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Subs Send SOS: Internet Resources to the Rescue!


Your students fire torpedoes; your ammunition is low. Because you're a "sub" -- a substitute teacher -- you assume command as captain of a vessel for only a short term. It's understandable that your crew may doubt your authority, may test you, may even speak of mutiny. Don't lock them up in the brig! Look to the Internet for the tools you need to lead your crew to calm waters. Smooth sailing lies ahead! Included: Tips for finding that full-time job and "life preservers to rescue sinking subs."

Substitute Teacher SOS As a substitute teacher for two years, Philip Hess of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, learned a great deal -- not only how to survive but also how to succeed in his temporary assignments.

Hoping his role as a substitute would open the door to a full-time teaching position, Hess took his responsibilities as the teacher-of-the-day seriously. In his "spare" time, he created Phil's Place, a resource of teaching information on the Internet.

On venturing out for a day of work, every substitute teacher should have some "ammunition." What should be on the list? "Extra pencils," recommended Hess. "Stop by or order from a teacher store a supply of books with activity sheets in each grade. Photocopy those and use them if there are no lesson plans or if you need to fill time. Also have a notebook to leave a note for the regular teacher. It's important to always leave a note."

Hess also offered three rules for a successful teaching day. "First, arrive early, if at all possible," he said. "Second, treat the secretary and custodial staff with respect and kindness. Third, wear comfortable shoes and clothing." Any substitute who has gotten a call at 8:45 a.m., breezed through the office to grab a key to a classroom, and taught gym in a suit and dress shoes appreciates the wisdom of those words!


Hess has had a few "memorable moments" in his substituting career. "The first one was when I was reading an Arthur book to a group of second graders," he recounted. "The principal watched, in awe, at their rapt attention. Later that day he asked the students how I was doing. They said, 'Awesome!' Thanks, kids, no homework tonight!

"Another was when I was in a learning-support classroom with a blind child. He was a very delightful young man. We went to the computer lab to write on the topic Something I Wish For. When he was done, he asked me to read what he had written. (He used a large Braille keyboard.) He said, 'I hope it doesn't make you sad.' He had wished for his eyesight back; he lost it while in kindergarten. That was about three years earlier."

The greatest difficulty Hess had to overcome -- particularly with students -- was the common belief that a sub is not a real teacher. "I overcame that by being more assertive with the students and outlining my expectations during homeroom," explained Hess. "Students will respect you if you respect them and let them know up front that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated."


Few educators would refer to substitute teaching as a "dream job," but there are some positives. Some parents and retirees choose substituting because it offers some choice in scheduling. New teachers use substituting as a way of "getting their feet wet" and to make a little money as they start out -- and it usually is only a little money! In addition, substituting enables teachers to experience various grades and subjects so they might find the situation that suits them best.

Whatever one's reason for substitute teaching, all subs need to be well prepared as they drop anchor in different classrooms each day. Many substitutes find that a little surfing -- the Internet kind -- can help them navigate the uncharted, often rough, waters of substitute teaching. Internet resources offer countless tips and tricks for novice and experienced sailors. The following Web coordinates provide some of the best resources available.


Melissa's Myriad has an abundance of Tips for Substitute Teachers. These ideas come from Melissa's personal experience as a substitute teacher. As a unique, straightforward method of gaining control of the class right off the bat, Melissa recommends bringing a poster with at least five classroom rules for the day. As students enter the room, they will inevitably read the poster and ask about it. Go over the list first thing in the morning and explain the punishments you will hand down if rules are broken. If you like this idea, check out the "myriad" of advice from Melissa!

Have you ever wished there was a how-to book for substitute teaching? Now there is, and you don't have to buy it -- it is on the Web! Substitute Teaching: Tricks of the Trade by Mr. Sturgeon, substitute teacher, is a wonderful collection of insights, advice, and information. Chapters of this on-line book deal with what to do before class begins, how to respond to the person who calls you for substitute work, and what you can do after class to make you a real hero with the regular classroom teacher. One method of gaining and keeping good discipline that is suggested by the book is to grant a special privilege in exchange for good behavior and cooperation. The treat could be playing the radio, working together, or moving to another seat.

Experienced and new substitute teachers will find something to pull out of The Guest Teacher's Bag of Goodies. The site includes links for substitute teachers and a terrific collection of ideas to have handy when there isn't enough to keep little hands busy. One of her golden behavior-management ideas is to call students by their names. How do you do that when you have only just met? Bring a stack of nametags with you, and fill them out before class. Your students, especially elementary, will adore these special tags for what will be a fun day with their "guest" teacher!


Once teachers have student teaching and some substitute teaching behind them, they often look for a means of proving their skill, quantifying their accomplishments, and "selling themselves." Many choose to express their qualifications in a portfolio. The portfolio is an opportunity to highlight an educator's experience and strengths. Many include samples of comments from former students, pictures of activities and classroom dcor, and letters of recommendation. Creating the Ultimate Teaching/Interview Portfolio will help you put together a fabulous showing of your work to share with administrators during interviews. This handbook even recommends that you print in your portfolio screen shots and descriptions with the URLs of any Web sites you have created.

Finally, find your dream job at our own Education World Career Center. The site offers you the oportunity to sign up for our free jobs newsletter containing information about opportunities as they are submitted. Potential employers across the nation and abroad are using the Internet to connect with wired educators who possess skills like yours!