So, you’re thinking about becoming a substitute teacher, and you are asking yourself if substitute teaching is the right job for you. Being in the classroom is unlike most jobs out there; it requires skills that run the gamut of occupational types, but can also provide flexibility and the opportunity to positively impact your community.
While being an educator, even for a day, can be a challenging job, it is also one of the most important and rewarding. After all, how many jobs provide the opportunity to change someone’s life in one day?
3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Pursuing a Substitute Teaching Job
- Do you thrive in an environment where you need to multitask and adapt?
- Can you speak in front of a small group or classroom of students?
- Can you maintain the consistent dual role of instructor and nurturing caregiver?
Multitasking is a must
Consider the role of a waiter as they rush around a busy dining room – refilling drinks at table one, dropping off an extra side of ranch at table five, and grabbing the bill at table four. You will find yourself in similar situations in the classroom.
While one student needs help understanding the instructions on an assignment, another will need a bathroom pass, while a third needs their glasses out of their locker. It takes strong task management to prioritize and not forget anything or anyone, all while crossing off the to-do list left by the teacher.
Any teacher will tell you that, at some point in their career, they were nervous to speak in front of a classroom full of students. Just because it isn’t an acceptance speech at the Academy Awards doesn’t mean it can’t shake your nerves to stand up in front of a room full of kids – especially when they expect you to have all the answers! You will need the confidence to address a room full of people while being firm, but also remaining approachable so that every student feels comfortable asking questions.
Educators should always expect the unexpected – kids are not going to follow a script! Are you ready to answer an unrelated, potentially uncomfortable question on the spot? If so, being a substitute could be right for you. The bright side is these moments often make the fondest memories!
Balancing many roles
Substitute teachers wear many hats outside of teaching. In the course of any given day, you will serve as teacher, counselor, nurse, disciplinarian, and confidant. Even with meticulous and thorough instructions left by the classroom teacher and minimal behavior issues, you will have to improvise and play whatever role your student needs in that moment. This skill will be especially important in long-term subbing situations, such as covering a teacher who is on maternity leave. The more time you spend with a group of students, the more they will rely on you as a trusted role model and guide.
Whether it’s a first grader who fell on the playground and is now inconsolable because only mommy knows how to put a bandaid on the right way, or it’s a Junior in high school that just got her heart broken the night before and can’t curb the tears in class the next day, you have to be available to help them. While schools often have support staff (counselors, nurses, etc) to help, you will be the first point of contact. Having the patience and empathy to help them through a tough time is just as important as being able to communicate the learning objectives for the day.
Let’s get to the best part about substitute teaching
Being a substitute teacher is a great responsibility balanced with great joy. You’ll witness that “lightbulb moment” when the lesson you are teaching clicks, and the student says, “Oh-I get it now!”. You could be the person who opens a student’s eyes to possibilities they never knew existed, and be that role model who can change their life.
You may not even know it as it’s happening, but you could be the inspiration, or the stability, or the warm smile that made all the difference in a child’s day. That’s a pretty cool job perk.