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Being a substitute teacher can be very rewarding, but it’s also nerve-wracking if you’ve never done it before. If you’re unsure whether becoming a substitute teacher and returning to the classroom is a good fit for you or not, this may help ease your decision-making process. Mike Nevels, a substitute with Morgan Hunter Education shares his insight on what it’s like to work as a substitute teacher for elementary-aged students.  


I recently retired after 35 years of working in corporate AmericaDuring my career, I always felt like I was working for “me.” Now, I work as an MHED substitute teacher, which allows me to work for others. One of the best parts about this role is that I can help shape the lives of the next generation while maintaining the flexible hours I need. Elementary students are very impressionable, and when I work with the students anthey begin to understand math or have a lightbulb moment with a science project, for example, it makes it all worth it. 

How to start your day

Your day as a substitute teacher can begin in various ways. For me, it is returning to New York Elementary as a “building substitute.” This means I am always on hand for the teachers at that particular school if they need me. If I am assigned to a New York Elementary classroom, I typically know ahead of time. If I am not needed in that building, Morgan Hunter Education will send me a request to fill in at another school. If you are not a building substitute, you will receive your assignment from Morgen Hunter each day

What to do when you arrive to the school

If I am going to be at New York Elementary, I plan to arrive to the school every day by 7:15 a.m. This gives me enough time to get acquainted with the classroom and lesson plans I will need to follow for the day. If I am responding to a morning request for a different school, I plan to arrive to the school as early as possible to make sure I understand the school’s landscape and have enough time to set up my computer and review lesson plans.  

A great way to break the ice at the start of your day is to interact with staff and students as they enter school for the day. This gives you time to talk to the staff and better understand potential student needs for the day. I also like to help greet students as they enter the school to make sure they have what they need to start the school day. Doing this gives me an opportunity to bond with the students at the start of the day.  

How to connect with elementary-aged students

Building a rapport with students you’ve never met before can be challenging. Students don’t always like change. To combat any doubts from students at the start of the day I try to first bring a positive attitude and set the expectation that “we” are planning to have a good day. I also make sure they know my name and can see that I am learning their names. Students really care if teacher or substitute knows their name. I also make sure they know my ”favorite” subject is recessthat quickly aligns me with almost every student. If you’re worried about connecting with the students, these small gestures can go a long way.  

What to keep track of during the day

It’s important to try to follow the lesson plan the teacher left for you as closely as possible. I recommend taking notes each period outlining what portions of the lesson plan you were able to cover and how well the students understood the assignments. It’s also important to note the students’ behavior throughout the day. I recommend leaving a note on the teacher’s desk with a summary of how the students behaved throughout the day as well.   

How to wrap up your day as a substitute teacher

Each substitute finishes their day differently. I prefer to help with any classroom tasks, like straightening up the classroom, cleaning and sanitizing desks, and helping other staff members with the end-of-day release. These small tasks will go a long way with the staff at each school and could be the reason you’re called back to help in the future.  

Interested in becoming a substitute teacher?  

If you don’t have previous teaching experience, Morgan Hunter Education will walk you through the process to become a certified substitute teacher in both Missouri and Kansas. Contact our team at Morgan Hunter Education today to get started.

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