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Why You Will Love Substitute Teaching and Why It's Sometimes Hard

Dani Corbett
Article Writer
February 10, 2021

Being a substitute teacher checks the boxes for being a perfect job for many people. If you’re looking for flexibility in scheduling, consistent opportunities, rewarding work and more, substitute teaching may be the right job for you. Like most jobs, being a substitute teacher has both advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at why you will love substitute teaching and why some days may be more challenging than others.

Why Sometimes Being A Substitute Teacher is Hard

There are some pretty obvious reasons why being a substitute teacher is difficult. And there are some not-so-obvious reasons as well. Understanding the more difficult parts of the job will help substitute teachers to be more prepared for their work. It will also assist schools and districts in understanding how to alleviate substitute teacher hardships when possible as well. 

We’ve previously discussed many of the more difficult parts of being a substitute teacher. The pay is low compared to other jobs in the marketplace that require similar qualifications. Often times, hours are limited to stay within part-time employee status. There are hardly any hours available at all during the summer break. Acquiring benefits is extremely difficult as a contract employee, too. 

There is an emotional toll on substitute teachers as well. One of the largest issues substitute teachers report and face is how they are treated by other employees at the schools. While one substitute teacher says she sometimes feels treated as a “special guest” for the day, other times she was left feeling like she had been treated as an “intruder” in the school all day long. Often, substitute teachers are asked to fill in unpaid during their prep periods. Substitute teachers report that classrooms are often disorganized, and understanding a teacher’s systems is next to impossible. Lesson plans are left half-completed or not even completed at all. 

Substitute teachers are frequently left out of the enjoyable benefits full-time teachers experience. The working relationships that full-time teachers share with other employees in their schools are not the relationships substitute teachers have the opportunity to enjoy. Sometimes, teachers may have a special lunch in the teacher’s lounge, but subs are not invited. Or someone in the community may drop off a small gift for each teacher in the school - but subs are left out again. Going unnoticed in their job can be discouraging for substitute teachers.  

The behavior of students can also take an emotional toll on substitute teachers. Frequently, students quickly deem a substitute teacher to have no authority, and all behavior expectations are quickly forgotten for the day. When teachers do not leave substitutes with a detailed explanation of their classroom behavior management system, students are left without their routine. Their behavior toward a substitute teacher can reflect that. Hayley Petersen says,

“Young kids will test your boundaries and older kids will flat out ignore you.” 

Having a new set of students daily can become very overwhelming. Substitute teachers enjoy taking longer-term placements for this reason. Becoming familiar with the students and the classroom flow really assists in limiting the behavior issues that arise for substitute teachers. Luckily, there are many ways to address these hardships, and many schools and districts are already doing an amazing job adapting to these needs. 

Why You Will Love Substitute Teaching

Now that we’ve talked about all the reasons why substitute teaching can sometimes be hard, let’s talk about all the reasons why you will love substitute teaching! The number one reported benefit of being a substitute teacher is the flexibility in scheduling is unbeatable. Picking your own schedule and working when you want is not a perk of most jobs. If you have kids at home, you know how amazing it is to be on the same work schedule as their school schedule. Having summers off is definitely a bonus for many substitute teachers as well.

Substitute teaching can be adventurous and thrilling for many teachers. While some people enjoy going to work and completing the same tasks each day, being a substitute teacher can be unique, enjoyable and stimulating in different ways each time a substitute steps into a classroom.  Being a substitute teacher who walks into work prepared is one way to ensure that your day is enjoyable regardless of the situations you may find yourself in. 

If you’re not drawn to kids, substitute teaching may not be for you. If you are, this may be the perfect job match! Many substitutes enjoy meeting new kids. Having the opportunity to reach a new group of students every day can be fulfilling. As a sub, you can learn new teaching strategies and ways to connect with your students. You can be satisfied in knowing that you reached through to a few students that day as well. The challenge that comes with being a substitute can be exhilarating. One sub said,

“Each day is like its own individual mission, leaving a sense of accomplishment once it has been completed, hopefully with success.” 

Substitute teachers all tend to enjoy long-term assignments in classrooms. These assignments provide subs the opportunity to get to know a group of students. They gain the benefits of having daily routines, expectations and systems in place for their classroom. Subs build rapport with other teachers and school employees and feel more of the social and emotional benefits of being a full-time teacher. 

Another benefit of being a substitute teacher is having the opportunity to try teaching out before committing to pursuing a degree or teaching certification. Some programs will even count substitute teaching hours towards mandatory student teaching requirements, so you can be paid while working towards your degree or certification.

Substitute teachers benefit from the opportunity to work in and observe how some schools and districts operate prior to committing to full-time positions in those schools. Subs have the advantage of working in various classrooms with different subjects, students and requirements. Because of their teaching experiences, substitutes have a more clear vision of what type of full-time position they would like to look for and accept.


It’s evident that there are hurdles to overcome as a substitute teacher. It’s also clear that there are many rewarding experiences and job advantages that come with being a substitute teacher. For substitutes who enjoy the experiences and rewards of working with children, whenever they may come, substitute teaching is a worthwhile job. Learn how you can become a substitute teacher with Ready2Teach today!       

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