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Getting Past the Substitute Struggles

No matter their profession, everyone has those days when they feel like they’re ready to throw in the towel and give up. This can be especially true to substitute teachers and paraprofessionals who experience a few difficulties unique to their jobs. From waking up early to grab open positions to wrangling children who view substitute days as an excuse to act out, the struggle is real.

Maybe everything has gone wrong all day, or you’ve had one bad experience that you can’t manage to shake off. But that doesn’t mean you should give up. As one substitute teacher, Megan Cina-Bernard says, “One bad experience, however horrific, does not define my teaching ability.”

For days when you need a little help seeing the bright side of life, we’re here to help. Here are Insight’s best tips for making it through the storm.

Discover a change of scenery:

One of the best parts about being a substitute teacher is the flexibility it affords, so take advantage of that! As long as you’re not cancelling assignments, take a day or two off to relax and refresh.

A change of scenery can also mean switching up the school, grade level, or subject that you’re teaching. If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, take assignments you wouldn’t normally take. Even if you don’t see yourself covering those subjects or classes long-term, it can be a refreshing experience to step out of your comfort zone for one day and learn something new!

Build your confidence:

If you’re just starting out as a substitute teacher, you may not be completely comfortable in your routine or in front of your classroom. The best way to become more confident in your skills and teaching ability is to practice and prepare. Dive in and take as many assignments as you can. Don’t overwhelm yourself, but practice enough that the routine becomes as natural to you as breathing.

And be prepared! Pack a go-bag that has all the teaching essentials in it: pencils, post-its, a book, band aids, etc. Practice greeting the class in the morning in front of your mirror. Buy a planner that keeps track of your schedule in a clear and helpful manner. Read our blog on the Five Most Common Tips for Being a Successful Guest Teacher! Like your students, you’ll feel much more confident and happy with your performance knowing that you’ve done your homework.

Get to know your students better:

If you’re not connecting with your students, it can be more difficult to hold their attention or get any sense of enjoyment or value out of the situation. When you listen to your students and understand them better, the rough patches in the classroom become easier to deal with, and you can lead the class through the lesson plan more efficiently.

Take time to sit with the troublemakers and see the world from their perspective. Be encouraging with shy and quiet students. Take up a coaching position for the local little league team and witness students’ personalities outside of school. You may only be in the classroom a short time, but the relationships you build with your students are going to make the experience worthwhile.

Visit your happy place:

Basically, do what you need to do to de-stress. Whether it’s practicing your morning yoga and meditation, taking the weekends to join a community soccer team, or even booking an anger room for a few hours, you know what’s best for you.

One guaranteed way to put a smile on most anyone’s face is to watch cute animal videos. Sometimes watching a puppy chase its tail or a cat test gravity (and their owner’s patience) is just the thing you need to feel relaxed and good about the world. When you’re happy and refreshed, you’re able to perform better, and you’ll enjoy the work more.

Find your support system and ask for help:

Reach out to your friends and family when you’re having a bad day. Sometimes a good vent session can be the perfect de-stressor. Just remember to return the favor!

Another great source of help is other teachers and administrators. Take opportunities to learn from fellow teachers about what strategies and tactics they use every day to run their classes. Ask the office staff if you aren’t sure where the teachers’ lounge or cafeteria is. In addition to getting the help you need, you’ll also be building important relationships with people who can influence whether you’re asked back or not.

We’re here to help, too. At Insight, we understand how frustrating life can be, and we strive to make the more difficult parts of your job as easy as possible. Our recruiting team will support you in getting all your certifications in order so that you begin teaching, and our Call Service Center is available from 6AM to 9PM to help you book the best opportunities for your schedule and preferences.

Give us a call at (856) 406-6015 or email for help in taking your next steps.