Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Increase Your Substitute Teaching Assignments

I ocassionaly run into fellow subs I use to see while working. They sing the same song, "I don't know why that school no longer calls me." Getting to the top tier of your district's subsitute teachers call list is just a few steps up a ladder if you follow my suggestions.

First rung: Simply conduct yourself in a professional manner like you would at the corporate level. Secondly - follow the absent teacher's lesson plans as close as possible. Finally, make an effort to click with the students. I go into expanded detail of this subject in my latest eHow article, "How to Become a Frequently Requested Substitute Teacher" :

After reading the eHow article, I'd like to hear your comments!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

National Substitute Teacher's Alliance Hosts 10th Annual Conference

I believe most of we substitute teachers are "isolated".  No, not loners as we do have do be extroverts
to do what we do best. I consider myself outgoing and friendly.    My meaning is we have no sense of community with our fellow substitute teachers:  no office parties or summer picnics or trade organizations like in many employee settings. Yes, I know my fellow subs and greet them in the hall or have friendly chats in the lunch
room - but that's the extent of our contact.

    Until now.

     I'm a veteran sub of many years experience yet I never knew there was a national group and better yet, an annual convention!  If you can schedule it, pack your bags
for the The 2010 National Substitute Teacher's Alliance Annual Conference,  May 20-22 in Las Vegas,

     To learn more about the National Substitute Teacher's Alliance (NSTA) and the convention, go to: I created this blog as a virtual substitute teacher network, but perhaps we can all meet in person one day at this convention!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Subsituting during the holidays: Make it Fun!

I enjoy substitute teaching during December at the elementary school level. The classrooms are festive and lesson plans deviate a bit from the norm. I enjoy getting my holiday themed jewelry
and sweaters out to wear to work.
Planning emergency activities is easier, too. We instinctively can whip up art lessons
plans themed around winter holiday (remember to use this politically correct term!) Keep a Holiday themed coloring/activity bookChristmas Surprise! (Deluxe Coloring Book) in your back that can quickly be photocopied for a time filler. Finally, have some holiday stickers or candy canes packed to use as reward incentives.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Twelve Days Of Christmas ala Substitute Teaching

As I ponder the Twelve Days of Christmas, I'm inclined to count my blessings in this rewarding profession . . .

  • 1. I learn something from students each classroom assignment.

  • 2. Substituting has turned me into a better negotiator in other aspects of my life.

  • 3. I can read "Cat in the Hat" with joy after 12,000 times!

  • 4. Hearing "yeah!" from the students when they discover I'm in for the day.

  • 5. Treasured friendships made with fellow staff members.

  • 6. Got to love those minimum days with full pay!

  • 7. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery": As a sub, I incorporate fabulous ideas

    from various teachers into my curriculum

  • 8. When so many currently layed off teachers are out of a job, it's amazing we "temps" are still getting the calls.

  • 9. My husband says I'm more organized around the home when working.

  • 10. I've learned to take the discipline challenged student and make them a special helper.

  • 11. Admittedly, I have been slow "going green". Seeing schools jump on the bandwagon has made me more aware and active in these efforts.

  • 12. I thank the stars
    for every hug and smile students have given
    me throughout the years.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Back to School Tips for the Savvy Substitute Teacher

Time to wake up from sleeping in and summer fun! Be ready to start your rewarding new year of substitute teaching with these handy tips.

Is your emergency credential current? It if is expired or expiring soon, take the few minutes to renew it online. If you teach with an expired credential, your paycheck will likely be withheld until renewal process is completed.

TB tests should be up to date. Check with your district's human resource office to find out the status.

Go through your clothes closet and separate outfits appropriate for teaching. This will save time when those last minute phone calls occur.

Shop our Savvy Sub store for all the tools you'll need to make this a productive and profitable school term:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Language Arts Lessons for the Savvy Sub

Designate an accordion file for lesson plans and worksheet masters. Label the tabs by grade level or subject matter - whatever works the best for you. When you get called for a certain class, refer to the file and pull what you may need for that day. The whole accordion file is too bulky to keep in your "Mary Poppins" bag.

Here are two primary level language arts lessons to get you started. They are from a series of articles I'm writing with individual lesson plans for we savvy subs. Have fun with your students!


Everyday essentials teachers can take to work:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Savvy Sub and Swine Flu

UPDATE: The World Health Organization announced the Swine Flu or H1N1 Virus is a global pandemic - our first in 41 years. Also, this virus will prove resilient in summer months. Don't let your guard down while teaching summer school or in special programs! "How to be Proactive with Swine Flu":

Substitute teachers find ourselves bouncing from classroom to classroom with a new set of germs to greet us each assignment. We are more vulnerable than the "regular" teacher who is with the same set of kids and classroom daily. I am washing and sanitizing my hands so much they are drier than ever! Overreacting? No, I'm playing it safe.

