10 Best Substitute Teacher Principles for Successful Classroom management


Great substitute teachers must be dynamic classroom managers. In the little time they spend with students, great substitute teachers  do not hesitate to  take full advantage of the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the learners under their watch. However, becoming great in substitute teacher doesn’t happen overnight. Certain principles must be embraced and cannot be compromised if an individual is going to master the essence of classroom management. These principles will make any reserve teacher stand out from the crowd.


When a substitute teacher walks into a classroom he or she must discover what has to be accomplished within a short period of time.  Usually, instructions are left on the teacher’s desk or a kidney table at the back of the room.  Nevertheless, you must be competent enough to follow the lesson plan and provide a quality learning experience for all students.

If you encounter a problem, you can ask grade level team members for information or advice, but you are ultimately in charge of teaching and managing the classroom.

For new substitutes, the best advice is to thoroughly read the lesson plan to get an overall idea of all instructional tasks and activities for the day. Mistakes will happen but learn from these and move forward. You will get better with time, experience and determination to master Classroom management.


Sometimes your dedication to the lesson plans may not go as planned. Maybe you can’t quite understand the teacher’s instruction or the computer password supplied isn’t working. Don’t panic because this is where creativity comes in. Go back into “Once upon a time” and grab some of those old teaching methods you have learned over the course of your teaching experience.


In fact, if you have been in the education industry for a while, you may have no problem coming up with a different approach to a subject.

substitue teaching

However, if you are new to substitute teaching, you may have to learn how to apply emergency activities when teachers screw up on lesson plans or forget them altogether. If you have no idea of what to do in such cases, you can purchase substitute lesson planning books online or in a bookstore.

The ability to be creative in the classroom is an asset. You don’t want the students to sense any uncertainty as to what to do. This could result in a very unpleasant school day, resulting in confusion and chaos.

A Sense of Ownership

When you walk into the classroom you are in charge, not the regular teacher. Although you must follow the lesson plans (sometimes), you own the day and the activities associated with it. Having a sense of ownership puts you in the seat of authority, not the students.

Either you will own the classroom or the students will own the classroom. The choice is yours. 9 times out of 10, you know what happens when students feel that they are in charge.

A classroom will sense where you stand and know whether or not you have adopted the mentality of ownership. The authority and certainty within your voice will indicate strength or weakness when it comes to effectively managing a classroom.

Character Development

It is a shame that the majority of school districts refuse to make character education a part of the curriculum during the duration of a child’s elementary education. The concentration on absolute coverage for standardized testing has eliminated the time for implementing such extraordinary programs.

Sure, individual teachers or schools may causally insert character education projects in their individual lesson plans but are unable to touch the depths of this character education. It takes time and effort to develop good character within children.

So many teachers are leaving the profession because teachings a classroom is becoming increasingly dangerous due to gross disrespect and assault on educators. Toxic behavior in the classroom must be drastically curved if the industry is to remain attractive to individuals who are might consider pursuing a career in teaching.

substitute teaching

As a substitute teacher who care about character development, you must become sensitive to every teachable moment possible. Even if you have to stop in the middle of lesson delivery to establish an important point about character, do it. What good is academic knowledge, when students don’t have the character to appreciate it?

You have an opportunity to instill truths within a child regarding the human condition whenever classroom situations call for such critical ideas.

Handling Mockery

Substitute teachers cannot be sensitive. Many students in a classroom may not like your method of delivering and constantly point out where you and the regular teaching differ. Some may go as far as questioning your ability to teach.

Students do this for various reasons. I have taught in classes in which students don’t like substitutes at all. Such students will have the goal of making your day as uncomfortable as possible. You might hear, (through the grapevine) all types of unpleasant things said about you.

Others may blatantly call you a “Fake Teacher.” But you must be wise enough to look beyond such nonsense and teach the class with enthusiasm, focusing on those students who desire to learn.

Sooner or later, after you have been substituting for a while, such criticism or mockery will fail to move you at all.


Approach every substitute assignment with an attitude of enthusiasm. If you do, you won’t regret it when you understand the results of the opposite.

