Often, substitute teachers don't have to have the same credentials as full time teachers. Substitute teachers usually must pass tests mandated by the school district, may need to hold a bachelor’s degree, and will almost certainly be fingerprinted. You can also expect a substitute teacher to submit to a health examination and a background check. Further, a substitute must register with all school districts in which he or she is looking for work in order to be considered for employment.
Some substitute teachers may be held to fewer requirements if they teach at private schools. A private school substitute teacher will very likely have to pass examinations required by the school and get fingerprinted. A four-year college degree, however, may not be required, and a teaching credential is often not a requirement.
In some states, you can substitute with as little as 60 college units or credits and a background check. Other states may require an emergency credential. An emergency credential can include requirements covering testing, background checks, and medical examinations. Usually the state places limits on how many consecutive days a person can substitute for the same class. This could be anywhere from 10-30 days, not including weekends.
In general, you can prepare to spend between 100-200 US dollars (USD) to pay for application fees, health exams, tests, and fingerprinting. You should therefore be prepared as a fledgling substitute teacher to dig deep into your pockets before getting your first job. Actual paperwork time may vary. Some school districts may provide emergency credentials within a few weeks. Others may take a month or more. If you would like to become a substitute teacher beginning in September, start paperwork and preparations by late May so you will be ready to work when school starts.
It can also help to know the teachers for whom you might work as a substitute teacher. For example, many parents become a substitute teacher for their children’s schools. Knowing the teachers can give you an inside edge, because they can request you to substitute, and may be able to prearrange substitute days with you for planned absences.
If you don’t know the teachers or the school district that you'll be working in, sending a brief cover letter to each teacher outlining your experience and enthusiasm can help produce requests. Depending upon the circumstances, a substitute teacher might be well known by a class at the end of the year. Being better known often translates to more comfortable and respectful students.
Once you have secured the appropriate licensing, you might want to do some research on schools. First, get and read behavior policies and guidelines for each school or district. Second, know the layouts of schools. Also, know emergency procedures that will allow you to protect yourself and students should it be required.
A substitute teacher should always come prepared to classes with a back up plan. Ideally, your job will be to follow the teacher’s schedule. If a teacher is really ill, a schedule may not have been made. Therefore you might also want to prepare for jobs by having back-up activities tailored to the subjects you plan to teach. It can also help to take more troublesome students and make them classroom experts on procedures or current things the class is studying. This often helps reduce behavioral problems.
You should expect some behavioral problems as a substitute teacher, especially from middle school and high school aged children. When these become significant, involve the administration. In a teacher’s absence, a principal or dean is often the best person to oversee children who fail to be respectful. Also work on commanding respect from your students by respecting them. A substitute teacher who is kind and consistent will most often have students who wish to behave.