Friday, May 20, 2011

Substitute Teaching - Get Your Foot in the Door!

In tight job markets, employers say substitute teaching is a great way to get your foot in the door. You can network with principals and teachers and check out the wide range of schools. Some districts guarantee substitute teachers an interview for a full-time teaching position if they substitute teach in the district for a specific period of time.

The district hiring process for substitute teaching differs. Some districts require you to apply online for substitute teaching at teacher recruitment web sites such as or with an automated substitute teaching systems such as AESOP. Other districts require you to submit printed application materials to the director of human resources.

One district in Rhode Island requires the following application materials for substitute teaching:

· Completed job application

· Résumé

· Two forms of I.D.

· Copy of transcript

· Three letters of recommendation

· Copy of your Praxis II scores

· Copy of your Professional Teacher Certification (or Student Teaching Certification)

· Documentation by a physician that you are free of tuberculosis (TB) and measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) in its communicable form.

Typically, applicants meet with the director of human resources for an interview and a review of application materials. If successful, the director requests that you complete a federal background check for a criminal record. Then, the director places you in the district substitute teaching pool for day-to-day substitute teaching and/or long-term (typically, more than 10 days) substitute positions.

Before you apply, get to know the school and district. Contact the human resources department and request a substitute teaching handbook or set of policies.

Prepare for the interview for the substitute teaching position by understanding the qualities related specifically to the duties of responsibilities of substitute teachers. Here is a “short list:”

Organization: Strategic and well-organized. Handles several tasks simultaneously such as beginning of the day duties (e.g., attendance, lunch count, late arrival of students). Develops a game plan for the day shortly after your arrival at the school and before the beginning of the school day.

Classroom Management: Calm, confident, and assertive. Follows school-wide and classroom management plans. Follows established routines. Develops clear expectations at the beginning of the day. Makes smooth transitions. Handles misbehaviors effectively while maintaining a positive, respectful learning environment. Alert to student behaviors to “push buttons” – notices behaviors and uses positive reinforcing statements. Prevents problems from occurring.

Initiative: Proactive. Prevents problems. Solves problems. Asks for help from school personnel as needed. When students are with specialists, grades assigned work or goes to the office to volunteer to help with other school-related tasks. Prepares additional, engaging activities. Brings extra supplies (e.g., markers, pencils, paper).

Work Ethic and Adaptability: Cheerfully accepts the responsibility of following procedures (e.g., attendance, rest rooms, dismissal) and delivering the daily lesson plans as prescribed. Corrects work that is assigned before leaving for the day. Able to improvise.

Collegiality; Interpersonal Skills: Pleasant. Interacts and cooperates with faculty, staff, administrators, and parents. Available to help others.

Motivation: Enthusiastic. Students see you as enjoying your job! Arrives at substitute teaching assignment prepared with additional, engaging, relevant learning activities to use when daily lesson plans have been completed or for use during “down time.”

When substitute teaching, invite the principal to observe you teach. A positive teaching performance can lead to an interview. Take time to build relationships with the faculty and staff. Arrive early to review the teacher’s daily lesson plans and other instructions. Introduce yourself to the clerks, custodians, teachers and principal. “Good morning, I’m (name) and I am subbing for (name) today. Nice to meet you!” During your lunchtime, eat your meal in the faculty room.

At the end of the day, write notes summarizing what you taught and any problems you encountered with specific students. End the note with a “thank you.” Hopefully, you can compliment the teacher for leaving excellent instructions and lesson plans and a well-managed classroom. In any event, leave a positive message. Before you depart, spruce up the classroom. Leave the teacher’s desk neater than found.

BOOKNOTE: See The Guide for practical information for winning a full-time teaching job.