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Substitute teacher tips for a new classroom

Editor’s Note: EDUStaff is the supplier of substitute, or guest, teachers to many school districts in Kent ISD. They are also a Sustaining Sponsor of SNN.

Substitute, or guest, teachers are a key resource for schools. On most days of the school year, there will be a guest teacher in the building. They face the difficult task of working with students they know very little about and yet need to keep learning going in the classroom.

Here is some of the helpful advice we provide in training sessions with new guest teachers. 

Planning how to handle a variety of classroom situations will help a guest teacher maintain a controlled learning environment. Take a proactive approach to helping students make good choices and focus on their important academic work. To maximize learning and minimize disruptive behavior, consider the following:

  • Talk to the students before class starts: Greeting students at the door is a great way to gauge how students will react to your presence.
  • Act as the one in control: Students can tell if you do not feel confident. Don’t get frantic or nervous if something doesn’t go as planned. Just move on and be prepared for the unexpected.
  • Don’t get too friendly too quickly: First impressions are really important. Remember, being a guest teacher is not a popularity contest. Be fair, courteous and respectful to make a great first impression. Get the class started and the lesson rolling right away.  
  • Provide expectations and enforce them consistently: Share your expectations for the day; students cannot meet expectations if they have not been clearly explained. Expect positive behavior from your students, and do not look for reasons to be a disciplinarian. Interrupt actual disruptions when are they are small to keep them from escalating. 
  • Avoid confrontations as much as possible: It is important to keep calm. Don’t lose your temper, raise your voice or get other students involved. Whenever possible, pull the disruptive student aside to deal with the situation. However, if a situation escalates beyond your control, call the office for assistance.
  • Keep the students busy: Follow the lesson plan left by the teacher. However, if the plan leaves a lot of free time in class, be prepared with mini-lessons to implement. An idle class is a class ready for disruption. 

Believe that all students can succeed. Students will pick up on your underlying attitude, so make sure it’s a positive one! 

Check out our YouTube series “SubTalk” for additional information regarding Basic Classroom Management. 

Know someone who would make a good guest teacher? Becoming a guest teacher is relatively simple. Candidates need one of the following:

  • Current Michigan Teaching Certificate
  • Expired Michigan Teaching Certificate
  • 60+ credit hours from an accredited community college, university or college with no less than a 2.0 GPA, verified with official transcripts (this is a minimum standard and individual school districts may set additional requirements) 
  • Out-of-State Teaching Certificate with same transcript/GPA requirements as above 

Note: this position requires a $45 substitute teaching permit which EduStaff will apply for. Also, anyone working in a K-12 setting must be fingerprinted and pass a criminal history background check. Candidates can log on to EDUStaff.org to start an application.

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EDUStaff is the supplier of substitute, or guest, teachers to many school districts in Kent ISD. They are also a Sustaining Sponsor of SNN.


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