On Seinfeld, Kramer calls Broadway understudies “the substitute teachers of the theater world” and refers to them as “a shifty bunch.”
As someone who substitute teachers on a fairly regular basis (but teenagers only, please) I would like to take offense at the sentiment and comparison, but I’m not sure I can.
Subs, in my experience, are there for all kinds of reasons and come from all walks of life and all backgrounds and experiences. Still, we have things in common – and here are 9 things you might not know about us.
9. There’s a trick to learning names quickly.
As my mother, a teacher her whole life, always says “there’s power in knowing kid’s names.”
If you’re a substitute, you’ll automatically have more control over your class if you know the names of the kids in your care.
That said, it can be hard – you’re only there for a handful of days – but if a teacher leaves a seating chart, use it.
But trust me; you’ll learn the names of certain kids without even trying.
8. The early bird gets the worm.
You have to be flexible if you’re hoping to get work as a substitute – many teachers don’t know until they wake up to a stomach bug or a kid with a fever that they won’t be coming in that day.
Phone calls start going out at 5:00am, and the first person to punch yes gets the job. Then, it’s off to the shower and the coffee machine (not necessarily in that order).
7. Pregnant teachers are a sub’s best friend.
If you’re a substitute looking for a long-term job (better money, more stability, and the bonus of getting to know your kids), pregnant teachers are a lock.
You know they’re going to be gone at some point, probably for at least a couple of months.
6. First impressions matter.
Not only are teachers assessing kids as they file into their first class of the day, the kids are giving you the once-over, too. It’s important to establish authority right away – you can always go more lax later, if that’s more your personality, but it’s better to err on the side of strict up front (especially if you’re subbing kids older than 5th grade).
Act confident, speak in a powerful voice, and be ready for kids to test their boundaries. Because they’re definitely going to push.
5. Yes, the kids remember you.
Once you’ve taught at the same school a few times, you’ll start to get a reputation among the kids. For better or worse, that’s what kids are going to assume when they see you at the front of the room.
A personal word to the wise: never, ever care what they think. They can smell it on you.
4. We’re an eclectic bunch.
Anyone with a handful of college hours who can pass a background check can sign up to be a substitute teacher, which means, age-wise, you see anyone from people just out of high school themselves to elderly and retired folks clocking in for a day’s work.
People enjoy the extra cash, they like working with kids, they want to stay sharp – whatever it is, you’ll find a huge range of folks who sign up to fill in at your local school district.
3. We learn to spot the troublemakers on sight.
Most teachers will leave notes for substitutes, and that typically includes kids or entire classes that they expect will give you more trouble than others.
That said, even if they don’t, the kids who plan to give you a hard time usually don’t make much of a secret of it, right from the get-go.
2. There’s a reason they might look familiar.
If you’re going to school in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, or somewhere else that’s a hub for aspiring actors, you might see some familiar faces in front of the classrooms.
Subs and actors both need to be able to speak in front of groups of strangers, to improvise when things don’t go as planned, and to be quick on their feet (and with their comebacks), so it’s good practice, too!
1. There’s a national appreciation day.
The annual Substitute Educators Day is the third Friday in November, and was established by the National Education Association to honor subs around the country.
It’s meant to support subs in trying to get health benefits, professional development, and fair wages.
I miss subbing and honestly can’t wait to get back to the classroom.
If you’re a fellow substitute teacher, share your own “behind the scenes” facts in the comments!