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Is Substitute Teaching Right for You?

A substitute teacher is someone who fills in when a teacher cannot show up for work. Substitute teachers are used in most elementary schools and high schools. A job as a substitute teacher can be ideal for people under certain circumstances. A successful substitute teacher will have several important skills that allow them to do their job and earn the respect of parents, students, and their fellow staff members.

General Knowledge

In general, a substitute teacher should have at least some knowledge of many different subjects. A substitute teacher may be called on to help students understand the nuances of Hamlet one day, and then work on examining the causes of the Civil War the next. The best substitute teachers will be comfortable teaching many subjects.


Another important characteristic of a substitute teacher is confidence. The substitute teacher must walk into a classroom fully ready to take charge of the room. They must give the impression of authority and command.


A substitute teacher should also be prepared to work with children of all ages. Many school districts require subs to register with multiple schools in the district. The sub may be called to teach first graders one day, and then to work with special education students the very next day.

Substitute teachers must also be comfortable working on a moment's notice. Many schools will not know that a teacher is unable to work that day until very early that morning. It is not uncommon for a school to call a sub to come into work until very early in the morning the same day. Flexibility is important if one is to be a substitute teacher.


Anyone who wants to work as a substitute teacher should also be capable of following directions closely. Many teachers leave detailed lessons plans for every single day of the school calendar. A substitute teacher will typically be asked to follow these lesson plans. Many such plans are highly detailed and require multiple steps.

Anyone who is thinking about substitute teaching should take these factors into consideration before applying for a job. This job has some basic advantages. It does not require the person to commit to the job full-time. The hours offered are often flexible, and a person may choose to work with as many or as few schools as possible.

Last Updated: May 04, 2015