I have now been certified as a substitute teacher for nearly 17 months, and I have spent no fewer than 8 days in class as a sub. I feel that these qualifications make me the perfect candidate to tell the world how to substitute teach. I have written a bulleted list of tips and other information on the art of subbing, so you can take the simplest and safest approach to the job. The list is not in any particular order, nor is it intended to be all-encompassing.
– As a substitute teacher, you must always remember that expectations are low. Extremely low. Unbelievably low. You will be considered “successful” if you avoid injuries, felonies, insurrection, alcohol use, and anything involving fire or explosives. Substitute teachers are considered above average if they have an 85% success rate or higher, based on these criteria.
– One of your most important duties is counting the hours and minutes until the end of the day. Try to know the absolute earliest you can leave, and be sure to use that in your calculations. There will usually be a schedule somewhere in the classroom, which will make it easier to count down to the end of the current class or lunchtime.
– Make sure the students know you do not want to be there. Various remarks or facial expressions can make this a great deal more apparent, but a general sense of listlessness and exhaustion is effective as well. Because the students do not want to be there either, this will garner sympathy. Sympathy and pity will prevent the students from acting out, because they will feel a great deal of guilt about making things worse. On the other hand, some students will sense your weakness and go for the kill. Students can smell weakness from miles away.
– Try to look young and naive or old and doddering, whichever is easier for you. This will also help the students feel sorry for you. If you seem to be incapable of controlling the classroom, the kinder students will do so, saving you a great deal of effort.
– Indifference is your greatest asset. As soon as you begin to feel anything approaching an emotion, think instead of what you will do after work, and you will immediately stop caring. Possible things to think about include alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, cable television, internet purchases, and being around people over the age of 18.
– At no point should you take an interest in the students. It’s really none of your business, and the district isn’t paying you to learn, just to be a teacher.
– The title “substitute teacher” is a bit of a misnomer. If you manage to teach anything during the day, you have probably made a mistake. Note the circumstances so you can prevent similar incidents in the future.
– At the beginning of the day, write your name and the current date on the front board. However, this will not prevent students from asking what your name is and what day it is.
– Around lunchtime, your eyes will no longer be able to focus. This is normal. Whether it is due to hunger or boredom, no one can say, but it will go away whenever you look at the clock, so it is nothing to worry about.
– Remember to appreciate that nothing you do matters. As soon as the regular teacher is back, you will be immediately forgotten.
– The students will try to convince you that their regular teacher lets them get away with absurd things. It’s best to just acquiesce to these requests.
– When students arrive for class, you can expect both disappointment and enthusiasm, which will always accompany the phrase “oh, we have a sub.”
– Students will just keep arriving throughout the day. This is impossible to avoid.
– Threats of violence against students are not unheard of, but are not recommended as a matter of course.
– Contemplating suicide is not out of the question either, but verbal threats to do so are only appropriate as a last resort.
– If you like teaching or being an educator, never become a substitute teacher.