Substitute teachers are often thrown into the classroom after receiving little or no training. Therefore, it’s up to the sub to pull things together. I highly recommend that you enlist allies as soon as possible.
When you check into the school, greet the secretaries and other grown-ups in the office. Most likely it will be teachers and instructional aides. Tell them which teacher you are subbing for. If they offer help, take it.
Once you get to the classroom, find the lesson plans as quickly as you can. If you can’t find them, talk to neighboring teachers. They can help you search. If this doesn’t yield fruit, contact the front office.
If it’s close to start time, don’t read the lesson plan all the way through. Just glance at the warnings, allergy notices, etc, and first hour or so. Then go make friends!
Your time is far better spent talking to neighboring teachers. The next door neighbors and across-the-hall teachers can explain little things at any point during the day. They are a good first line of defense against unruly children or unexpected problems.
Accept the help of anyone who offers to check on you. Remember that teachers and administrators know that children are sometimes naughty for substitute teachers. Don’t feel like they will think less of you if you ask for help. In most districts, there are not enough substitutes to go around, so they want you to do well. Turn the tables: tell students that they will be receiving random inspections throughout the day.
You might find allies among your students, but be careful. That first child who offers you lots of advice is quite possibly the class snitch. This child will not do much to help your relationship with the other students. I recommend getting some advice from quiet-but-not-busybody children, and trying to enlist the cooperation of students who seem like they could get squirrely. Often if you can direct that energy into something positive, the child will be quite helpful.
Good luck! When subbing for elementary school, if all else fails, read them a story…or two…or three…
Other ClassAntics posts on substitute teaching:
How to build emergency sub plans
Benefits of being a substitute teacher