Monday, August 19, 2013

Substitute Teaching: A Daily Job Interview

As summer winds down and the school year begins, it is important for teachers who don’t yet have their own classroom to think about substitute teaching.  While the uncertainty of daily substitute assignments certainly has its drawbacks, it is imperative for teachers to look beyond them and recognize all of the opportunities that become available through substitute teaching. 

If you believe substitute teaching is just being a “guest teacher” at a different school each day, you aren’t thinking proactively!  You should consider each day as your chance to interview at that school.  What you do, how you act, and how you network each time you are there are catalysts to get your own classroom sooner than later.  Setting a goal, creating an action plan, and executing that plan are the keys to getting the job done. 

The list below contains four reasons why you should consider substitute teaching as a valuable tool in your job search.  Hopefully it inspires you to get on your local school district’s substitute list today!
  • Networking – Substitute teaching allows you to get your foot in the door and start interacting with faculty, staff, and administration.  Once you get on a substitute list, you must use every day to your advantage.  Seize the opportunity to spend time with fellow teachers, administrators, and department chairs.  Do not waste the chance to let them know of your qualifications and your interest in obtaining a position at the school.  When a position opens, you want them to immediately remember your name and call you first for an interview.  Networking is key in getting your resume to the top of the pile.
  • Numbers – Every teacher should know that student enrollment controls the number of that school’s faculty.  Over the summer, a school forecasts what their anticipated enrollment will be and hires faculty accordingly.  What you might not realize however, is that those enrollment numbers fluctuate the first 6-8 weeks of the school year.  Once final counts are complete, a school might get additional funds from the state to fund one or more teachers a few weeks into the school year.  If you are already in the building as a substitute teacher and heavily networking through your daily sub assignments, you have increased your odds in obtaining one of those newly available positions.
  • Intel – While on a school’s campus you become privy to information that the general public doesn’t know.  You may learn of long term substitute teaching experiences such as FMLA opportunities, military transfers, or teacher retirements.  You also can learn about those same opportunities at neighboring schools by chatting with teachers in the faculty lunch room and keeping your ears open throughout the day.  Obtaining information like this gives you an edge in the application process and it allows you to appropriately strategize your networking. 
  • Personal Experience – Often times, student teachers are very lucky and immediately get hired by the school where they did their demonstration teaching.   For those who don’t have that opportunity, they often rush to find an open position in any school without fully considering their options.  Substitute teaching is unique in this aspect.  It allows you to experience various schools and each school’s culture.  Maybe you prefer the discipline policy at one school over another.  Perhaps the administration/faculty are more friendly and helpful in school A, compared to school B.  Substitute teaching at a variety of locations isn’t always convenient, but it certainly allows you to research a school before you decide to interview with them. 

Please feel free to share any of your thoughts or experiences as a substitute teacher in the comments below. We’d love to hear your story!  In addition, if you are a WGU student or alum, please request an appointment with a WGU Career and Professional Development Specialist to develop your plan for successful substitute teaching.

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