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Friday, October 27, 2017

Communication and Teaching: A Substitute's Typical Day

So what is a substitute’s typical day like? The answer is simple: there isn’t one. A day may start like this. You wake up and get a call from the sub system or directly from a school. You accept the assignment, get ready for your day, and show up to your assigned classroom. That is about where the “typical” day ends.


Classroom image via Pixabay
“Typical” depends on attitude
Every class is different. Even if you regularly sub for a certain teacher, or even at one school in general, kids go through behavior changes every day. One student may have been amazing for you one day, but the next time you have her a month later she is teen-aged angst personified. Even regular teachers have a difficult time managing mood swings. Recognize that effects on student behavior tend to be out of your control – your “circle of influence.” Focus instead on what you can influence, creating a positive attitude in the classroom, showing a desire to help students learn, and being open to work with their immediate needs. Then, no matter the class, your outcomes will be more consistent.

Don’t expect a day of battles
The classroom is not a war zone, even if it might feel that way sometimes. Kids are masters of picking up on their teachers’ moods. If you think you will have trouble, you will. Instead, plan on having a successful day, but have backup plans handy in case you need to head off unruly behavior. Remember, students don’t wake up and come to school with the explicit intent of making your life miserable. Sometimes, a student needs to hit the reset button, so provide opportunities for them to do that.

Teacher images via Pixabay
How you dress determines success
Appearance is everything. Wear what makes you comfortable, but be aware that how you look speaks volumes. Make sure your clothes are clean and wrinkle free (as much as humanly possible, anyway). Casual is great, but you don’t want to look like the students or they may not take you seriously. Dressing like you’re going to work in a Fortune 500 office is also a good choice, just so long as it doesn’t make you appear unapproachable. Whether you are dressed up like you mean business, or look like you grabbed the first thing you found in the closet, you need to look like you are in that classroom to help students succeed.


Your day as a sub will never be typical in the sense that it will be predictable and logical every time. What should remain constant is how you behave, how you look, and how you manage the classroom. A typical day means you walk in ready to help: both the students and the absent teacher. Expect to have a great day but still be prepared for challenges. Arrive prepared to negotiate, compromise, bribe and cajole your students when needed. And above all, “typical” days require a positive attitude.