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February 29, 2012

Must-Haves For Substitute Teachers

Written By: Rachel Friedrich
Category: Career Path
X Things a Substitute Teacher Needs

Things a Substitute Teacher Needs

When I first started subbing almost five years ago, I wanted to be prepared for any situation. Much like buying insurance for every possible scenario, I found pretty quickly that I was over prepared. My back and shoulder told me that I was carrying too many things.

So I did some prioritizing and rethinking. What are the most likely situations that I should prepare for, and what are the most compact and economical ways accomplish that? What it came down to were basically four main categories of items: personal, downtime, classroom management, and business items.

Must Haves for Substitute Teachers

Personal Items 

For me, I want to be comfortable when I teach, or I know I won’t do the best job. So I always make sure I have comfort items such as snacks, water, and medicines. I also make sure I have a notebook for my own notes and pens. These items would definitely vary depending on the personal things you need on a daily basis.

Downtime

I know that busy students make better choices, so I always come prepared with a handful of grade-appropriate time fillers. I try to make as many of those as possible, activities that need no supplies, such as versions of Hangman played with spelling words or writing prompts I make up. I also always have a picture book (I like to keep the book seasonal if possible) I can read aloud and do some activities with if need be. Other great items to have are some graphic organizers (I have a book I purchased from Laura Candler at Teaching Resources that is phenomenal). I prefer not to have class set copies, because I don’t have access to a copier, and it becomes bulky to carry that many. But I always have a couple of examples I can post in a classroom and have students re-create. Now, if you sub mostly for littler ones, you probably would want copies.

Classroom Management

I come with my own traveling classroom management system, even though I don’t always use it. I use sticky notes and a decorative hole punch. I punch students’ notes when they are making good choices, and then reward them at the end of the day. I bring my own Treasure Bag (I just use a plastic baggie), containing mostly decorative pencils to give as rewards. And because I believe firmly in positive reinforcement, I also like to have some Caught Being Good or some other sort of recognition for excellent students to show their teacher and parents that they had a great day.

Business Items

Of course, I always have to have my sub badge. I keep that on a lanyard in my bag so I never lose it. The only form I bring regularly is some sort of a Daily Summary Form so you can leave a synopsis of the day for the classroom teacher. And finally, I always have business cards and my calendar on hand to market myself and book additional subbing days.

I keep all the paper items organized in an accordion file since it is easy to pull things out and put them back quickly. All these items fit pretty easily in a medium-sized bag that I try to always leave packed for those last-minute calls. Being prepared, but in moderation, is basically my motto.

 

Rachel Friedrich

 

About the Author

Rachel Friedrich is the creator of Sub Hub. The blog offers advice, tips, and resources for substitute teachers and classroom teachers preparing for a sub. She is a certified teacher, and has spent the last five years substitute teaching.

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  • Carolyn
    March 12, 2012

    I subbed a total of six years for several different districts in grades K-8. It’s definitely too much to prepare for everything, so I kind of did what you did, with just a few different items that suited the kinds of situations I encountered. I always had a whistle on a lanyard and a smashable but cute foam visor for when P.E. was on the schedule. And I love my brightly colored clipboard (flip top with space inside for a few papers) because I can put the sub plans on it and if I set them down somewhere in the room, I can easily spot them. Great article!

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  • Erin
    March 11, 2012

    I love the post it note/hole punch idea! I also like the idea of sending something home so that parents know that their children had a good day with a guest teacher 🙂

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  • Brittney
    March 11, 2012

    I really enjoyed this article and love all of the resources from SubHub! 🙂

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  • Jo Alice Olin
    March 11, 2012

    Wonderful article with great info for teachers to have for their sub!

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  • Danielle
    March 11, 2012

    Great ideas! I used to also keep a few dry-erase markers in my subbing bag just in case I can’t find any in the room or ones are going dry (a small pet peeve of mine). I also kept copies of word puzzles in my bag for the older kids that helped promote critical-thinking strategies (ex. “Is there a 4th of July in England?”). A book of tongue twisters are always a great way to fill a few downtime minutes for the young ones as well. A pad and of course some pens are great to always write a note back. As a teacher, I appreciate those notes. I also stress that if not everything is gotten to, I’d understand just as long as I know it the note. Being a substitute before a classroom teacher definitely has had a huge impact on my sub plans that I leave and a strong appreciation for substitutes.

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  • grace gRant
    March 11, 2012

    I follow your blog and love it! God bless all those subs out there!!! That is a tough job!! I am working on my “Sub Tub” now!

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  • Alane
    March 11, 2012

    I use scented lip balms (lip smackers or the ones you find in the dollar bin at target- bubble gum, strawberry, etc) as a classroom management tool. Anytime I see a student working hard or doing what they are supposed to do, I rub the lip balm on their hand for them to smell. The kids LOVE them! As a classroom teacher, I really appreciate when substitutes leave a note to summarize their day. Great ideas 🙂

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  • michelle queen
    March 11, 2012

    I think I will use some of these ideas to create a sub basket for next year. Great ideas.

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  • Meaghan
    March 4, 2012

    One of the items that is always in my purse when I am subbing is my Kobo e-reader. It takes up less space and I always have a book when I need one on a prep period. I’ve also loaded some children’s books onto it so that I have a new read aloud with me as well.

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  • Julie P.
    March 4, 2012

    As a classroom teacher, a substitute note form is awesome. It leaves out the guess work for me to figure out what was covered or not, behaviors etc. Also, business cards are awesome. I know in my district it is difficult to secure a good sub. Leaving a card helps not only me, but my friends when they need a sub. That card can just be passed around!

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  • Kris
    February 29, 2012

    Rachel I really enjoyed your article! I love the downtime idea with a picture book and writing prompt. I am going to get some of these ready to keep in my Sub Tub. I hate just having worksheets but always need extra time fillers just in case.

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  • Charity Preston
    February 29, 2012

    Thanks for the great information Rachel! Having a business card and marketing yourself are fantastic ideas and I am sure you will definitely stand out from the crowd. 🙂

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