Why Substitute Teaching?
Becoming a substitute teacher was the best thing that I could have ever done. It allowed me the freedom that I was accustom to and enabled me tip-toe back into the workforce. Substitute teaching is not what it once was. If you so choose, you can get calls at the break of dawn to take an assignment. I commend you for that. They also have a website for substitutes where you can view upcoming jobs and accept or deny them in advance. If you’d like, all of your subbing days can be planned in advance. This usually happens after you’ve built relationships with a few teachers. Personally, I turned off the “phone call” feature and rely on the Frontline website entirely. As an extremely busy mother, I must have my working days scheduled in advance.
So, how do I become a substitute teacher? There were a few things that I needed to do before I could become a sub. First, I needed a college degree. Second, I needed to pass the CBEST. Third, I needed to turn in a large application packet (given at the district office), complete with transcripts and a certificate stating that I passed the CBEST. The rest was pretty simple. I had to take an online mandated reporter class (very short), I had to get finger printed, and had an interview with someone from the district office. The process only took about a month to complete, BUT you need to make time to study for your CBEST.
What is the CBEST?
The CBEST is a test that demonstrates you are proficient in basic reading, writing, and mathematics skills.
The CBEST consists of three sections:
You may take 1, 2, or all 3 sections in a single test session; you do not have to pass all 3 sections at a single administration. You have 4 hours to complete each section or all three sections. (I took all three together and had no problem finishing in time.) The testing fees are $102. If you do not pass certain subjects, you can retake them. All three must be passed before you can move forward.
For more information about the CBEST, click here.
How Do I Study for the CBEST?
I found all of my test prep materials online. I simply took the practice tests and reviewed each question that I got wrong. Use the CBEST study materials on the CTC website! How much time do you need to prepare? Well, it depends on your knowledge going into the test. I’ve been out of college since…ummm… for-ev-ver, so I set aside two hours each day, for a little over a month. It was sufficient time to brush up on my writing skills, review basic math concepts & formulas, and figure out how to successfully answer their multiple choice questions. Learn this skill! The right answer is NOT clear and obvious like it was in high school or college. They try to trick you and you need to learn how to find the mostly right answer. This is discussed in more detail in the CBEST prep materials. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!
Life of a Substitute
There are a few things that are important to understand about subbing. First, you should probably enjoy working with children. If you don’t, you are in for a loooonnnngggg road. Second, be professional. Show up on time (at least 20 min early), dress professional, and arrive with a positive attitude. Third, always be over prepared. Have additional materials that you can use in case the teacher has not left sub plans. Last, never underestimate the power for positive reinforcements and incentives.
- Arrive early to review the sub plans (if any)
- Get familiar with the set-up of the room and technology
- Create a seating chart (if one is not left)
- Follow the sub plans to the best of your ability
- Have additional materials to use that are grade specific (if sub plans are not left)
- Leave a full report of the day. Include notes on exemplary behavior, misconduct, and what was achieved during the day.
Positive Reinforcements & Incentives
Whenever I substitute teach, I always strive for good classroom management. At the beginning of class, I’ll state my expectations in a clear and friendly way. I’ll explain the procedures for the day and sweeten the deal with small incentives to encourage exceptional behavior. This works especially well with the primary grades. To keep the youngest students on their best behavior, I give short term rewards for completing their work quietly and to the best of their ability (usually a cool stamp on their work). Then, I offer a special end of the day reward in the form of a smelly sticker (I just loved those as a kid) or a “smelly.” “Smellys” are small circles placed on the back of their hand with flavored chapstick. I have a special container that I use to hold them in and don’t reveal the flavor they are getting. Students usually squeal with delight when they discover the flavor. I knew their favorites, do you?
Now junior high is completely different. I don’t bring in stickers or smelly incentives, because that’s not what will motivate them to remain on task and behave. With older students, I make my expectations clear, try to keep them engaged by making the materials relevant, and motivate them with incentives that will appeal to them. These incentives usually include granting 5 minutes of free time at the end of the period or letting them use chrome books after they quietly complete their work.
If you’ve arranged this teaching assignment in advance, more than likely, the teacher will have sub plans for ready for you. They are usually in a substitute binder left on the desk. If by chance there are no lesson plans left (usually if the absence was unplanned or due to an emergency), you have a few options. First, you can find out if there is an emergency sub plan binder in the classroom. Second, if you are subbing at a primary school, you can ask neighboring teachers (who teach the same grade) if they could possibly share their plans with you for the day. With common core, most teachers within the same grade are covering the same lessons each day. Lastly, you can use your super substitute skills and improvise. You can use some of your additional materials or find their spelling list and design a lesson around that. At the beginning of recess, ask a student what page they recently completed in their math book and do a review. You could also have the class read a book chorally and add a writing assignment. The possibilities are truly endless, BUT NEVER SHOW THEM THAT YOU AREN’T SURE WHAT TO DO WITH THEM. They will eat you alive. Seriously.
Additional Resources for Substitute Teachers