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Thoughts from My First Month as a Substitute Teacher

I’m pretty sure it’s no surprise that we are still short on substitute teachers for our schools. It’s been in the news for a couple of years now. I was a teacher prior to becoming a stay at home mom and working on this whole blogging thing and so this year I decided to sign up to be a substitute teacher.

Honestly, I was not sure what to expect. The idea honestly scared me a little because I feel rather rusty and things have changed quite a bit over the past 12 years since I had been a teacher. Prior to covid and even last year in some small measure I did volunteer at my children’s school so it wasn’t completely foreign being there but there’s a marked difference between doing a little volunteering and actually taking charge of a classroom.

This post has no main point and isn’t really going to be all that organized but I wanted to place to get out some of the different thoughts I had about substituting so far. Clearly my experiences are just that- my experiences. They are certainly not going to be reflective of anyone else’s experiences but maybe it will give some people an idea of what it might be like to sub.

So, without further ado, here are some random thoughts about my first month of substitute teaching.

  1. I will always feel the weight of being responsible for someone else’s children. Having just gone through updated active shooter and lockdown trainings that responsibility always feels so heavy, especially after all of the shootings we have had over the years. Believe me, your children’s teachers have thought through this responsibility and take it so, so seriously.
  2. Every day is different. So far I have only repeated one classroom that I subbed for. Each day so far I go in blind, not knowing what to expect. While I am a preparer and I like to plan ahead, the variety of being in different classrooms is fun. It keeps me on my toes for sure.
  3. Initially I was nervous because I was walking into the unknown but as I have been in the same buildings multiple times now it gets easier.
  4. The school staff have been so kind and welcoming. Again, I can’t speak to everywhere but for me, everyone has been super helpful. Honestly I struggle sometimes with questioning and doubting myself so I was worried that people would be unhappy if I wasn’t doing everything right, etc. but I think overall everyone has been thankful that I’m there and gracious with me as I learn how things go at each of the buildings.
  5. I sub in 2 different buildings and things are done differently in each one. Things are done somewhat differently in each room sometimes too! Ask a lot of questions when you can and people are happy to help you as you learn how things go.
  6. If you are a teacher and you are reading this, thank you for all you do with our kids! You are absolute super hero. And please, if you leave me something that I need to show the kids on your iPad then please leave me your password. You have so many things to remember and think of so I totally get forgetting this, but I can’t do anything on that iPad without your password.
  7. The substitute agency (if your district uses one) will want you to dress professionally. They will emphasize that you cannot wear jeans or tennis shoes. I’ve seen tons of the other subs wearing them and my district couldn’t seem to care less. I haven’t broken this rule yet because I am a scaredy pants but maybe one day I’ll have the courage.
  8. Even if you don’t wear tennis shoes, get some comfy work appropriate ones. I got rid of a lot of my teacher wardrobe and I’ve had to sort out the whole professional-looking, yet comfortable shoes thing.
  9. When I go into the classroom each morning I take a minute to find the phone, the office call button (if there is one), and the maps for fires, tornadoes, and escaping an active shooter if need be. I file this away in the back of my mind so that I can be prepared just in case.
  10. Pay attention to the blood born pathogens video. I’ve always hated that video but you need it. In a month or so of substituting I have had 2 bleeding incidents so far.
  11. The kids are super helpful. I’ve been substituting for elementary so clearly I’m not sure that applies in the upper grades but typically the elementary kids are super eager to help.
  12. You never know what kids are going to say! My kids love it when I tell them all the new funny things kids have said to me at school. My kid’s favorite so far? A second grader asked me if I could send her to the nurse so that they nurse could pull out her wiggly tooth. I told her I didn’t think the nurse provided those services but if the tooth fell out I would send her down there. Another child pipped up and offered to pull the tooth out for her. I had to tell them that we don’t pull our friends’ teeth out at school.

Let me know in the comments if you have ever substitute taught or are thinking about it! And let me know if you have any questions about subbing. There are so many schools and districts that are very short on subs right now so if you are thinking about it and you like kids I would encourage you to apply to be a sub!

Mary Martha Mama