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Becoming Requested as a Substitute Teacher

By September 30, 2014November 14th, 2018For Substitute Teachers

Becoming a substitute teacher who is requested is a goal for many. Recently I asked substitute teachers what they did to become requested, and here is a list of their suggestions. What would you add?

  • Go the extra mile.
  • Ask if you are needed to perform extra activities, i.e. bus duty or lunch duty.
  • Email or leave a very detailed report of how the day went.
  • Volunteer to help in other classes when on a prep period.
  • Be positive to students, other teachers, administrators, and office staff. Smile and say “thank you” a lot.
  • Develop a business card with your name and contact information.
  • You could also note that you are, “Available on short notice.”
  • Introduce yourself to other people in the building.
  • Leave a list of students who were on-task and helpful instead of a list of students who were off-task.
  • If you have a degree in music or art, or some specific skill, be sure to contact teachers who teach that content area specifically.
  • Attend conferences and things that you know teachers where teachers will be.
  • Work to improve your classroom management skills.
  • Dress professionally. Even on “casual Fridays.”
  • Follow the lesson plans.
  • As a substitute teacher I am not sure how important the work is for the whole unit, so I do exactly what the permanent teacher asks me.
  • Leave the classroom as clean as you found it.
  • Ask the secretary if there is a preferred list and if s/he would put you on it, if s/he feels comfortable.
  • It takes time to become trusted as a substitute teacher, so go to the same schools as often as you can.
  • Be positive when in the teacher’s lounge.
  • Grade papers when possible; alphabetize assignments to make grading easier for the permanent teacher.
  • Arrive 20 minutes early to substitute teaching assignments.
  • Volunteer time without pay.
  • Network with teachers.
  • Always have extra activities available in case there is extra time in the class period.
  • Teach in special education classes.
  • Be cheerful when the school secretary calls you.
  • Thank him/her for giving you the opportunity to teach.
  • Tell the students if they want you to come back to let their teacher know.
  • Be a team player.
  • Be more helpful than is required.
  • Attend extra-curricular events so teachers, students, and staff can get used to seeing you around.
  • Brush up on your math skills, not many substitute teachers enjoy teaching math.
  • Carry a SubPack with you to substitute teaching jobs.
  • Just do a really good job.

What else would you add? Share your ideas below.


  • Lisa says:

    After taking the online substitute course, I’ve learned to really control your own behavior. Never let the students get you frustrated.

    State the rules upfront. I do this even before I take role. Something simple as chewing gum isn’t allowed. I understand that chewing gum is inconsequential, but many students will remember you as a strict, no-nonsense sub vice the one who is easy and doesn’t care.

    If students are late to class, ensure you document it. Don’t just let it slide. Students are really watching. They want justice in the classrooms, too.

    Try to give the students something (if time permits) that their teacher may not go over. I ask students about their favorite books they’ve read and why it’s their favorite. I make it a class discussion. You will see that students become very excited to talk about it and others may have no interest. Overall, you are introducing something that some may not have thought about. I noticed that the Aides who witness this are impressed with the connections that are made during this time. You can really help to inspire reading.

    Don’t consider yourself as just a sub. We can make a huge impact!

  • Theresa says:

    Treat the students with respect and they will respect you more.
    Do not raise your voice …it does not help bring order.
    Use “count to 5” and the students get very quiet…they know what you mean

    All of the ideas provided are very useful,,,,, ,I use most of them.

  • Theresa says:

    Hand out “praise tickets” for staying on task.
    You can also have the students turn the praise tickets in for rewards…i.e. pencils, pads, erasers, stickers ….your choice,) this works really good to help maintain class order..everyone is working
    for the best behavior.

  • bgregory252 says:

    You can get your students to complete a survey on what they like or dislike about the class assignment, as the substitute teacher you can give a answer that will the students more effectively. Every one do not get the concepts of a course.

  • Leandra Walker says:

    Compliment or thank the teacher on specific areas of their lesson plan that made your day more enjoyable or productive.

  • Leann M Newton says:

    I always bring “fun sheets” like word search or crossword puzzles for early finishers. There are always those over-achieving students who will complete an assignment in half the time allotted. The students really appreciate it. Also, if the whole class finishes early, I like to play a game with the whole class, like “hang-man” or a get-to-know-you game like “two truths and a lie.” Students like these kinds of interactive activities.

  • Sky says:

    I would also add, be flexible. Sometimes the secretary will need you in another room instead of the one you signed up for online. They’ll remember you for being accommodating (cheerfully and not begrudgingly) and hopefully, put you on the repeater list!

  • Lance Ferraro (aka Mr. Ferrari) says:

    While I agree with most of what is said, not raising your voice does not always work. Being retired Navy, I use command voice, not an angry shout as some may think, immediately followed by conversation voice.
    However, what deeply annoys me is I have about 30 ‘client’ teachers that like to use me. With the national consolidation of assigning subs I have no way of knowing if I am requested or not.
    I used to review text books for what the kids are doing, so I’d know what they are doing. With the advent of iPads and net books and google classroom and canvas I am shut out of that ability to be more useful.

  • Janice Knosp says:

    I have found spending a little extra time with a student who is struggling always helps that student regain confidence that he/she can do it!

  • Paula Bradley says:

    Give as much positive attention to students as you can, and limit negative attention to serious situations. When the students love you, (assuming you follow the sub plans and leave the classroom in order), their teacher will want you back!

  • David Browne says:

    Those things are all good. I really don’t have much to add except do it the way you would like for it to be done. There are a lot of great lessons and those comments.

  • Frankye Pope says:

    When students ask, ” are you our substitute ” ? I simply and smiling say, ” I am your teacher for the day.
    Mrs. ,Mr. your teacher, expects your best and I will do mine.
    Love you,

  • Lori Bunker says:

    I think one thing that has helped me become a “preferred” substitute teacher, is to recognize those who help you. I have had to ask for help from other teachers, to get equipment running, and find things for teaching. All teachers are usually helpful, and I thank them. But, some of these have gone the “extra mile” themselves, in not making me feel stupid (or rolling their eyes at me, behind my back – so to speak) for asking them for help. When another teacher is so kind to me, not only do I thank them verbally; I write them a special “thank you” card, and if I have the funds, I have even gotten gift certificates to restaurants and put in with the thank you card. I ALWAYS acknowledge the kindness and “extra mile” that other teachers give me! And, don’t forget those teachers who take the time to REALLY give you a great outline of the day, and what lessons to teach and where to find the materials, etc. Most of the time, the teachers I sub for have had everything I need – books, handouts, extra pencils, etc., right on their desks, or on a counter, all together, in the room. These teachers have been TOTALLY considerate of you, as a sub. I let those teachers know how much I appreciate them!

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