New NYC substitute teacher looking for advice
February 12, 2020 2:37 PM   Subscribe

I got a job as a substitute teacher in NYC for junior high and high school. I have no experience teaching those ages. The temp agency that I work for does not do any training. What tips or advice do you have for a new substitute teacher?

I will be working in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. I have experience teaching undergrads from when I was in grad school. The job listings tell me a grade and subjects, but I don’t get any other information or training. I’m a mid-30s white male.

I could use advice on every aspect of subbing, from how to interact with school staff, classroom management, best practices, etc. thanks!
posted by davidstandaford to Education (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
get to new schools several minutes early so you can check in with office staff and have them show you to your room. other than that, i haven't been a sub in almost 20 years, so i don't think any of my other advice is still relevant.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:44 PM on February 12

Find a couple schools you tell with and stick with them The particulars aren't so much important as that you know the general routine of the school, expectations, etc.
posted by aetg at 2:46 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]

I have opinions! At work atm but will check back later.
posted by freethefeet at 2:53 PM on February 12

I absolutely love teenagers and tweens and used to volunteer with them a lot. One thing people working with these ages for the first time struggle with is either trying to be "cool" and popular or, on the other side of things, trying to be a hardass and "make" them do what you want. Neither really works. You have to be a good, kind, fair person, but at the same time you have to be completely unconcerned with whether or not they "like" you or think you're cool.

I know you might feel like "oh, I'd never worry about being cool, that's silly" but you'd be surprised! Since you're surrounded by a bunch of people you don't know, who seem kinda adult-ish, it can be easy to fall into wanting to be liked because...well, humans want to be liked. But you have to keep some detachment from it and not let it cloud your judgment.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:53 PM on February 12 [14 favorites]

In my district, teachers pick their own subs if they can. If you want to get called regularly:

1) do your best to follow whatever lesson plans you are given (but have a generic backup plan- some teachers are awful and don't leave plans and the worst job in the whole world is junior high kids who don't have anything to do)
2) eat lunch in the teacher's lounge, seem normal, pass out cards with your sub info on it
3) leave your cards or flyers in the teachers' mailboxes (if you are willing to be contacted by text, say so! when I arrange for a sub I usually just send a bunch of texts to my preferred subs- people who insist on getting called are last on my list)
4) leave a note for the teacher telling them how things went
5) Ask questions! Each school has its quirks. I'm so impressed when a new sub calls me to run through things the day before, and it makes their day a lot better too.

The absolute best thing you can do is find a school you like and weasel your way into being their go-to sub, the one they call first when there's an opening. Learning the routines of one school and going there regularly means that the kids get to know you, too. It's a lot simpler after they learn what you expect and mess with you a little less.
posted by charmedimsure at 3:33 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]

The best high school subbing experiences I had involved glomming on to a single school (the one my husband taught at, so kind of a no brainer) and making friends with a few teachers (I highly recommend getting to know an art teacher, unrecommend gym or music). Since teachers were able to request specific subs, I'd make sure they had my deets and get first dibs on their classes if they were out. The more you can work with the same kids frequently, the better. You become more like one of their regular teachers and less like a rando they don't know from Adam and will never see again.

Most high school subbing doesn't involve much actual teaching, ime. Teachers have sub plans they keep in their back pocket that are usually pretty generic and involve independent seat work. After doing so much teen subbing I was really blindsided when I tried a gig with a younger grade and I was expected to, like, just slide in to their curriculum already in progress.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:44 PM on February 12

Things subs do to ensure I never call them again:

1. They do not ask about discipline codes and process. Find out who you call, when and for what.
2. You are clever and wonderful but you are the sub. It is not your job to second guess behavioral plans or to create your own learning experience.
3. They're busy being buddies with the kids and there's no discipline and another teacher has to come in to rescue them.
4. They believe half the class all needs to pee at the same time so they let them leave, never to return.

Don't do that and you'll be good.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:52 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]

It really depends on your district and the school. I’m sure charmedimsure’s advice to pass out cards/flyers is great for some places, but in my urban tough-to-staff district a sub passing out cards is unheard of and would probably come across as awkward. In my school, if the kids are mostly doing schoolwork and your room isn’t chaos, you’re almost definitely getting called back.

Classroom management skills are essential for the schools I’ve worked in. If you’re not naturally good with names, figure out a method for learning them as quickly as possible because kids are 1000% more likely to do what you ask if you address them by their name. Come up with a points or reward system to have in your back pocket. Those kinds of motivators are somewhat controversial in education when used regularly, but $5 worth of cheap prizes can save you when you’re thrown into a tough class as a sub.

Good luck!
posted by horizons at 5:23 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]

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