consistency and will live up to expectations. Of course, there will always be a few students that want to challenge you. However, your preparation will stop those challenges in their tracks.

Know the Material

When you meet with the teacher get copies of what you will be teaching. After your meeting, do your research and practice how you will present the material. If you are presenting electronically, practice with the application if possible. As you practice, make a list of questions to ask the teacher before their leave begins. You are the one that has to answer questions in the teacher’s absence. The teacher will appreciate your desire to be informed. In addition, the administration will notice your efforts leading to future job offers.


Keep the lines of communication open with the teacher and administration. If you run into any issues while subbing, know who you can talk to and how they prefer to be contacted. Always remember to keep it positive even when you find yourself frustrated with a difficult student or situation. Administrators and teachers will be happy to give you experienced advice when needed. Seeking a positive solution right away and implementing it makes you a problem solver. Not to mention, you are then viewed as a positive addition to their teaching team.

Be Yourself

Finally, do not try to be the teacher for whom you are subbing. The students know you are not that teacher and don’t expect you to be exactly like them. We all have different personalities, approaches, and talents to bring to the table. Let yours shine! Show them the creative, caring, daring and dedicated teacher that stands before them.

As you accept that long-term offer, remember that being prepared is not just for the Boy Scouts. It is good advice all around. Being prepared will stop challenging behaviors, build your confidence, and lead to success in the classroom. Furthermore, the administration and the teachers will want you back. Be prepared for those callbacks by checking out SubSidekick for more substitute tips, tricks, advice, and job alerts!

Three Tips for Becoming a Great Substitute Teacher

We at Sub Sidekick know that people become substitute teachers for a variety of reasons. Usually, flexibility and variety are two major reasons that make substitute teaching more attractive. Retired teachers will often want to stay somewhat connected to the school environment (maybe just not every day.) Whatever the reason no one ever wakes up wanting to have a bad day. There are some tried-and-true ways that substitutes can have a considerably better experience filling-in for a day or two. 

Follow the Plan 

Every teacher is a little different in how they prepare for a substitute. Some are certainly better than others, but if you find yourself subbing for a teacher who has left a detailed description of what they would like to see accomplished during the day then definitely follow that plan. Teachers like this are often the most detailed and organized educators. It speaks volumes about how they run their classroom and the odds are good that they have the students follow a very set routine. If you don’t follow this plan the students will be thrown-off and likely very unruly. 

Be Warm and Inviting

It’s perfectly fine for substitute teachers to smile and warmly introduce themselves to their class for the day. The students are probably expecting someone unfriendly or even mean. By starting your day off with a smile and a friendly greeting you are helping to put the students at ease with you as their teacher for the day. Don’t let them walk all over you and dictate how you will manage the class, but being friendly always goes a long way.

Dress for Success

Owlcation makes a great suggestion for subs to dress for success. By showing up in professional attire that fits well you are sending a great signal that you take your job seriously. Most schools have something of a dress code for their faculty anyway so meeting or exceeding that expectation is a good way to get noticed and requested by administrators. 

These three suggestions can help anyone get off to a great start as a substitute teacher. Your name and reputation will get around quickly as schools are always looking for fantastic subs! For more information about what can make you the best substitute you can be, contact us here at Sub Sidekick and let us help.

Fun And Free Tools That Can Help You Learn A New Language

Learning a new language can enrich your life in many ways. It may improve your memory, enable you to connect with other cultures, and as a substitute teacher, it can open up new employment opportunities. SubSidekick is devoted to helping you become the most successful substitute teacher that you can be, and becoming fluent in a new language would make you more employable, and help you relate and connect with students who are English Language Learners.

Accessibility, cost, and quality are three of the most important criteria for any tool that we use to learn or help someone else learn a foreign language. Here are our favorite language learning resources that will help you and your students learn a new language:

  • Duolingo app and website. The website offers more opportunities for writing than the app.
  • Books that have been translated into multiple languages. 
  • Subtitles on movies you own on DVD, or simply setting your closed captioning on your television to another language.
  • Music in the language you are learning. Have you heard La vie en rose in French?
  • Talking with native speakers in the language you are learning, seize every opportunity!
  • The website Language Learning At Home which was created by Anne Guarnera, has a plethora of tips for parents and teachers who want to help children learn a new language. 
  • Games such as board games or flashcard games and video games, which children or adults can play to build their vocabulary in a foreign language.
  • Another important tool in language fluency that Anne discusses is audiobooks in a foreign language. We all know how important reading aloud is for teaching children English, and it is an essential component of learning a second language as an adult or as a child. Your local library often has audiobooks that you can access free online!