As you check in the office for your daily assignment, ask if there are any precautionary measures you need to be aware of as far as procedures and protocols with swine or H1N1 flu. From the educator standpoint, it behooves you to keep abreast of the latest facts as even the youngest children are commenting on this issue. If it comes up in class discussion - you'll impress them with your knowledge gleaned from the best and most up to date source: Centers for Disease Control

Stay healthy!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bribery Will Get You Everywhere!

I take a proactive approach to classroom management.
I'm a subsitute teacher, so that's critical! I want to take bad behavior out of the equation before the class personality takes a crazy life of its own, erupting in chaos.
After the morning routine (roll, lunch count, calendar, flag salute) I find out if the class is divided in groups - if they are not - I quickly make them up.

I tell them I will give tally marks to the groups who are working on task, respectful of one another's space, ready to transition to the next lesson, etc. Students in the top two groups at the end of the day will get a reward. With the smaller class, somehow I manage to make it a tie and the whole class earns a treat!

The result is a quieter and well behaved classroom. It is well worth the $2 or so I spend on my favorite incentive treat, the candy Smarties. I buy bags to keep on hand at the dollar store. They don't melt while stored in my "Mary Poppins Bag"
and most kids like them. The best part is I tell them I chose Smarties
because the class is so smart. Make sure all children can have them. If there is an allergy or diabetes issue with a student, have some stickers to choose from as an alternate reward.

I love it when a teacher has his/her own behavior (raffle tickets)
tickets as an incentive. I pass out those generously. When combined with the group competition, the day is definitely more enjoyable for me and them than it would have been without incentives.

As a guest teacher, it is a joy to be able to leave a note
that the class was well-behaved. It reflects positively back on us.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Looking for a job? Read On . . .

Did you, a family member or friend lose your job as a result of the recession? Then run, don't walk to your nearest school district office and get the ball rolling to be a substitute employee!

I hear some " . . . but I don't have a college degree." That's OK. If you meet other qualifications and a background check consider registering as a classified employee substitute . Teachers are certified. Classified positions may include secretaries, lunch room attendants, custodians, teacher's aides (para professionals), etc. and they get sick, too!

For those with a college degree: remember, it does not have to be in education to substitute. Your professional experience will enhance the lesson plans with expertise. A former banker could WOW a math lesson. Someone with construction management background could take science or shop class to a new level. I use my writing background to add some pizazz to language arts time.

So hurry! School districts are laying off certified and classified employees to meet budget cuts - get your name on the list ASAP or they may beat you to it!

For more tips on where to get started substituting, scroll down to the blog archive and click on "So you want to be a substitute teacher!"

Earn a paycheck while you look for something more permanent. Good Luck!

We have a WINNER- Part Deux!

I am excited to name the winner of our blog's second contest - "Friday Night Lights" Season One DVD collection. Congratulations to who won the random draw. Your prize will be on its way after I receive your contact information as request in the congratulatory email.

Thanks to all of you who entered! All your posts were meaningful and from the heart. So much so, that I am going to compile and study the responses over Spring Break. My next blog will be a summary of those posts and a tool we can use to make classroom time memorable for the students. More importantly, learn how we as teachers, even substitutes, can impact students' lives.

Stay tuned for our next contest coming soon!


Friday, March 20, 2009

T.G.I.F. Giveaway

It's Friday! Enjoy your weekend to pursue your hobbies, play catch up on household matters or just plain CHILL.

To celebrate this first TGIF of Spring, we are sponsoring our newest contest.

The prize is: "Friday Night Lights" The First Season 5 disc DVD!

To enter, leave a comment about your favorite teacher and what made that person so special to you as a student? **Becoming a Follower will earn you a bonus entry, but make sure you left a comment, too!** Our contest ends at Midnight PST on Friday, March 27th. This is open to all U.S. residents, at least 18 years old. One entry per household. Good Luck!

Since I can't enter, I would still like to share my favorite teacher. Looking back through elementary, high school and college - it's an easy choice. The best teacher I ever had was Mr. Poletti, my high school public speaking teacher. His teaching methods gave me confidence and helped me overcome freshman shyness. The format he taught us in writing a speech spilled over to other classes and my essays usually ended up giving me an "A". I can't believe I went on to competing in speech tournaments and doing well. He had the keen insight to pull out of us, what we never knew was there.

What qualities should teaching professionals incorporate into their daily lessons? We can learn from YOUR comments.

Who was your favorite teacher? Why?

