There is No Substitute for Great Substitute Teachers

Feeling dizzy after I got home yesterday, I checked and had a 101.5 fever. For me that is a big deal because I usually run around 97.3 — so I started calling substitutes to see if there was someone to help me out.

I posted on my Facebook fan page, and a parent responded she could help in the afternoon, and my next-door teacher messaged she'd help me figure something out. Then, I had a dear friend who also worked in the lunchroom and said she could handle my classes until 11 am.
There is no substitute for a great substitute teacher.

Substitute Teachers Are a Blessing

When you call, some subs will say, “I could do it later in the week” or “I need more notice.” But that is the hard thing about when most of us need substitute teachers. I didn't plan on having a fever, and it was very inconvenient. I was supposed to help set up for the Varsity Cheerleader freezer sale (my daughter is cocaptain), it was just awful timing, in fact.

When we need a substitute, it is rarely planned. God bless good substitute teachers that we can trust to fill in. God bless the substitutes who are willing to pitch in at the last minute.

Not All Substitutes are Exceptional

My students know what I expect in my classroom. I'll never forget that one time I had a sub two days in a row that they didn't like. They caught the substitute sleeping – not kidding, sleeping and filmed it. They emailed me and attached the video, and several of them said that my room wasn't being handled like I would expect it to be, and they wanted me to know.

First of all, I was so proud of those kids. They know what I expect and when they live it, breathe it, and inhale the ethos and work ethic of what we try to do in the Wonderlab.

Secondly, I took their advice, and that substitute was not called back.

Better substitute teachers will help your school be a better school.

Not Enough Substitutes

We have to be picky about our substitutes, but there is one thing to realize — sometimes — some teachers can't be picky. They don't have a long enough sub list. They don't have enough people who are willing to be flexible. They don't have choices.

Substitute Teacher Manual

Want to be well prepared for your substitute teacher? I've got a template for a manual on TpT. Some teachers make manuals, others create “sub tubs.” Either way, plan ahead and make your classroom a better place for the guest teachers who come into your classroom to teach.

So, as I am at home trying to feel better, I'm thinking about what a blessing it is to have GREAT substitutes on our substitute list at my school. What a BLESSING to have such exceptional people who care and NEVER sleep on the job. (That other person is no longer on the list.)

Thank Your Substitute Teachers

Treat your substitutes well. Thank them often. Drill into the minds of your students that they will behave BETTER for your substitute teachers than they will for you. (This is something I often say.) Be the kind of school where people are happy to substitute. And if you're not the kind of school, be the kind of teacher with the kind of classroom they are happy to join for a day.

Require and expect that your students will behave for your sub.

Great Substitute Teachers Do an Important Service for Schools

And to all you great substitute teachers out there wherever you are. You are important. Your job is important. You do an essential service for educators, students and parents and you — of all teachers — often receive the least dignity of all teachers. You are valuable and from one teacher to another — thank you for your service. For that kind of person — the substitute teacher who cares and does an excellent job — there just is no substitute for you. You rock, and we appreciate you.

Thank you substitute teachers! There is no substitute for a great substitute!

Will You Volunteer to Substitute?

And if you want to know how to help your school, put your name on the substitute teacher list today. A strong school is made stronger with a list of great substitutes. (If your child is at the school, it is also a fantastic way to connect with the kids there.)


Back to Netflix, Gatorade and about ten blankets as I fill with gratitude that my classroom is being well managed while I try to get well. There is no substitute for a great substitute.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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loonyhiker October 29, 2013 - 6:15 pm

I hope you are feeling better. We were in FL a couple of weeks ago when that yucky bug hit us. My hubby spent the last 2 days of our trip in bed at the condo with a 103 fever. I came down with it as I drove home 2 days later but made it home at least. I’m finally getting over it! Hope you recover quickly.

coolcatteacher October 30, 2013 - 4:46 pm

Thanks, Pat. I went back today but have a ways to go before I am better. Glad I have such a great family to help me through.
Vicki Davis

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere