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The Important Role of the Substitute Teacher


Substitute teachers are a vital part of any school, expected to take charge of classrooms, seamlessly grasp lesson plans and to create as little of a distraction as possible while full-time teachers are out for professional development or sick days. Often summoned with just hours or even minutes notice, substitute teachers are saddled with the daunting task of keeping a normal feel in the classroom when situations are anything but that.

According to Bureau of Labor statistics, over 560,000 substitute teachers were employed in elementary and secondary schools in 2015. The mean wage for those teachers was $14.40 per hour and about $29,000 annually. For most substitute teachers the pay is not the main attraction for entering the field. Many enjoy working with children and promoting education, but have not fulfilled all of the requirements to be a full-time teacher. Others prefer the flexibility and on-the-job training.

Below are tips to help substitute teachers achieve a successful day:

• Arrive early and get situated in the class before students arrive. Review class rosters, lesson plans and class rules.
• Come equipped with an emergency bag that includes pencils, erasers, a stapler, water bottle and other items you might need throughout the day.
• Bring along weather-appropriate clothes and shoes in case your day involves playground duty.
• Meet or speak with the classroom teacher beforehand, if possible, to learn about student personalities, current lessons and any issues that may arise.
• Introduce yourself to the class and set the tone early
• Follow the lesson plan!
• Leave notes for the teacher regarding behavior (don’t forget to include positive behavior), what was covered and what homework was assigned
• If you are new to the district, send a note to the principal thanking them for the opportunity to teach their students.

Share you own stories about serving as a substitute teacher or having substitute teachers assist in your classroom.