Substitute Your Way to a Permanent Position

Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter what profession you are interested in, when you pack up your dorm room for the final time, the job market can be a scary and intimidating place. However, if your goal is to make it in education, becoming a substitute can be an important step on your way to a permanent position in a school district.

Substitute Horrors

Students walk into the classroom and spy a stranger behind the desk. Even the most mild-mannered and well-behaved child suddenly turns into every teacher’s worst nightmare as they shout for joy and take over the room.

Perhaps this is a bit of an exaggeration or is it? Pretty much ever student has at some point in their school career experienced chaos when the teacher had a sick day. Just the mere thought may make education students extremely wary about applying to substitute when the spring semester concludes.

However, a decision along those lines is a mistake. Substituting can be a beneficial way to pad your resume as well as help you to gain invaluable knowledge which you can only gain by doing. Professors can only impart so much wisdom. As any quality teacher understands, students learn by doing and the same is true for future educators. In order to be comfortable in front of a room full of children, simply put; you need to be in control of a classroom on a fairly regular basis.

The Substitute

Forget about all of the horrible movies portraying substitutes as washed up nobody’s who are unable to find gainful employment or worse yet crazy psychos and do your homework on districts you may want a permanent position in after graduation.

You may want to avoid the school system you grew up in or your current hometown. While some teachers love it, others find it incredibly taxing to teach in the zip code where they reside. Parents will undoubtedly seek you out for conferences and questions after hours or when you are trying to enjoy time with your own family. Ask yourself if you want to be chatting with Johnny’s mom about his problems in reading in the frozen food section of your local grocery store. Most teachers wouldn’t.

Once you have targeted schools, file out the paperwork. Usually all you need is two years of college under your belt regardless of your major. As an education major, you will be more attractive to the district. Many schools require fingerprinting and background checks, so are prepared for both.

Be honest with your availability. When a district calls you for a job, you don’t want to have to say no. If you have a day during the semester when you do not have classes, putting yourself on the call list can be a real asset especially when you will be craving fulltime work later in the spring.

A Substitute Survival Guide

Being prepared are words to live by for any job. However, they are extremely important in teaching. A good teacher is able to be flexible and think on his or her feet and the same is true for a substitute. Sure, teachers are supposed to leave plans, but things happen. Their plans may run short or be missing in action. Coming prepared will leap frog you over the list of other substitutes.

The web is filled with teaching sites where you can download lesson ideas as well as games and activities to not only keep the students engaged, but teach them something too. You want to be perceived as a future teacher not a warm body who is there to baby sit which means avoid busy work like dittos and the temptation to put in a DVD.

Craft projects and games are wonderful fillers and help to make the time fly by. Occupied children are also easier to manage. When students are bored or left with time on their hands, trouble usually begins to brew.

Pack a substitute bag filled with crafts and games that can be easily adapted for the elementary level. Middle and high school will require more creative thinking though interesting writing assignments and activities like ‘Geography Jeopardy’ can be a win at these grades too.

Make sure to include a novel in your bag of trick as well. Children of any age enjoy being read too especially when you are enthusiastic about the subject matter.

Be Professional

It may sound like a cliché, but it’s not. If you want to be taken seriously at your job and are hoping to spring board it into a permanent position, you need to dress and act the part. Leave the jeans and party clothes in the closet. While you don’t need to be in your interview suit, you should be professional and neat.

Learning people’s names, using them, and being polite and friendly will all be checks in your favor when future job openings surface.

Finally, always take the time at the conclusion of the school day to leave the classroom tidy. There isn’t any teacher who appreciates returning to school from an illness or emergency to find their room looking like a truck ran threw it.

When you leave a note, be positive. Sure, let the teacher know who the problems were, but don’t forget to highlight the good stuff.

A Foot in the Door

Being in and out of a school on a regular basis also means you will be able to hear about future job openings before they hit are posted or advertised in the paper. Keep your resume up to date and even take the time to hand delivery it the next time you are subbing. Hey, you never know. Sometimes it is those little extras which help catapult you over the competition and in this job market, every bit helps.


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Dawn Miller

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