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Becoming a Substitute Teacher: The Ultimate Guide

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The Ultimate Guide on How to Become a Substitute Teacher

A substitute teacher can enjoy many great perks, from more freedom in their day-to-day life to having a chance to meet and shape young minds. If you are ready to get started, School Professionals has amazing new opportunities for substitute teachers! If you are still thinking about becoming a substitute teacher, you may have lots of questions about how to get started.

So, consider this the go-to guide that can teach you everything about what you need to become a substitute teacher! Keep reading to discover the position requirements, how to find jobs, and even what skills you’ll need as a substitute teacher!

What Are the Requirements?

Substitute teacher requirements can vary from state to state. Depending on your location, you may need to provide several types of documentation to be able to work as a substitute teacher. In general, most states will ask for the following qualifications to be a substitute teacher:

• Background check 
• High School Diploma or bachelors degree 
• Previous experience with subbing, teaching, and/or childcare

It’s important to check your state’s requirements for working as a substitute teacher, as some areas may require more extensive documentation. Please note that requirements may also vary depending on district, type of school, and/or staffing firm providing substitute staff.

For example, if you want to work in California, you will need to apply for a substitute teacher permit to qualify for such positions.

Working As a Substitute Teacher: What Is It Like?

If you want to start working as a substitute teacher, it’s worth looking into what your day-to-day may look like as you get started with your new career.

Some things to expect can include: 

1. The job starts early

Many times, substitute teachers will receive a little warning that they must head on to a new classroom. Substitute teachers will often need to replace tenure teachers during unforeseen moments, such as a family emergency.

So, in many cases, being notified early in the morning that you will need to sub is part of the job. Additionally, it’s encouraged that substitute teachers leave their home early to ensure they are punctual and arrive to the classroom before the students to get themselves familiar with the lesson plan as well as classroom set up.

2. Establishing connections with students

Substitute teachers can have the difficult job of forming a connection with a new group of students who are a bit wary of new faces in the classroom. Younger children may even find this situation a bit scary, so a substitute teacher needs to help them ease into the process.

3. Preparing for the Unprepared

It may not happen often, but in some cases, the teacher may not have a chance to leave a lesson plan. This leaves the substitute in a position where they may have to improvise.

Substitute teachers often have a “tool kit” of activities they can do in these situations, from playing educational games to reading in class or even taking part in an artistic activity. Depending on the age of the children, subs may need to improvise a lesson plan.

4. Leaving Notes

Once the substitute teacher is gone, the classroom teacher should have a good idea of what happened in their absence. As a result, subs will often leave a few notes outlining classroom activities and assignments so that the students can have some continuity.

What do You Need to be a Substitute Teacher

The substitute teacher needs many skills to effectively enter this job market. And depending on the location where you live, you may also require certain specific qualifications or even certifications.

Check out some of the most important things you’ll need to become a substitute teacher:

1. Bachelor's Degree

While some states don’t require higher education to become a substitute teacher, many do. Not only that but having this degree may make you more appealing while looking for substituting jobs. A degree may also improve the quality of the gigs you find.

For example, if a school needs to replace a biology teacher for more than a few classes, they may prefer a person with a biology degree who can effectively teach the curricula. As a result, schools may prioritize candidates with relevant higher education over those who do not have it.

2. Experience

While many subbing jobs don’t necessarily require experience, it’s an important element that can set you apart. Moreover, some states can even require some form of childcare experience to showcase you can effectively handle a classroom and keep the kids safe.

You can gain this experience in many ways:

• Student teaching hours

• Internships

• Tutoring

• Volunteering

• Working in a day center

 Working in a childcare setting.

3. Communication Skills

Substitute teachers need to be able to communicate with students of all ages and different backgrounds.

Communication skills are also important because subs will have to collaborate with other teaching staff, school employees, and even the children’s parents. Subs often meet new people (of all ages) routinely, so having solid socializing and communication skills are a great asset for this job.

4. Adaptable

Being a substitute teacher is not for everyone. People who prefer a routine and very clear daily schedules may not be cut for this job.

Instead, being a substitute teacher can take you to new environments routinely. While this can be exciting, it also means subs need to know how to quickly adapt to these new environments.

Each classroom will likely have its already-established rules and guidelines. The role of a substitute isn’t to change everything and impose their own way of doing this. Subs should try to adapt to class rules, follow the teacher’s instructions, and help the students along the process.

5. Good Time Management

Both teachers and substitute teachers need solid time management skills to face the job’s daily requirements. Most schools will break down each school day into periods, which can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 75 minutes, depending on the institutions.

Substitute teachers need to adapt to the school’s period length and follow the lesson plan in the established time frame. Additionally, they must also keep track of student assignments and sometimes handle unforeseen situations in the classroom, all of which will require good time management on their part.

