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Why all teachers should start as substitutes


Starting a career in education can be both exciting and challenging, especially for new teachers. While many aspiring educators aim to secure a full-time teaching position right away, there are several compelling reasons why starting out as a substitute teacher can lay the groundwork for long-term success.

In this article, we’ll explore six key reasons why all new teachers should consider beginning their teaching journey as substitutes and why substitute teaching is a viable alternative to other programs that provide entry points into teaching like Teach for America and City Year.

Children running the halls of a school

Chapter 1

Discover your passions

One of the challenges of being a new teacher is determining where and what you want to teach and committing to a job before you have the answers to those questions. Do you prefer a metropolitan area or a smaller suburban district? If you are an elementary school teacher, do you want to teach first graders or fifth?

Substitute teaching exposes you to a diverse range of educational settings. You have the chance to work in different schools, grade levels, and subject areas. This exposure broadens your horizons, enabling you to gain a comprehensive understanding of the education system and the unique challenges faced by educators. This firsthand experience also helps you refine your teaching approach and discover your preferred teaching environment.


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Chapter 2

Grow your professional skills

Substitute teaching offers ample opportunities for professional development and growth. Each day brings a unique set of challenges, allowing you to refine your classroom management skills, adapt to different teaching styles, and enhance your ability to engage students effectively. By navigating various classroom environments, you develop a versatile skill set that will serve you well in future teaching roles.

As a substitute teacher, you also have access to a wealth of professional development resources, including workshops, training programs, and networking opportunities. By taking advantage of these resources and constantly honing your skills, you'll become a more effective and knowledgeable educator. This commitment to ongoing professional growth is something that sets high achievers apart and can be an asset when you’re ready for a full time role.



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Aspiring Teachers_Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Make a meaningful impact

Substitute teaching offers the opportunity to play a critical role in the education system. By stepping in when the regular teacher is absent, you ensure that learning continues and that students receive the support they need. This responsibility can be incredibly fulfilling and allows you to make a tangible difference in the lives of the students you teach. Every day presents a chance to positively influence students' learning experiences, fostering a love for education and contributing to their personal growth.

By starting your career as a substitute teacher, you exhibit a strong commitment to social change and equal access to education. Substitute teachers play a vital role in ensuring that every student has an opportunity to learn, regardless of the circumstances. Your dedication to stepping in and filling the gaps shows your passion for making a difference in the lives of students who may face temporary disruptions in their education.



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Aspiring Teachers_Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Demonstrate resilience and adaptability

Substitute teaching requires resilience and adaptability in the face of ever-changing circumstances. As a substitute, you must quickly acclimate to new classrooms, lesson plans, and student dynamics. And the ability to thrive in this ever-changing environment sets the stage for success in a full-time teaching role.

By demonstrating that you can handle the unexpected and maintain a positive attitude, you showcase your resilience and adaptability—qualities highly sought after in the teaching profession. Substitute teaching can be challenging but it demonstrates your preparedness for taking over a classroom on a more permanent basis.


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Aspiring Teachers_Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Build your professional network

As a substitute teacher, you'll have the opportunity to build a robust professional network. Each classroom you enter introduces you to new colleagues, administrators, and staff members. By building strong relationships with your colleagues, you gain access to a supportive community that can provide guidance, mentorship, and future job opportunities.

This professional network can also give you a competitive edge in the job market, especially as you apply to full time teaching roles. As a substitute, you’ll not only gain firsthand knowledge of teaching strategies and classroom management techniques, but you will also establish a network of colleagues who can serve as professional references and vouch for these skills. This sets you apart from other candidates and makes you a more attractive prospect for future full-time teaching positions.



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Aspiring Teachers_Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Establish a foundation for future success

Substitute teaching lays a strong foundation for future success in your teaching career. As you step into different classrooms, you assume responsibility for managing student behavior, maintaining a positive learning environment, and implementing lesson plans. By taking charge in these situations, you develop essential skills, adapt to different classroom dynamics, and build a repertoire of instructional strategies.

In mastering the art of flexibility and resilience, you demonstrate your ability to thrive in challenging situations, positioning yourself for future teaching roles. The experience and skills gained as a substitute teacher can be invaluable in establishing a career in education.

While aspiring teachers may be eager to secure a full-time teaching position immediately, starting out as a substitute teacher offers numerous benefits and advantages. From making a meaningful impact on students' lives to building a professional network, substitute teaching equips you with invaluable skills and experiences that pave the way for long-term success in your teaching career. Embrace the opportunities and challenges that come with substitute teaching, and you will lay a solid foundation for a rewarding journey in education.



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