Harry Wong
Dec 2017
Vol 14 No 4

Substitute Teaching – It’s All About Image

By James Schneiter

Substitute teaching is more about image than substance, more about what you don’t do than what you do, and really not a job where risk taking is prudent.  Of most importance is a substitute teacher’s demeanor. As a substitute you will be assigned to teach many pleasant, cooperative, hard-working, and almost angelic classes, but there will be those that are the exact opposite.  It is very unpleasant to have a bad class – a class that is not interested in doing the assignment, ignores the substitute, incessantly talks and laughs with friends, and has several students who leave their assigned seats.  But if a substitute is not careful his demeanor can change a hard-to-manage class into a hostile class, which is much, much worse.  Overreacting, panicking, and using sarcasm can do it, as will name calling like, “I can’t believe what a bunch of self-centered, spoiled brats you are.” And you will encounter at times some very unpleasant students.  But be careful not to show your real feelings. “That teacher hates me” is a common student complaint – one that is received sympathetically by parents, counselors, and disciplinarians. Also most students are oblivious to the substitute teacher, but a few will band together and deliberately try to provoke a substitute and take pride in their ability to make things difficult. Usually by being unnecessarily noisy and rude hoping to make the substitute lose his or her temper thus giving them an excuse to be even louder and more rude.  So don’t take the bait and be patient. Students are perceptive.  Because teachers have to communicate so often with them, personality characteristics such as lack of confidence, arrogance, pretentiousness, and testiness are hard to conceal. Watch celebrities and politicians when they are being interviewed.  Watch their facial expressions and other forms of nonverbal communication, and listen to what they say and do not say. And take a cue from the police: “Sir, please get out of the car… and put your hands on the hood, please.”  So be polite. “Please, don’t sit on the desk” is preferable to an abrupt “Don’t sit on the desk.”  When taking attendance and a student responds, look at the student and say, “Thank you.” This will also discourage students from answering for an absent student. But do it quickly and naturally.  You don’t want to seem too polite. Finally, when it comes to substitute teaching, it can be more effective to be thought of as a good teacher than to actually be one.   If you are respected, students will cooperate more and therefore learn more.  So fool them if you can. Good luck! For more substitute teaching strategies, please visit my website This website also has a tabs with anecdotes from my teaching career and my favorite lesson plans,  and information about a book that I have written, The Last Quarter – A Middle School Story,   which is available as a e book or paperback on  About the author James is a retired teacher who now substitute teaches part time. He is the author of The Last Quarter: A Middle School Story



Comment on this article...

Next Article...
This entry was posted on Sunday, January 1st, 2012 and is filed under James Schneiter, June 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
By State
AL   AK   AZ   AR   CA   CO   CT   DE   DC   FL   GA   HI   ID   IL   IN   IA   KS   KY   LA    ME   MD   MA   MI   MN   MS   MO   MT   NE   NV   NH   NJ   NM   NY   NC   ND   OH   OK   OR   PA   RI   SC   SD   TN   TX   UT   VT     VA   WA   WV   WI   WY