There are certain reasonable expectations when a substitute teacher is requested. Some are pretty basic and can be spelled out in an employee handbook: punctuality, professional attire, respectful of privacy and confidentiality. But others are more nuanced and open to interpretation. When it comes to substitute teacher duties and responsibilities, what should you expect from a qualified substitute teacher?
Generally speaking, a substitute teacher fills the gap created when a regular teacher must be away from the classroom. Substitutes fulfill the legal requirement outlined by the states to have a responsible and properly-screened adult in the classroom at all times. They must maintain attendance records and implement lesson plans, all the while exercising good judgment to keep students safe and secure. They may assist in the lunchroom or with bus duty and may fulfill other tasks at the principal’s request. But some substitute teachers go beyond these basic responsibilities to provide truly exceptional service to the school and its students. These are the substitutes who are requested again and again.
Separating the Good From the Exceptional
A qualified substitute teacher arrives on time, checking in at the school office, and implementing lesson plans effectively while maintaining order in the classroom. But some exhibit exceptional characteristics that separate good substitute teachers from great substitute teachers. An exceptional substitute teacher:
Has a genuine appreciation and concern for students
An exceptional substitute is invested enough to take responsibility for making a difference. Far from viewing substitute teaching as “just a job,” they have a stake in the school community and take responsibility for their part in educating its students. They genuinely like young people and recognize them as unique individuals. They enjoy the time spent interacting with students and take pride in seeing them learn.
Is enthusiastic and energetic
An exceptional substitute teacher arrives ready to work and greets students at the door. By establishing a visible and energetic presence, they maintain order and ensure that students are on task.
Displays genuine “With-it-ness”
There is an old adage that says mothers and teachers have eyes in the back of their heads. An exceptional substitute teacher has that same “with-it-ness.” By utilizing their powers of observation and perception, the best substitutes anticipate and prevent problems before they occur. Though recognizing conditions that may lead to a problem is important, it is only a part of the solution. The exceptional substitute teacher proactively models desired behavior to remove any doubts about expectations, thus preempting problems before they occur.
Is flexible and resourceful
For those rare occurrences when lesson plans cannot be located or the more frequent times when students finish their work early, the exceptional substitute teacher knows just what to do. With some tried and true activities in their toolbox, they are able to keep students learning and on task. They adapt readily to challenge.
Practices precision and responsibility
An exceptional substitute understands the importance of careful recordkeeping. Attendance forms and student records are legal documents that must be handled responsibly.
Excels at problem-solving and critical thinking
Teaching is a dynamic process involving a room full of diverse personalities. The best substitute teachers are flexible thinkers and creative problem solvers who are able to adjust to changing circumstances throughout the day.
Is a lifelong learner
By viewing each assignment as a learning experience, exceptional substitutes are constantly evolving into better classroom managers, stronger communicators, and more experienced instructors.
The exceptional substitute understands their role in maintaining instructional continuity during a teacher’s absence and strives to replicate the routine. By leaving a detailed account of the day’s events, the substitute builds on this relationship through meaningful communication.
Where to Find Exceptional Substitute Teachers
Relationships built with exceptional substitutes are mutually beneficial. When substitute teachers do a particularly great job, schools invite them back. And when substitutes return to schools again and again, they become acclimated to staff and students, learning names and routines, and building strong relationships that further enhance their performance. As a result, they are in demand.
With the possibility of hiring great substitutes, why settle for merely good ones? Outsourcing substitute service through an educational staffing agency like ESS is a sure way to increase access to exceptional substitute teachers. With substitute service at the cornerstone of our business, we have high standards that have guided our recruitment and training processes for 19 years.
The secret to cultivating exceptional substitute teachers is in our induction training. Through face-to-face orientation with experienced K-12 education professionals and ongoing opportunities to continue developing their skills, substitute teachers are empowered to become the best educators possible. With continued support and expert management, we convey their importance and the value they represent to us and the school districts they serve. We form lasting relationships based on mutual benefit and respect.
Contact ESS to discover the exceptional substitutes ready to make a difference in your schools. By hiring and nurturing the best candidates, we build a team of professional educators who are an asset to your district and its students.
Phil has been supporting school districts across the country for more than 12 years. He works hands-on with districts implementing customized solutions to improve their substitute teacher and support staff programs. When he’s not increasing districts’ fill rates, Phil can be found swinging his clubs on a golf course.