Substitute Teacher Survival Kit

Substitute teaching can be a very rewarding job, but it can also be extremely frustrating. As a substitute teacher, you will be marked as an easy target for behavior problems, and students will test you. Lesson plans might be missing or confusing and you might find yourself with a class full of kids and nothing to do for forty five minutes, ninety minutes, maybe even the whole day. While your actions are the most important thing, there are some items you can pack in your bag every morning that will help to make your time substituting a little easier. If you are a regular classroom teacher, it might be nice to put together a kit containing these items so that your substitute has them readily available.

A map of the school, including locations of faculty bathrooms and lunchrooms. Particularly if you are substitute teaching at a high school where teachers move from room to room, you will need to make sure that you have a clearly labeled map with you on which you can have marked everywhere you need to go. The four minute break between classes is NOT the time to figure out where the restroom is, and you should make sure of where you can store or buy your lunch before the day begins.

A copy of the school rules and any applicable teacher’s rules.
Students will test you, the substitute teacher, to see if you know what they are and are not allowed to do, so you must follow all of their regular rules and routines to the letter. If the school prohibits chewing gum, make sure you know and enforce that rule, or you will very quickly find yourself with a very sticky situation. Having a physical copy of the rules in your hand will help lend you credibility; if a student argues, you can just pull out your copy of the rules and point.

Names, extension numbers and procedures for contacting the administration, nurse, counselor and security guards.
As a substitute teacher, you should absolutely not hesitate to write a student up or send him or her to the principal’s office. You may be afraid that the administration will think you unable to handle situations if you constantly do this, but in fact they expect and appreciate the discipline. With that in mind, you need to prepare for these cases – and more frightening health emergencies – before they happen, by having a clear copy of procedures for contacting the office. When things come up, you will be either frustrated or panicked and will be glad to have step by step written instructions to fall back on.

Tissues, BandAids and cough drops
Often students will use going to the nurse’s office as an excuse to wander the hallways and you, as a substitute, will not know the kids well enough to know which are trying to do this. One tactic is to carry tissues, BandAids and cough drops so that you alleviate one excuse for students to leave.

An age appropriate book, video, puzzle or activity.
Often teachers will leave lesson plans that do not take the entire time allotted. Sometimes this is because the teacher planned inefficiently, but more often it is simply because you, the substitute, carry out the plans slightly differently than the teacher would. In these cases, it is a terrible idea to give the students free time. It is great to have something for the kids to do when they are finished. Often, just popping in a video for the last ten minutes of class will keep kids quiet, in their seats, and safe.

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