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Why Consider Substitute Teaching? (I'm Talking to You, December Grads!)

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Some years ago, I was in your shoes. After graduation, I chose to serve as a building substitute beginning in January when there were no nearby, open positions. In the beginning, I was terrified. Over time though, the experience I gained proved invaluable. I am certain the months I spent as a substitute made my application stand out the following fall when compared to May graduates with no classroom experience outside of student teaching. It helped to get me hired full-time in August! Some days were long and tiring while others flew by (generally the ones when I got to teach in my certification area!), but all in all, I learned what it was like to be a successful teacher.

Subbing is be a bridge to full-time employment for many educators. All of us who have ever filled out a standard application with a question about whether or not we'd be willing to substitute have paused to consider the option carefully. (Perhaps you're remembering back to your own days in school when having a sub meant not having to do any work and/or you'd get to watch a video....) However, I encourage you to check "yes" and give substituting a try, even if it makes you nervous. Classroom experience helps to build a far stronger resume than working full-time in another industry while you're job searching.

As a former teacher, I can tell you: good substitutes are hard to find! You can't imagine the gratitude teachers feel when a substitute not only follows the plans they have left, but they've also written notes about how the day went.

In addition to gaining more experience with teaching itself, you'll develop skills that can be even more beneficial to educators.

  • Thinking on your feet - you're substituting for a family/consumer science teacher and realize there isn't enough of a certain ingredient for the food the students are making....
  • Picking your battles - saving your energy to deal with bigger issues than just someone who doesn't ask permission to sharpen her pencil....
  • Classroom management - using developmentally appropriate methods and learning what works for you and what doesn't for when you have your own classroom....
  • Flexibility - a fire drill interrupts a test and some students don't finish in time....
  • Accountability - when you have to tell the classroom teacher about something that happened or a mistake you made....
  • And countless more!

Landing a position as a building or district substitute can be even better than working in many different districts through a substitute teaching service. You'll make connection with teachers, and the students will know you, too. Reputation is everything in substituting. Establish yourself as someone who is there to make sure the plan is followed and to assure things remain orderly, and word will spread. Pretty soon, teachers will request to have you in their classrooms!

Think about it. If you do good work and other teachers (and administrators) see that, you could be next in line when a position you're qualified for opens up.

Amanda Machonis, Assistant Director of Career Development
West Chester University of Pennsylvania

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