6. Computer Skills

Modern classrooms use all kinds of technology to improve students’ learning experience. While nobody can expect substitute teachers to know all apps and digital tools that can be used in a classroom, decent computer skills are required.

Substitute teachers will need to jump from tool to tool, use tablets and smart boards, and even guide their students on how to complete their assignments on such devices. Being comfortable with modern technology is a definite plus in the subbing world

7. Organization

A substitute teacher helps guarantee the student’s learning experience is not put on pause because of the teacher’s absence. However, subs can also help returning teachers when they get back to the classroom in several ways:

• Collecting assignments

• Organizing projects handed in by the students

• Writing a report or some notes of classroom activities, etc.

The Application Process

If you’re ready to start working as a substitute teacher, here’s what you will need to apply:

1. Gather All Your Necessary Documentation

Check your state’s requirements for substitute teachers and start gathering all your necessary documents.

Once you gather all your documents, be sure to double-check the job listing before you apply to make sure you have all your files in order.

2. Create Your Resume

In your resume, be sure to add all your relevant qualifications as well as items that may make your CV stand out from the rest (more on this in the last section).

Recruiters might not have a lot of time to thoroughly check the resume, and they will likely have a lot of candidates applying for a position. Make sure your resume reflects your unique ability and helps you stand out from other candidates.

3. Look for Positions and Send Your Application

Once you make sure your qualifications are in order and you have your resume, it’s time to look for open substitute teaching positions in your area.

There are a couple ways to do it:

Work with a staffing agency – Staffing agencies are a great route to take when considering substitute teaching. You are paired with a skilled recruiter who will handle your application and interview process. Having a recruiter assist you through the process gives you the freedom you deserve over your career because you are given the opportunity to choose when you want to pick up a substitute teaching assignment.

School Professionals Operations Supervisor, Alyssa Lindsay, says “Apply for jobs as a substitute teacher by checking out job postings on websites. Staffing companies’ websites like School Professionals can be especially helpful as you can discuss multiple potential opportunities with one recruiter, instead of going through multiple job application processes!”

Choosing to work with a staffing agency means working with a single recruiter who is there to help assign you to roles that fit what you are looking for.

• Check job boards – Many hiring websites will have listings for substitute teaching positions. When you’re new, it’s a great way to get your name out there and get to a few interviews to build your skills.

 Works with a staffing agency – Lots of schools may not have time to put sub openings and interview candidates. In many cases, they will work with an agency that handles this process. As a sub, you can send out your resume to such an agency and potentially get a lot of teaching gigs from them.

4. Wait

It’s the most difficult part of the process, but once you send out the resumes, you will need to wait until the calls start coming in. Depending on the schools’ resources and the number of applications, it can take even 1-2 weeks until you hear from them.

In the meantime, keep searching for opportunities and send out your application.

5. Be Ready to Return

In many cases, once a school successfully collaborates with a substitute teacher, they will hire them back whenever necessary. Therefore, you should approach every single sub position with the idea that you may come back in the future.

In many cases, once a school successfully collaborates with a substitute teacher, they will hire them back whenever necessary. Therefore, you should approach every single sub position with the idea that you may come back in the future.

Resume Examples

A good resume will help set yourself apart from other candidates. You should highlight your skills and strengths and place a huge emphasis on:

• Teaching experience

• Credentials

• Education

• Other accomplishments

Moreover, the best resume is the one specifically tailored to the position you are applying for. This means creating or at least refining the CV to suit the school where you want to teach. Even if that may take a little longer, it can help you make a better impact on the schools.

Other tips you can use to build a great resume include:

• Choose a standard resume format that’s easy to follow

• Use easy-to-read fonts and colors

• Use clear and professional language

• Add details and context to your resume (not just bullet points)

• Spell check your resume before sending

You can look online to find lots of useful formats and substitute teacher resume examples for inspiration.

Final Thoughts: Getting Started

Becoming a substitute teacher can be a rewarding experience for many people:

• Graduates who need to build work experience

• Those looking to enter the education sector

• People entering the job sector for the first time

• People looking to diversify their work experience

• Part-time employment seekers who want more freedom and free time, etc.

The most important thing to remember as a substitute teacher is that while you’re in the classroom, you are the teacher. You are responsible for the students and their educational experience.

Once you understand this and accept this responsibility, the rest of the process will simply fall into place.

Alyssa Lindsay’s input is simple yet effective, “Substitute teaching is what you make of it. It is excellent for gaining teaching experience and excellent for giving back if you already have that teaching experience. If you keep an open mind and open heart, you will make a difference across dozens of New York City classrooms. Who can ask for more than that?”

To become a substitute teacher in NYC, check out our latest job opportunities below! We look forward to speaking with you!

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