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Experienced Substitute Teacher Duties and Skills

Substitute teachers are often called upon at a moment’s notice to take over the duties and responsibilities of a full-time teacher. These individuals work with children of all ages—elementary, junior high, high school and sometimes even college students—in order to ensure that their educations are not interrupted when their normal teachers are unable to be present.

Substitute Teacher Duties and Responsibilities

Because a substitute teacher must be ready to replace any teacher at a moment’s notice—either for a day or for an entire semester—they must be very versatile. Some of the specific substitute teacher duties are:

Following School Procedures

The substitute teacher must be ready and able to follow all of the procedures set forth by the school system and sometimes even by the teacher. This means that the substitute will need to commit to their assignments, follow the lesson plans set forth by the absent teachers and follow school handbooks.

Ensure the Health and Safety of Students and Faculty

Substitute teachers are required to learn and implement school emergency procedures when necessary, such as in the event of a fire, tornado or earthquake. They will need to manage the behavior of students and ensure that it is conducive to safety and security, and they will need to immediately seek assistance for any student, teacher or other faculty member that has been injured.

Comply with the Law

Most states have laws that dictate what substitute teachers can and cannot do in regard to interacting with students and activities that can or cannot take place on school property. For example, laws prohibit the possession of alcohol or drugs on school property, the strip searching of students and any form of physical punishment with the exception of corporal punishment that has been previously authorized by a parent in some locations.

Controlling and Instructing the Classroom

Above all else, the substitute must be able to maintain control in the classroom while providing instruction that is conducive to the education of the students. They must be able to build rapport with the students, be a disciplinarian when necessary, assign appropriate homework, execute tests according to procedure and remain patient and fair with the students at all times.

Skills Required of Substitute Teachers

In order for substitute teachers to do their jobs effectively, they must have certain skills. Some of the substitute teacher skills that will benefit the students the most include:


Substitute teachers are often put into difficult situations and may face a brand new group of unfamiliar students day after day. Because of this, these individuals need to be flexible to the needs of not only the students, but also to the faculty and staff at the school.

Sense of Humor

Students are known for giving substitute teachers a hard time, so being able to develop and maintain a sense of humor can be incredibly helpful. This will help the substitute build a rapport with the children and earn their respect very quickly.

Be Preemptive

A substitute teacher should always ask plenty of questions when subbing at a new school for the first time. By asking where the principal’s office is located, how mealtimes are handled, how behavioral issues should be addressed and even asking about emergency procedures in advance, substitute teachers are showing initiative.

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