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10 Things I've Already Learned as a Substitute Teacher

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I’m in my third week as a substitute teacher at the elementary level.

Most of my jobs have been related to COVID quarantines.

It’s been a rude awakening in some ways.

Sure, I knew teachers weren’t paid enough.

My mom and grandma and both of my in laws were teachers.

But I didn’t see all of the constant demands teachers juggle.

And I’m only dealing with a few of those things as a guest teacher.

I’m not doing progress reports or assessments or lesson planning or parent conferences or report cards.

But I am dealing with lessons and schedules and classroom management.

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10 Things I’ve Already Learned as a Substitute Teacher

This is what I’ve already learned as a substitute teacher:

1. You have to meet kids on their level.

And boy are there a lot of different levels within one class.

2. You will have to explain things 12 times, because, inevitably, someone won’t be listening each time.

Even if you think they are.

3. Bribery works.

Kids love rewards even more than they’re scared of punishment. Candy? Donuts? Fidget toys? They’re in.

4. There is never enough time to get everything done.

Never. Oh, and someone always wants to go to the nurse or the bathroom. Which leaves even less time.

5. Whispering a private correction to a kid is usually more effective than publicly saying their name.

6. Never allow students to have nothing to do.

Even free time at the end of the day needs to be structured. Because if you give them too much freedom, chaos ensues.

7. Kids love praise.

And attention. And connection. Ask them about their baseball game or dance competition. Find something positive to acknowledge in their life each day.

8. Other teachers are your best resource.

Hands down. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

9. Write everything students need to do on the board.

That way, when you get tired of explaining for the 12th time, you can just point to it.

10. Don’t forget to have fun.

They are just kids, after all.



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