Monday, March 16, 2009

My Mary Poppins Bag: A Substitute Teacher's Tool

Besides the ever handy umbrella, my seemingly bottomless tote bag accompanies me to each sub assignment. Just grab and go! I'll share my Top Ten items to include in YOUR supercalafragilisticexpialidocious bag and the  reasoning behind it! For substitute teachers, lapses in lesson plans can turn a quiet classroom into chaos. I will be blogging about time fillers in future installments. Many of my suggestions can be ordered here: Savvy Sub Store

These include coloring pages, Sudoku, crossword puzzles, word searches,etc. There are a plethora of internet sites that offer free printables. Just Google terms like: free printable worksheets and you'll be in business with several "masters" to reproduce as needed. Play safe: these worksheets should be generic. Don't bring in themes like Disney or other cartoon figures. Not only can copyrighted material be an issue, but generally schools keep product names out of educational materials.


I keep a couple of the "Two Minute Mysteries" and "Five Minute Mysteries" paperbacks in my bag. These are perfect time fillers while waiting for the bell to ring to go home when you can't start a new project, etc. These books are inexpensive and a great investment. Peruse through them and you'll get a feel for the grade level.  I attach Post-It Notes indicating what grade level I believe will understand the passage.


Check your local dollar store and stock up on one box each of addition, subtraction and division. Students love to play the math game "Around the World". Just pick the type that is age appropriate. You can engage an otherwise unruly class in seconds with this game and the classroom teacher will appreciate the extra math practice the students gained. Again, good ole Google is your source if you are unfamiliar with "Around the World". Yes, classrooms may have flash cards, but why chance it?
*Tip: when you get to a student that struggles, be sure to pick an easy problem so they are not overwhelmed.

I am not talking about a giant ball here, folks. Again, my BFF Dollar Store has small soft balls that, in a pinch, can be used for classroom games like Hot Potato or Silent Ball - two rainy day PE options. (Although the quiet Heads Up, 7 Up is my favorite!).

A must-have for yard duty and physical education.

Students LOVE to glance through this binder I've compiled of the world's largest snake, alligator, etc. and other oddities. Just slip the paper in protective sheets. Use your imagination! I pass this around during silent reading times or for early finishers to look at while the rest are finishing up.
*Tip: Make sure all the animals are portrayed in a safe and humane manner.

Bribery - plain and simple! OK, you are probably thinking, "I don't get paid that much, why should I buy candy or stickers?" The answer, quite frankly, is your sanity! Most of the students I teach have come to expect Mrs. P to bring a treat. They have to earn that treat by not getting their name on the board, though. Or, when the class is divided into specific groups, I have group points competition and the top two earn a reward. Depending on the class size, I sometimes manage to make it an across the board tie by the end of the day! Watch the class quiet down as you pick up an Expo pen and start to write tally marks. I have found the perfect treat that is my "signature" now: "SMARTIES". The kids like them, they have a long shelf life and are inexpensive. My mantra is "You've earned a Smartee today because you are so SMART!" I have had alot of positive feedback from this and it is worth every penny! I don't always have a reward if my stockpile is depleted, but often the teacher has tickets or other classroom incentives that I am generous with, as well.
*Tips: Have stickers as an option if you have a student(s) with food allergies. Check the after Christmas, Valentine and Easter sales in the candy aisle for your rewards stash.

8. LUNCH and WATER for the day.
   Quite simply, no nourishment - no energy to get through your assignment.
I usually take a  large bottle of Smart Water because it lasts the whole day. Otherwise, I toss in two bottles of water. Be sure to pack napkins and any plastic utensils you need. When my grocery store has a sale on Lean Cuisines, etc., I stockpile them. So often in a hectic morning there is no time to make a sandwich. I also keep on hand a supply of Slim Fast and drink my breakfast on the way to work. Yogurt and string cheese are great for recess pick me ups!

Freshening up at recess and lunch puts a pep in my step. I tuck in a  small cosmetic bag filled with a hair brush, lipstick, hand lotion and breath mints. Also in the bag is a bottle of Vitamin B-12.  I take one at lunch and it helps me get through the rest of the day with vigor.

I keep a file folder in my bag that holds my current time sheet. I log in the information at the end of the day after writing a summary note to the teacher.  When the pay period ends, it's ready to turn in on the appropriate day. I also have my sub days noted on my master calendar at home and highlight the teacher's name for easy reference/cross check.  Be sure to utilize your  wireless device's calendar application for this purpose, too.

What's in your Mary Poppins Bag?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

We have a WINNER!

Congratulations to KauaiMark! He has won the coffee table book, "Hollywood Dads" in a random drawing from "The Fine Art of Substitute Teaching".

Thank you to those who helped me christen my new blog by posting a comment. I will be having more giveaways, so stay tuned!

The Gatekeeper

n All your paperwork is in place! Now you just wait for that phone call for your classroom assignment.

That designated person who does the calling will here on out be referred to as "The Gatekeeper." They hold the power, the key, to YOU being called.

Depending on the size of the school district, that phone call can generate from a computerized system or an actual human being.

