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Showing Your Substitutes Where to Park (and Why It Really Matters)

Teacher Absences & Subs

We’ve all had those days when we walked into unfamiliar situations: the first day in a new school, that first middle school dance, a job at a new company. If we were lucky, some caring individual came alongside us to help us get our footing.

Your substitute teachers face similar situations nearly every day. An unfamiliar building, locked doors, technology that they haven’t been trained how to use — not only are these frustrating and demoralizing for substitutes, they also make it really difficult to be effective.

I’ve spoken before about connecting substitutes to your mission and vision, recognizing them as educators and welcoming them into your community. But sometimes, running an effective substitute program simply means taking some concrete steps to create an environment that equips them for success.

What might this look like? Mostly, these steps are common sense — but perhaps they’re easy to overlook. You may want to add your own, but here are a few of the most important:

Help your substitutes find their way around

Provide a map to the school. And a map of the school. Let them know the best place to park, what entrance to use and where they should go when they first arrive in the morning. Explain the rules that students are expected to follow. Make sure they understand the way the school day is structured.

Provide well-developed lesson plans

Substitutes want to work with students — they’re educators, after all. Lesson plans will prepare them to step in and continue instruction, rather than trying to figure out how to best utilize class time.

Train substitutes on the classroom environment

Classrooms in many schools continue to become more and more high-tech. Microphones, interactive white boards and other technology can be powerful aids to learning, but only if the teacher knows how to use them.

Some schools put together welcome kits, including everything a substitute will need: a map, parking instructions, a bell schedule, where and when to show up in the morning, an ID badge — anything that could be helpful during the day. And while districts can save quite a bit of time offering state-required compliance and safety training through on-demand, online courses, some schools complement that training with on-site events to give substitutes the lay of the land. Some even conduct training within a model classroom, so that substitutes can get hands-on experience with where things are and how to operate the technology.

What’s in it for you?

Equipping substitutes to work in your building or district doesn’t just make their jobs easier and more enjoyable — it benefits you as well! Here are just three reasons why you should invest the time to do this well.

Prevent lost instruction time

You want substitutes to stand in the gap while the teacher is out, ensuring that learning continues with as little interruption as possible. Any time a substitute spends figuring out processes is time not spent working with students.

Support effective classroom management

What’s the most demanding part of a substitute’s job? The need to build rapport and connect with a classroom of students they don’t know. Establishing that connection quickly and taking control of the classroom isn’t easy for anyone, much less someone who is new to a group of students. If a substitute spends the first five minutes trying to figure out how to turn on a microphone or figure out what’s going on with the lesson, it makes classroom management that much harder.

Promote school safety

Imagine a situation where a substitute needs to act to ensure student safety — do they have adequate knowledge of fire exits, emergency drills and other safety procedures? Do they know if certain doors are locked at certain times of the day? If a substitute must move quickly, they’ll need to know what procedures to follow.

Training like this helps everyone come out ahead: your substitutes, your students and your district as a whole. And because having this information — or not — can make or break someone’s day, it’ll also make your schools that much more appealing to substitutes as you seek to draw more highly qualified educators into your district.

The benefits of giving your substitutes the knowledge to effectively navigate their work environment vastly outweigh the effort it takes.

Cydney Miller

Cydney is a Solutions Consulting Manager for Frontline Education, a leading provider of K-12 employee management software. Cydney most recently served as the HR Director at Clarksville-Montgomery County School System in Tennessee. She is committed to supporting school districts with their strategic human capital managementn needs, including staffing, HR and substitute fulfillment.