Attitude is a powerful force. When a substitute enters a classroom with a poor attitude, he or she can be certain that the day will suck. Your thoughts are the substance of the reality you experience each day. All Classroom activities, routines, as well as the student habits and behavior will reflect you’re this poor attitude.

substitute teaching


A poor attitude includes anger, fear, frustration, reluctance and lack of motivation to welcome and greet students at the start of the day. Such outlook on your day will create outer manifestations of chaos and confusion that will continually increase.

If you sense that your attitude isn’t right, correct this before walking into the classroom. Listen to your favorite music, read an inspirational poem, or use your imagination to create exactly how you want your day to go.

Problem Solver

All substitute teachers must be problem solvers. You just can’t manage a class effectively if you can’t confront and solve the multitude of problems that will occur during the course of the day. Problems with comprehending the lesson plan, discipline Insubordinate students, controlling chaotic transitions, keeping students on task, accurate lesson coverage and delivery, and making sure students are where they need to be are critical for successful classroom management.

If you hate problems and go out of your way to avoid them, then substitute teaching is certainly not for you.

However, a love for children and a commitment to make a difference with their lives will open your heart to the challenge of solving problems associated with teaching them.

substitute teaching


Every substitute teaching needs to create a sense of approachability. Exhibiting a demeanor of iron authority will embolden some students to challenge you and intimidate others into avoiding you. But as a lover of children, you don’t want to create such an image.

You want to experience the full expression of students you are assigned to teach.

You want students to learn special things from you. The goal is to touch the hearts of as many children as possible. However, if students are reluctant to approach you, they will hide their inner selves and view you more as a threat to their freedom to question and learn from you.

Creating an atmosphere of approachability is not about opening up an opportunity for students to disrespect you. Keep firmness strong. An attitude of firmness is a critical success factor in teaching that cannot be compromised. But an authoritarian approach to teaching is counterproductive.

Student Engagement

The ability to engage students in the lesson plan is a dynamic strategy for transforming a boring classroom into an atmosphere of interest and excitement. Many substitute teachers overlook the fact that student-focus is not what it used to be. Each year as technology advances and temptations outside of school increases, the battle for student attention is fierce.

Many students may be physically in the classroom and quiet as well. However, their mind is someplace else. By engaging students, you, as a substitute teacher, can bring them into the present moment.

Heck! Some of the best students will get restless just sitting and watching you teach.

Therefore, you must be creative. Invite students up to the board to solve math problems or to work out a solution to a story. Allow a student to read a few chapters out of a novel during “Read Aloud” instead of always taking the helm yourself. Studies show that students are more likely to be more attentive to their peers than they do when an adult is teaching.

substitute teaching

Your goal, as a substitute teaching, should be to put as much joy and fun in a day as possible. The more you do that, the more memorable you will become to a particular class of students.

Personal Teaching Philosophy

Every substitute teacher needs to develop a secret philosophy on how to effectively teach and manage a classroom. I cannot tell you how to obtain such mysterious philosophy. Whether you call it illumination or revelation, your secret philosophy should have a spiritualty essence to it.

To deal with any individual, whether a student or an adult, is to deal with spirits and souls. The ability to reach deeply into the hearts of children and understand their souls is a godsend for teachers who have obtained such enlightenment. Changing spirits and souls changes minds and hearts.

Superior teaching goes beyond the natural.

Your secret philosophy may be to infuse joy and gladness in your classroom each day. Another teacher’s secret may be to create a consciousness of peace and unity within her students over the course of the school year.

substitute teaching

Whatever you secret philosophy, never forget that all things are possible. Believe in miracles. Your most challenging students can become totally different people by the end of a school you

I am a witness. My secret philosophy has transformed the atmosphere of entire classrooms as well as some of the most challenging students. The faith that all things are possible has been the key to my approach to both regular and substitute teaching.

A substitute teacher’s ability to help transform the lives of students is a unique opportunity that should be taken full advantage of. He or she may never see the student again, but what is said regarding academics, character, and life will live in the heart, mind, and soul of a child forever. The daily classroom application of the above principles will inspire a sense of fulfillment any reserve teaching can be proud of.