Large school districts utilize a computer system that you can access with a password. Once in the website, you can actually pick which grade/subject/school site you desire - just remember it is first come, first serve. Those same large districts also will call you about 6:30 am if you don't have a previous assignment and prompt you to accept or decline a job. Later that morning, you could still receive a phone call from the human resource personnel to come in for a teacher that had to leave due to a personal emergency or illness.

For those who deal primarily with smaller districts without an automated phone tree system, it is imperative that you have a good relationship with the employee (The Gatekeeper) who calls you. Imagine their job - having to call (often waking up) potential subs to come in that same day. If you cannot sub, be as polite as possible explaining a plausible reason. If you are willing to come in , try to be cheerful when accepting even though you are dying to go back to bed.

Establishing a friendly relationship with The Gatekeeper will reward you with being called first.

I like to be considerate and let The Gatekeeper know in advance when I will be on vacation via a written note. Do not let them waste time by leaving a message for you that goes unanswered for several days.

Substitutes should carry a business card complete with home and cell phone numbers (when applicable) with them to leave with The Gatekeeper so they will have you in mind quickly the next time a sub is needed. I have been ordering from Vista Print for several years. They have a huge variety of FREE business cards - I just pay shipping ( they have the Vista Print logo on the back but who cares!). I have animal, whimsical and patriotic varieties. I also leave a card with my "end of the day note" to the teacher as a hopeful reminder that he/she will request me the next time.

See the link for Vista Print on the left, you will be impressed with the savings! TIP: I never order the more expensive quick shipping, The standard shipping arrives well before the allotted time -so save a few bucks!

Remember, we are guests not only in the classroom, but in the district.

A gracious guest gets asked back.
Next installment: "My Mary Poppins Bag"

Friday, March 13, 2009

Today is Pink Friday

Thousands of teachers and classified employees throughout the state of California are expected to receive a layoff notice today. I heard from a friend who is a substitute teacher in Lodi, CA, that even she received a notice via certified mail.

Wear pink today in support of these brave people that wonder how they will keep their homes and feed their families.

Monday, March 9, 2009

So You Want to be a Substitute Teacher

Congratulations! You are on your way to a rewarding career as a substitute teacher.
The first step is to check with the human resource department at the school district office as to the requirements you need to meet. The basic state guidelines will be the same, but some aspects may differ from district to district. Sometimes, if the district is in a dire shortage for subs, the requirements may be loosened temporarily - specifically when it comes to your educational background. A few years ago, there was a major teacher's strike in California. Many districts allowed individuals without a degree to sub as long as they had a certain amount of units. Also, some private and charter schools have less restrictive requirements.
Regarding your college degree - you do not have a Bachelor's Degree in Education to be a substitute teacher. For example, my degree is in journalism. I strongly believe that our varied backgrounds allow us to bring some special knowledge and skills into the classroom - but more on that in future blogs.

Here are some basics to get your process started. In my geographic area, you need the following items to become a substitute teacher:

  • Bachelor's Degree from an accredited college or university.
  • Transcripts verifying you earned the degree.
  • Pass the CBEST ( California Basic Education Skills Test -your state will have a similar program).
  • Fingerprinting
  • Apply for an emergency teaching credential at your county's office of education or at (in California).
  • Pay an application fee.
  • Once all the paperwork is processed and fees paid, you are ready to start!

Additionally, the school district will likely want proof that you have taken and passed a TB test. Check with your county Health Department for lowcost or sometimes free TB test clinics - usually cheaper than going to your doctor's office.

It will take you about one to three days of paid sub work to recoup your initial expenses associated with getting started - then the rest is "gravy"!

Keep in mind that the 30 Day Emergency Teaching Credential does have to be renewed annually for a fee. It is your responsibility to keep track of the expiration date as your paycheck could be held up until that fee is paid and the district may not call you since your credential is expired. I like to renew mine about a month before the expiration date. I keep that date marked both in my planner and cell phone calendar. Renewal is painless and can be done over the internet in California.

If you accept a long term sub assignment exceeding 30 consecutive days for the same teacher, you may have to apply for a supplemental permit.

This is the only blog entry that I will be talking about California's guidelines specifically - as that is my state. However, all states have similar requirements - so please refer to your state's teacher credentialing website.
Stay tuned for my next installment in this "getting started in substituting" series: The Gatekeeper.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Substitute Teaching 101

Welcome to my blog about a rewarding job I've had for almost 15 years. As we take this journey together, I want my readers to come away with ideas for facing a new class each day with enthusiasm, not dread. We have a unique job with unusual requirements, I'm proud of my profession and enjoy the flexibility it allows.
The next installments will cover a myriad of topics all designed to make the classroom assignments less daunting for you. We'll start from the beginning steps in becoming a "sub" and jump into the nuts and bolts of the classroom as seen through our eyes.
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