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 along the way.
On the other hand, students can be hostile to temporary teachers. Indeed, subs face a number of challenges that permanent members of staff do not and need to be flexible in order to maintain discipline. Perhaps one of the most challenging parts of being a substitute teacher, however, is the frustration that comes with feeling under-appreciated both by students and permanent members of staff.
Finding qualified substitute teachers that are up to the challenge of covering difficult classes can be difficult, so it is important that schools are able to keep impressive substitute teachers in regular rotation. This is particularly true considering the fact that sub shortages are becoming an increasingly pressing issue across the country.
Remember that schools that are unable to secure appropriate replacement teachers are often forced to combine classes, something that 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:
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 get settled in as quickly as possible. 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 there are food and drink involved. This will help them to feel part of the school family and permanent staff may even make some 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 warming cup of coffee in the morning. Help your subs settle in by rustling up their perfect cup of 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 is will motivate them to return to the school and will brighten up any particularly stressful days.