3 Tips To Better Communication With The Classroom Teacher

Communication with the classroom teacher you are filling in for is one of the most important parts of being a substitute. When I was a full time teacher I remember many times coming back from an absence to find nothing from the substitute letting me know how their day went. This can be very frustrating for the classroom teacher and there is a good possibility they will request that you not work in their classroom again. Of course the teacher will always try to ask students for as much feedback as they can but we all know how reliable that can be. Here are three ways to better communicate with the classroom teacher.

1. Leave a note. Not just Bill and Nancy were absent, we had a good day. Use detail, break the day down into sections and give a few notes on the details of each section. Be sure to let them know any students who were not behaving properly, as well as a list of students who worked well or were extra helpful.

2. If they leave you their phone number, send them a short text message at the end of the day. Don’t be too detailed with this but make sure to give them a brief run down of the day, thank them for allowing you to work in their classroom and let them know there is a detailed note on their desk.

3. Follow up. The next time you are in the building, make time to swing by and visit with the classroom teacher you worked for. Thank them for having you, ask if your performance was satisfactory, and ask for any feedback they have for you. Reassure them that you know there is always room for improvement and you are open to constructive criticism.

Teachers prefer substitutes that are approachable and open minded. Also if they can put a face with a name they become familiar with you and will probably ask for you again!

For more information, contact us.

Tips for Managing a Teacher’s Schedule

Teaching is a profoundly rewarding career choice, but also one which places a high demand on teachers’ time at school. It can be challenging to manage the myriad of background planning and preparation tasks required on a day to day basis, let alone the actual job of teaching students. Here are a few ideas to help manage your teaching schedule and make efficient use of your time at school:

Set Boundaries for yourself, and stick to them. There are always going to be times when more hours are required to prep that amazing science lesson or to give really meaningful written feedback on a writing assignment, but make those late nights at school the exception rather than the rule. Many teachers find that setting a regular day of the week (say, Monday morning to prepare for the week) to spend an extra hour or two at school helps them feel prepared and better able to stick to regular hours for the rest of the week.

Avoid bringing work home on a regular basis. While any teacher would likely agree that this unavoidable at times, avoid making a habit of bringing work home. Teaching is by nature a job that is truly never complete; while the workload may ebb and flow, the job of teaching children is ongoing and cannot be finished at the end of a day. Give yourself permission to walk away from that half- graded stack of papers – they will be there tomorrow and so will the students.

Really take your lunch break. It’s all too easy to slip into a daily routine of promising students extra help during your lunch break, using the time to make phone calls home, or finishing up planning the afternoon’s math lesson. Teaching is not a profession which affords practitioners the luxury of taking a break on one’s own time or spending a few minutes zoning out on Facebook. Take the whole lunch break (yes, all 30 glorious minutes) to relax – you’ve earned it, and you’ll need it!

Work with your teaching team. If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated time block for planning or meeting with your professional learning team, really use that time to discuss with your teaching partners how you could split up your collective workload. If you don’t have a regular time scheduled for meeting with your co-teachers, consider establishing one. Copying, lesson planning, organizing and many tasks can often be much more efficiently accomplished by working together – saving you time and stress.

The fast-paced, high energy environment of a modern classroom is without a doubt a primary factor drawing teachers into the classroom in the first place. Establishing proactive routines around your daily schedule will help you keep a balanced approach to your teaching career and keep your focus on high-quality instruction day in and day out.  For more information on this topic, contact us.

Four Snack Ideas for a Day of Substituting

As a substitute teacher, you will be on the move the entire day. You want to be prepared for when hunger hits, even if it isn’t lunch time. Vending machines and school cafeterias can really disappoint, so here are some snacks to pack for your day with children.

1. Nut mixes: Mixed nuts are the most portable and satisfying snack teachers can bring for a day of kids. Cashews, almonds, macadamia, and pecan are all fuel for hungry teachers. These nut mixes are excellent for a mid-morning snack or an afternoon pick-me-up. They provide the body healthy fats and proteins to keep you full and satisfied while you’re wrangling kids to and from their specials or classes. They are easy to pack, and they fit in your pocket. They keep you away from the vending machine, and you can snack on them all day.

2. Fruit: An apple, banana, bundle of grapes, or a bag of cut up strawberries can satisfy your cravings for sweets. If you’re hungry for chocolate or sugar, tap into nature’s sugar with fresh fruit. In addition, Lara bars or dried fruit are great alternatives to fresh fruit. By choosing these healthy options, your body will thank you, and you’ll feel strong enough to master that math or grammar lesson.

3. Veggies and Hummus: If you know you are going to have a heavy week of subbing, take some time on Sunday to cut up celery, carrots, cucumbers, and broccoli. If you put them in individual bags or use this fruit and veggie bowl to carry them, you’ll be so glad you prepared ahead of time when the 2 o’clock hunger hits. Adding these individual cups of hummus will make this snack even more delicious. Fresh vegetables and hummus won’t weigh you down, and you’ll be hydrated and happy until the day is done.

4. Salsa Rolls: Need something a little more filling for your day? Salsa rolls are easy to make and to pack in your lunch box. You just need these items to make them:

In a bowl, soften the cream cheese. When finished, combine with the salsa. On a tortilla, fill the middle with the salsa/cream cheese concoction. Sprinkle with cayenne and some cheese. Roll up the tortilla into a cigar shape. Slice the tortilla into rolls. Continue until all of the mixture is used. For best results, put in the refrigerator over night. Throw them into a Sestina snack container in the morning, and you’ve got a yummy, bit sized snack for a day of teaching.

Keeping your body fueled and hydrated is essential. You have to feel your best to bring the best out in the students. By planning ahead with these healthy snacks, you’ll be ready to tackle the day’s events. For more information regarding substitute teaching, contact Sub Sidekick.

Substitute Teachers Should Be Prepared

Substitute teaching can be a fulfilling experience and a consistent income.  However, the job is not an easy one and requires some planning. Substitute teachers are expected to be prepared for anything, including downtime and missing lesson plans.  Regular classroom teachers strive to leave detailed lesson plans, clean copies of worksheets, answer keys, and great activities. However, there are times when the regular teacher faces an emergency at 2:00 am and frantically calls in for the day.  The best substitute teachers prepare for these situations. Here are four websites that will help you build a file of worksheets, videos, and activities that will keep the kids engaged and learning.

Math Antics – This website offers short (and fun) videos focused on basic arithmetic, fractions, geometry, percents, and algebra.  You will also find limited a limited number of exercise files, examples, and worksheets. Paid subscriptions give you access to additional items.

Teachnology – This is a favored website, because it is packed with information and easy to navigate.  They offer free worksheets that explore a variety of topics, including critical thinking, math, science, and language arts.  The worksheets can be used to fill extra time or as a bonus for great behavior.

Teachers Pay Teachers – The Teachers Pay Teachers marketplace supplies educators thousands of free and reasonably-priced resources developed for and by teachers.  Educators have access to full lesson plans complete with slideshows, individual worksheets, printable decorations, and activities. There are items for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

TED Ed – TED Ed, like its counterpart TED, provides educational videos. TED Ed’s videos are animated and have a special knack for keeping the audience engaged.  You can also build in questions and activities or use items built by others to enhance the learning experience.

Creating a file (electronic and physical) of these resources will help you be a better substitute teacher.  Your resources will be refined as your experience as a substitute teacher grows. For more information on improving as a substitute teacher, contact us.

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.