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Classful

The life of a substitute teacher is very different from that of a teacher with a permanent role.

On the one hand, substitute teachers enjoy a great deal of variety in their working lives, hopping from school to school and meeting hundreds of kids from different backgrounds.

On the other hand, students can be hostile to temporary teachers. Indeed, subs face several challenges that permanent staff members do not, and they need to be flexible to maintain discipline. However, one of the most challenging parts of being a substitute teacher is the frustration that comes with feeling under-appreciated by students and permanent staff members.

Finding qualified substitute teachers that are up to the challenge of covering difficult classes can be difficult, so schools must be able to keep impressive substitute teachers in regular rotation. This is particularly true because sub shortages are increasingly pressing in the country.

Remember that schools unable to secure appropriate replacement teachers are often forced to combine classes, which can detrimentally affect both students and teachers. Fortunately, there are ways that you can make your subs feel appreciated and will encourage them to return to your school. Here are a few tips:

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1. Avoid referring to them as ‘subs’ in front of students

Try to introduce substitute teachers as ‘guest teachers to students. This phrase sounds more respectful and will help the teachers settle in more easily.

2. Give them an information pack

Offering subs a detailed information pack on arrival is a great way to help them settle in quickly. Try to include information such as:

  • Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students with special requirements
  • Details about school rules
  • Plans for what to do in case of emergencies
  • A floor plan including details about bathrooms, fire exits, classroom numbers, etc.
  • Contact details of administrative staff
  • Any other ad hoc information you can think of

3. Encourage them to feel part of the school family

Invite subs to staff celebrations, particularly if food and drink are involved. This will help them feel part of the school family, and permanent staff may even make lifelong friends. In addition, if you find yourself hiring a particular sub multiple times, why not show your appreciation with gifts such as personalized stationery or coffee mugs?

4. Introduce them during morning announcements

If your school’s morning routine includes reading out a list of announcements, show your subs some appreciation with a special shout-out. As well as helping them feel welcome, it will quickly break the ice with students.

5. Remember to obtain feedback

Obtaining feedback from substitute teachers is vital if you want to find out how you can improve the experiences of future subs. Ask them to fill out a brief survey with questions about facilities, the attitude of staff and students, and anything else related to their overall experience.

6. Remember that a cup of coffee goes a long way

Every teacher loves a warm cup of coffee in the morning. Help your subs settle by rustling up their perfect coffee before classes start.

7. Add them to your gifting list

If you’re a principal or member of administrative staff who is in charge of purchasing gifts for teachers during the holiday season or at the end of the academic year, try not to miss substitute teachers off the list. Offering them a token of appreciation at certain times of the year will motivate them to return to school and will brighten up any particularly stressful days.