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The Difference Between a Good and Great Substitute Teacher

Andrew Dadson
December 15, 2020

It takes a special person to be a great substitute teacher. A true turning point in a substitute teacher’s career is the day they realize they have the ability to make lasting impressions on their students.
As a substitute teacher, it is important to be the type of substitute a full-time teacher and a school wants to have. Here’s what the great substitute teachers do differently. After all, it’s not about surviving, but it’s about thriving.

Be a Master of Classroom Management

When going into a new classroom as a substitute it’s important to establish authority early on, no matter the grade level. The saying, “First impressions are everything,” also applies to the classroom. You can prepare for this first impression with your class by practicing speaking with a powerful voice and having a confident body language.
After the first impression, substitutes can continue practicing great classroom management by remaining calm and not losing their temper when a student acts up. At the same time, keep in mind you are their teacher for the day, not their best friend. Take time to familiarize yourself with school rules and/or classroom policies before the students arrive. As you enforce rules students are familiar with they are more likely to comply.
In addition, great substitute teachers keep their students engaged. When students are kept busy it will leave less room for goofing off and you as a substitute can fulfill your purpose of helping students learn.

Build Relationships

When you are on campus as a substitute teacher take advantage of the opportunity to build rapport with those around you. Building relationships with school staff, full-time teachers, and students will prove to be advantageous.
Keep in mind that schools, teachers, and students all need you and the services you offer as a substitute teacher. As you prove yourself to be a hardworking, reliable, and personable sub the teaching opportunities will flow!

Embrace Change

One of the hallmarks of the Substitute Teacher’s life is adapting to change in unique ways. There are no two ways around it, as a substitute teacher you have to be constantly ready to adapt to change. Unless you’re in a long-term substitute teaching position, every day is going to look a little different so embracing adaptability as a core trait will suit you well.

Some of the changes we see on the daily:

  • New building and classroom setup
  • Age difference in students presents different changes
  • Every teacher has their own classroom culture and finding your way to adapt and make it your own at the same time
  • English Literature, Algebra, music or a kindergarten classroom

The biggest aspect of this adaptability for a substitute teacher is embracing new faces and teaching new subjects every day with enthusiasm.

Leave Behind a Note

When a full-time teacher is absent, they want to know how your day went. Great substitute teachers leave a note behind. Don’t be afraid to be detailed in your note for it will help establish trust. Update the teacher on what part of their lesson plan you did and what parts you maybe didn’t get to. Inform the teacher of any students who gave you problems, or on the contrary, any students that may have been exceptionally helpful.
A great habit to get into is letting the teacher know much you enjoyed being in their classroom and amongst their students. We suggest leaving behind your contact information such as your phone number or email. This can help build a relationship with that teacher!


If you have any questions about what it takes to become a substitute teacher please contact us. With Ready2Teach, schools and substitutes alike can post and find jobs as well as communicate quickly with a simple tap of a button, allowing all parties to be more efficient, productive and stress-free.

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