From a Former Substitute Teacher to a Future (Sub) Teacher

When I first started my substitute teacher journey I knew that at some point (sooner rather than later) it would come to an end and I'd have a lot to share. From experiences to lessons learned, I definitely gained a lot of insight.

Never in my life would I have thought that I'd be a substitute teacher, let alone right after I graduated college. I must admit that it was hard for me to accept. I mean, it's not like I was forced to take on this job but it was honestly my best (and seemingly only) option at the time.

Accepting my first substitute assignment was nerve-racking too! Like... what if I got mistaken for a student (which I pretty much always was, even in middle schools)? Or what if the students don't take me seriously and are mean (there were a few incidents)? What if the teacher left no lesson plans and I had to improvise (which did happen)?! I'm certified to take on grades k-12 so... I had options. My very first day, I subbed for a senior language arts class at a high school. That was awkward... but not bad!

I'm honestly so proud of myself for taking on this position and doing it like a champ! This definitely isn't a job anybody can take on and when you do, you realize there's so much more to it than the stereotype of walking in and "babysitting" - unless you care less about getting something done.

Now that this chapter of my life is coming to a close, I figured I'd share a few things that may perhaps be of use to someone else. Whether you plan on being a sub teacher, a full-on teacher, or even just working with the youth in any way, you might find some of this valuable.

Random Things You Need

  • A Whistle

  • Extra Pencils

  • A Sharpener 

  • A Good Pen

  • Sticky Notes

  • A Watch

  • Bandaids (yes, even for the older ones)

  • Hand Sanitizer

  • Tissue Paper

  • An Emergency Lesson Plan

  • Your Good Cop, Bad Cop Persona

Random Things I Learned

Nice but Strict

When I first started working this job, people kept asking me if I was the "cool sub" and I'll never forget the day I heard one of my prior students tell someone, "Oh, you have Miss Valencia?! She's really nice but she can be strict." At that very moment I felt like I succeeded. My reputation as a sub was exactly how I wanted. Let's be real though, it took a bit for me to get a hang of what parts of my character traits to use and which ones to push aside. You can't be too nice because either you'll get taken advantage of or you will have gotten no work done. You can't be too mean either, though, because then your job will be no fun.

Don't Sweat It

For a while I would sweat the littlest things as if I was going to be with these particular group of students for a whole school year. Now, I'm not saying be careless because you may only have them for a day but what I am saying is don't go crazy if things don't go as planned. There will be days where the whole class is having an off day and you'll end up spending more time on figuring the students out and less on getting every single thing in lesson plan done. At the end of the day, what the teacher you're covering for cares about most is that her students are in good hands. 

Be Prepared

Mentally and physically. Be prepared mentally for whatever energy the classroom may carry for the day. Be prepared physically to be as productive as you can be and have a back up plan just in case things don't work out. There have been times where the teacher either left no lesson plan at all or left something absolutely confusing that I ended up improvising anyways. Whatever the case may be, be prepared.


Believe it or not, there are many ways you can be productive in a day with or without lesson plans. In my opinion, just because you're a sub doesn't mean the students have a free day - with or without the lesson plans to guide you. I remember once I had absolutely zero plans for the day and I had to think of something quick. So I thought, what do I love to do and what can I lead a lesson on? Journaling and self-love. Perfect! So we spent the day defining kindness and creating an open discussion around that topic. That day was full of conversations, student involvement, presentation practice, prompts, web charts... the whole shebang!

It was a good day.


I didn't know what to expect but one extremely pleasant surprise was how fulfilling being a substitute teacher can actually be. I lowkey felt like a superhero saving the day, one classroom at a time. Teachers and school staff were so appreciative of me being there to help. And when they love you, they'll keep asking you to come back. In return, you start to form these bonds with certain schools and teachers and by the time you know it, all the students know who you are. It's so rewarding! Never would I have imagined being so popular in middle school (laughs).


Working in this field of education you realize so much. You realize how teachers truly deserve the world. You realize how troubled our youth can be. You realize how everything starts in the household (in regards to child behavior). You realize how much schools are in dire need of more funding. You realize how gratifying it is to teach. And I realized I was the youngest substitute teacher known to mankind (well, that's what it felt like).

I literally worked with students k-12, of all subjects and backgrounds. So, if you need advice or help on a certain age group that you will work with (or are working with) feel free to reach out! I know exactly what kind of things you will be dealing with, what situations may arise, and what lesson plans would be good for that specific age group (and even, what personality you will need to use)!