What are substitute teacher duties and responsibilities?

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There are few jobs quite as rewarding as teaching. Becoming a substitute teacher is a great way to experience to feel fulfilled, but on your own terms and schedule. 

Many people are surprised to hear that you don’t need a degree in education to become a substitute teacher. Substitute teachers come from all walks of life and backgrounds, from former lawyers and firefighters to stay-at-home parents and military spouses. Aside from meeting your state’s requirements for substitute teaching, many of the skills you’ve acquired from prior careers or experiences are transferrable. 

The primary responsibility of a substitute teacher is to help students learn when the teacher is absent. It’s also an amazing opportunity to discover whether you’d like to teach full-time. Don’t worry about getting overwhelmed— the school’s principal and full-time teaching staff will be on hand to help you if you have any questions or concerns. 

We compiled a list of everything you need to know about the duties and responsibilities of a substitute teacher. This way,  you can decide if it’s the right fit for you, your skills, and your professional goals. If you choose to work with one our Kelly Education partner districts, you’ll get the core training, policies, and procedures to prepare you for day one. 

Taking attendance.

One of your most basic substitute teacher duties is the roll call. It may not be the most exciting part of teaching, but it’s an important way of informing the regular teacher — and, by extension, the school administration — who is missing. 

When you’re substitute teaching, you should also consider the roll call an excellent opportunity to match faces to names. As you call out each student, try to memorize their face as they respond. Being able to address the students by name will help you quickly establish a rapport with them, making the actual teaching easier. 

Facilitating lessons.

If a lesson plan is left for you, you’re responsible for walking students through the curriculum using the instructions the teacher provided. This ensures that students continue to hit their important educational milestones even when their teacher isn’t there. Try studying the lesson ahead of time so you’re well acquainted with the subject matter before class.  

If there isn’t a plan, contact the school’s principal or a neighboring teacher for advice about lessons or activities. And if you need help coming up with activities, check out these lesson ideas for elementary school, middle school, or high school students. 

Creating a positive and safe learning environment.

Students learn best when they are in an environment conducive to learning. One way to do this is through an optimistic, helpful, and caring demeanor. Another way is by engaging students’ critical thinking skills. Try posing age-appropriate questions about the material or facilitating peer-to-peer discussion or debate. Think/pair/share activities are always a great starting point. 

While keeping students engaged, make sure to maintain a safe environment. Providing ground rules at the start of class and deescalate any conflicts before serious issues arise. If they do, don’t hesitate to seek help from a nearby teacher or school administrator. 

Assigning homework.

A major responsibility for substitute teachers is to assign homework to students. The teacher you are filling in for may have left some specific homework behind. Otherwise, you may need to come up with assignments on your own. 

If you end up creating homework assignments, make sure they align with the teacher’s instructional plan or established curriculum.  

Supervising students.

As a substitute teacher, you’ll mostly be supervising students inside the classroom. However, you may be required to supervise them in other settings, including at assemblies and in the lunchroom. 

There’s always a chance there will be a safety drill or even a real emergency on your watch. Be sure to review the school’s emergency protocols ahead of time so that you are properly prepared. 

What is a substitute teacher NOT required to do?

It is always the responsibility of the school district to provide you with an approved curriculum. Therefore, while you’ll be responsible for teaching lesson plans provided by the teacher, you shouldn’t need to build or supplement an educational curriculum from the ground up. 

And finally, it is not the job of a substitute teacher to assign instructional goals to students or communicate with parents about their student’s behavior and/or academic performance. That is, unless otherwise instructed by the principal or other school administrator. 

Looking for flexible work that matters?

Now that you know the most important duties and responsibilities of a substitute teacher, get started on the path toward achieving your career dream.

Here at Kelly Education, we’re ready to pair top-notch teachers like yourself with the students who need you the most. To begin your substitute teaching career, check out the available jobs we have at district’s across the country! To talk with one of our education recruiters, fill out this quick interest form.

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