How to Treat a Substitute

We've all called in for a sub. And... we've all had someone that we would rather never set foot in our class again. I've had subs that I had to hide all of my snacks, pens, and pencils  or they would disappear.  I've had subs tell my kids that they knew more than the teacher. I'm sure we've all had those. But, we've also had the sub that graded our papers, kept the room neat, didn't fall for any of the "our teacher lets us do that", and were a great help to us.

How did we respond?  I'm guilty of doing nothing. I'm guilty of taking that individual for granted. I hope that I was never rude or treated the sub like an intruder instead of a guest.  I'm sure I didn't make them feel welcome at lunch or include them in my conversation. And, for that, I should be ashamed.

Now, I'm on the other side. I teach part-time and sub on other days. I do my best. Sometimes it isn't easy if I am unfamiliar with school practices or routines or I don't have a class roster. But I try. Sometimes it is hard for me to adjust to 'little people' since I spent my career in middle school. But I try.  Sometimes I don't get through the lessons because I run out of time. But I give it my best shot.

Going into a strange situation is not easy. I don't know anyone. I hear the whispers, "Who is she? Is she new here? Wonder if she is looking for a job."  Well, let me tell you who I am.  A semi-retired teacher who loves kids. I'm not new. I've been here before.  Subbing for the teacher across the hall or in the Middle School. I've been here when several of you were at a meeting or a case of the flu wiped out half the staff.  I'm not looking for a job. I've been teaching since 1992, but I'm ready for a break. Part-time subbing is perfect for me. I'm not a threat to your job.

I was once in the trenches just like you. I know how to teach. I can learn names quickly. God gave me a gift and I try to use it faithfully every time I step into a classroom. No, I am not perfect. No, I don't do well every time I sub. I have good days and bad days just like any other human. No, I am not you. I will do things differently, but I will not undermine you.  I try to be friendly. I smile and try to strike up a conversation. It would be nice if you responded in kind.  Turning your back to me or making a snippy comment insinuating that I don't know what I am doing hurts me, and it makes me think you're a real jerk.

Subs get early morning and late night calls. We  are there because the teacher cannot be there. If you have shown kindness by greeting me when I arrive, thank you. If you helped me find the resources I needed or lesson plans, thank you. If you gave me a schedule or a roster, thank you. If you smiled at me, thank you.

 Is showing some appreciation all that hard? Shouldn't teachers be modeling respect?  How do you treat your subs?

Want to make the experience easier and more pleasant? Try some substitute resources.

Close reading, critical thinking. Great for subs!

Another great sub resource! 

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  1. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the matter! I'm not a teacher myself, but I come from a family of teachers. Before my sister got a permanent position, she subbed for a year. After my mom retired, she subbed for awhile. So, I've heard plenty of stories, both good and bad, from both sides, lol.

    Since I'm not in the educational field myself, there's not a whole lot I can do to make the subbing experience any easier for anyone. But, I do have an 8 year old son in the school system and we've had a few talks about how to treat subs with respect, remember that they are in charge, yet they might do things differently than the full-time teacher, and how to be helpful when needed.

  2. Well, I have never been a sub :) I am sure I would not like it. But I had a great teacher who was a sub. :) Nice post.


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