Top Five Substitute Teaching Tips For the Successful Teacher Interview

Here’s a question via Twitter from our EDU Edge friend Brittani (@brittanilynne), an aspiring teacher who is substitute teaching and preparing for the teacher interview process.

“What are some tips for substitutes to help them land a full time teaching job?”

Brittani – Thanks for contacting the EDU Edge.  First of all, congratulations on taking the right step to eventual success in landing a teaching job: substitute teaching. Our consortium of administrators has varying opinions from time to time, but one thing they are unanimous about is the need to serve as a substitute, temporary teacher, or teacher assistant if you do not get a teaching job immediately after earning your degree or if you experience a reduction in force at your school. We cannot stress enough how valuable it is to stay connected to education while you await a full time/tenure track teaching position.  If you have any doubt, The Insider’s Guide to The Teacher Interview ©2012 provides an extensive explanation of exactly why it is such an advantage to take these positions over jobs outside of education that may offer more pay or day-to-day predictability in the short term.  But for now, we’ll give you five solid tips of how to make your substitute teaching experience result in successfully landing a teacher interview and job:

1. See everyday as an interview: When you are subbing, every day and every single thing you do is an interview. Be sure you dress the part and do everything to put your best foot forward at every moment. You will be watched constantly to see how you respond to difficult situations, the effort and attention to detail you put into even the most routine of tasks.  Subbing is more than paying the bills and making connections.  It is about making an impression that will be positive and memorable to those who may eventually influence whether you are contacted or successful at a teacher interviw.  In many cases, you are going to have to show greater self-discipline, motivation and professionalism that veteran teachers. 

2. Become indispensable: School administrators and teachers find themselves under a crush of expectations from society that is stretching them thin.  A person who is ready and willing to take even one worry off their plate will be noted as someone they eventually want on their team or are willing to refer to another school that has an opening.  Being flexible and demonstrating a willingness to go above and beyond can help your personal goal of securing full-time employment.  If you are assigned a change of schedule or extra assignment at the last minute, respond with confidence and an eager attitude.  If you have free periods, check in with the administrator or coordinator who arranges subs for the school to see if they need help.  Offer to assist department members with serving on scoring teams if you are properly certified and the district allows this.  Stop down to the tutoring center and offer to assist.  Extra hands are always needed for school clubs and trips, if you are a regular substitute at the building, offer to assist in any way possible.

3. Get to know the department chair and the other teachers in your discipline:  It goes without saying that school administrators often make final decisions on who gets interviews and who gets hired.  They can also use their administrative networking to assist you with openings at other schools/school districts.  However, the teachers in the schools often know when a job is going to become available long before anyone else (ex: retirements, relocation, maternity leaves).  If the teachers in the department already know and like you, they lobby for you to get an interview. Next, who makes up the interview committees? Those same teachers. In that role, they again wind up lobbying for you to get the position. In the short term, these teachers also make requests for who they want to sub for them.  If they like the work that you do for them, it can lead to you being called back to the school to sub or serve as a long term sub in your content area on a regular basis. In teaching, being a familiar face is a plus on your side.

4. Be kind and helpful to EVERYONE: We hope your mama brought you up right and you inherently want to do this, but even those with good mamas can slip.  Don’t get caught in the trap of just being a good person when it comes to administrators or fellow teachers.  Hiring committees are often comprised of a full range of stakeholders from parents, to students to additional staff.  In addition, those making the decisions on hiring form their impression of you from sources well beyond you!  Custodians, secretaries, students and teacher assistants will all make mention of what they think of you at some point.  It may seem unfair, but a simple mention by a trusted secretary to a school administrator or even a troubled student in the discipline office about your level of courtesy, effort or care for a child can sink your opportunities for a teacher interview or reference from a school administrator for an opening in another school.

5. Do not get discouraged: The life of a substitute often differs from that of a full-time teaching position. You have to remember that sub placements will not mirror an actual teaching position. Students and colleagues view and respond to you differently. From our experience, individuals sometimes become discouraged as a result. Do not become frustrated by mistaking the substitute experience with that of a permanent, full-time teaching position.  If you can get your foot in the door, you will eventually establish credibility with your regular students, colleagues and parents.  You will arrive at a greater level of day-to-day stability, understanding exactly what your job entails and will be a trusted member of the school community.

Good luck to you Brittani!  Good luck to all of you following The EDU Edge.  Please come back and let us know how you make out so we can all learn together. 

Yours in a Partnership in Learning,
The EDU Edge

(Please feel free to contact us with additional questions … we’re on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and you can email us at  Tell us what interview obstacles you’re dealing with and trying to overcome.  We’ll do our best to respond and try our best to help you.)

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