 We hope these resources will become valuable tools as you learn, and help your students learn, new languages in the classroom or at home. For more articles that will help you succeed in the world of education, visit the SubSidekick blog!

Benefits of Using Subsidekick App

Finding and maintaining consistent substitute teaching positions can involve a lot of time, research, and energy. With the SubSidekick App substitute teachers can easily find, apply, and receive notifications on the latest opportunities. Let’s explore the benefits of the SubSidekick App and how it can work for you!

Filter the Jobs You Want

Instead of having to weed through a list of postings that may not be relevant to what you’re looking for, SubSidekick allows you to filter and set criteria for the positions you want based on assignment length, school preference, by keyword, and more. After setting your preferences you will get automatic notifications when a position that matches your criteria is posted.

Simplicity and Convenience

With the SubSidekick App, you have automatic secure login so that you don’t have to worry about the hassle of logging in every time you want to use the app and you never have to worry about the safety of your personal information. All communications are encrypted to provide security for the user and to provide confidentiality and peace of mind.

Applying for a position should be fast and simple, and that’s why SubSidekick provides a direct link to the position you want to grab to save you time. Afraid you might miss a job posting?  No worries, with the SubSidekick App you can set alerts through your phone by audio or text message, so you never miss an opportunity.

So how can you get the SubSidekick App?  Well it’s simple! The app is available to download for both Android and Apple operating systems. Feel free to contact us and try the app out today to see how you can fast track your way to more substitute teaching opportunities!

Please note that at this time your school district must be using Frontline Absence Management®, SmartFindExpress®, or SubstituteOnline® for substitute placement or absence management.

Get Involved in Summer Youth Activities

Once the school year ends, it can be difficult for substitute teachers to find opportunities to still be involved with school activities, children, and education. Planning, hosting, or helping out at a summer youth activity is a perfect opportunity for those who enjoy working with kids and educational aspects. It is also a great time to become familiar with students and get to be known with the community.

As you begin planning summer youth activities –camps, religious school, daycare events, or family activities– there are some tips and guidelines to keep in mind as you gear up for a safe and fun experience:

Have a Safety Plan

Summer youth activities usually have a good turnout of kids, which makes it very important to have an updated safety plan for you and your team to turn to when allergic reactions, injuries, weather, and other situations occur. Your summer safety plan might consider:

  • first-aid procedures
  • emergency evacuation routes
  • severe weather procedures
  • sexual abuse prevention
  • bullying precautions

If you do not have a safety plan ready for the summer, Guide One Insurance offers some guidelines and ideas to get you started on a plan that will ensure a safe summer activity!

Employee Screenings

Both employees and volunteers are an essential part of a successful summer activity. However, before you entrust them to work at your event, it is important to run proper background checks on them. Background checks prevent the hiring of a criminal or a sexual predator. This resource further explains why screenings are important and how to properly ensure you are hiring safe employees and volunteers.


The biggest goal of a summer activity is to prevent accidents that could result in injury or damage. There are a number of things you, employees, and volunteers can do to prevent youth risks that could cause these accidents to happen:

  • establish written rules/guidelines for youth and staff to be aware of
  • carefully monitor and supervise all activities
  • train leaders and volunteers beforehand
  • collect permission and medical forms signed by parents
  • keep contact information from parents in case of emergency
  • inform parents, staff, and volunteers of plans, hazards, and safety procedures

Make it Fun

After safety comes the goal of having an enjoyable summer activity for all who attend. Be sure to take precautionary measures and follow the safety plan, but also be sure to make it fun! Plan activities that are both safe and benefitting to the youth attending.

For more summer opportunities and sub tips, visit Sub Sidekick.

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 Subsidekick.com 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. 

http://www.ascd.org/professional-development/webinars/ascd-webinar-archive.aspx. 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 

http://www.pbs.org/teacherline/. 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

http://ideas.aetn.org/. This website has tons of professional development courses, both video and written. The three areas to focus on are:

Classroom management:

  • http://ideaslms.aetn.org/course/view.php?id=732 This course focuses on handling challenging behavior.
  • http://ideaslms.aetn.org/course/view.php?id=874 This course focuses on identifying triggers of challenging behavior.

Ethics and Professional Responsibility

  • http://ideaslms.aetn.org/course/view.php?id=1107 Talks about signs of human trafficking
  • http://ideaslms.aetn.org/course/view.php?id=1049 Talks about laws around child maltreatment

And search the word “substitute”

  • http://ideaslms.aetn.org/course/view.php?id=781 Focuses on Substitute teacher training 
  • http://ideaslms.aetn.org/course/view.php?id=782 More on substitute teacher training 
  • http://ideaslms.aetn.org/course/view.php?id=783 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.