Substitute Teacher Job Description

by Linda Ray

Substitute teachers are called to teach in place of the regular teacher, often on very short notice. Some substitute teaching jobs last for less than one day, and some can go on for weeks or even months. School districts require bachelor's degrees and teaching certificates to allow substitute teachers to work, but the requirements vary.

Getting Jobs

The first thing substitute teachers have to do is make themselves available to get jobs. This can happen in a variety of ways. Some school districts have pools of freelance substitutes that they can call if necessary, while others work through agencies. Normally, the school district office has an employee who makes arrangements for substitute teachers when they are needed. Teachers looking for substitute work should get their names on these lists. When needed, substitutes get called and can either accept or decline the request to work that day.

Maintaining Order

The substitute's job, first and foremost, is to maintain an orderly classroom and to make sure that all of the basic rules are followed. This is one of the bigger challenges facing substitute teachers, since they are often unfamiliar with the children, who may use this unfamiliarity to get their way in the classrooms. Substitute teachers must establish their authority early on by their manner and firm communication skills. They must know the rules and be able to enforce them to effectively carry out the lesson plans.

Following the Lesson Plan

A successful day for substitute teachers is one in which they are able to adequately fill in for the regular teacher and move the class forward in the curriculum. Sometimes this can be difficult, especially if the substitute is not entirely familiar with the subject or context of the daily lesson plan. Ideally, regular teachers leave a set of instructions and goals for the day so the substitutes can follow the lesson plans to the best of their abilities.

Communicating Effectively

Substitutes typically need to communicate with several parties about their day's work. They often notify the regular teachers of their progress and the day's events so teachers know if lesson plans were completed, what work the students were able to do, and where the curriculum left off. Communication with the school principal, nurse or parents might be necessary in the case of behavior problems, health issues or special needs.

Fulfilling Student Needs

Substitutes, no matter how short their commitments, are teachers who are responsible for the successful education of students. Substitute teachers should be as available for their students as they possibly can be. This means answering questions, providing guidance and support when needed and directing students to outside help when necessary.

About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

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