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What Are the Duties of a Substitute Teacher Inside the Classroom?

Even if you love teaching, nothing comes close to standing in for another teacher. Long gone are the days when substitute teachers were considered hired babysitters. Today, schools are keen on taking up substitutes with proper educational qualifications, and more importantly, the ability to adapt to different environments and diverse responsibilities. Here are the typical duties you can expect to take on as a substitute teacher.

Instructing and directing the learning experience

A substitute teacher is required to carry out the lesson plan instructions left by the regular teacher. In case of a planned emergency, the regular teacher will leave the lesson plan on the desk with instructions on how to conduct each class. In special circumstances, for example when the regular teacher does not leave a lesson plan, or is gone for a long time, the substitute instructor is required to consult with the school’s principal before teaching their own content or distributing their own study materials such as handouts, puzzles or instructional videos.

Maintain positive student behavior

Substitute teachers must be prepared to encounter deviant behavior from students. In the absence of their regular teacher, students may be unusually talkative, rowdy and downright destructive. Most school districts prohibit teachers from physically punishing students or verbally attacking them. Follow the discipline procedures outlined in the school’s Handbook for Substitute Teachers. If the school doesSchool not have one, prepare ahead by charting out your own rules and expectations for the classroom, and the consequences of misbehavior. It is also helpful to consult the principal in case of extreme discipline issues such as fighting in class.

Keeping the classroom safe and orderly

At the end of each school day, the substitute instructor must ensure that everything in the classroom is left in order. This entails enlisting the student’s help to organize the desks and chairs, cleaning up the classroom and arranging the study tools ready for the next day. Substitute teachers also have the duty to ensure safety in the classroom by carefully guiding experiments, and making sure that younger students are safely using their toys, tools and kits.

Recording student attendance

Each day, a substitute teacher is required to account for students’ attendance and to submit these records to the principal. However, substitutes are not allowed to grant permission for a student to take a day off or to leave school before the official dismissal time. The school’s administration is responsible for following up in case a student is consecutively absent.

Monitor and record student’s performance

Although substitutes do not typically teach their own lessons, they can grade students’ work, including presentations, experiments, research work, and tests. Grading student’s work is usually acceptable in long-term subbing and may be unnecessary when the regular teacher is away for just a couple of days. It is also important to monitor, record, and write a report on students’ behavioral performance. The report, which will be presented to the regular teacher, should list down students who were at their good behavior and those who were constantly deviant.


While subbing may not be easy, you can still be successful whether you are standing in for a short while or for the long-term. Setting a cheery and confident tone at the start of a new class is a great foundation to ensure that students make a smooth transition and cooperate with you.

Image Source: wiseGEEK

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