The Six Best Ways To Increase Your Pool of Substitute Teachers

Substitutes, we all need ‘em.  And the best ones are difficult to come by.  How do you effectively increase your substitute teacher pool?  Read on for the five best tips.

  1. Recruit, recruit, recruit.  Let qualified substitutes know you’re interested in giving them steady work.  Ask teachers what great subs they’ve had lately—and contact them personally. Thank them for their hard work.  Personally invite them to return for more work. Inform them of upcoming anticipated vacancies. Substitutes who are supported and informed will return to your school and continue to work hard at their job.  If they know that you’ll provide them with a steady stream of work, they’ll be loyal to you.
  2. Set clear expectations for substitutes.  By setting subs up for success, everyone wins.  Just as a teacher wouldn’t enter the classroom without setting his or her expectations for the class, the same goes for substitutes.  A simple expectations email goes a long way. Figure out those procedures and practices that mean the most to you before subs set foot in your school.  Do you expect subs to leave feedback to the regular classroom teacher?  What norms are in place at your site that subs may encounter? What are your non-negotiables about supervising and speaking to students?  Clearly and effectively communicate expectations and your subs will rise to meet them.
  3. Show your appreciation for the work subs do.  It seems common sense, but make sure you’re supportive of your subs.  A thank you goes a long way and small gestures are always appreciated.  Subbing is hard work! Day in and out subs must do the important work of the first day of school: share introductions, set expectations, cultivate community, and build trust, among others.  Whenever possible, it’s important to check in with your substitute teachers and ask them how things are going. Find out what you can do for them to make their day a bit brighter, to lighten their load a bit.  Schools typically focus on how to appreciate their largest pool of manpower, teachers, but there is little attention given to those who swoop in and save the day when teachers are unavailable, substitutes.
  4. Know the strengths of your subs.  Like teachers, and any human, we all have individual talents.  Recognizing these in your subs can go a long way. Do you have a sub with a knack for calming a crying preschooler?  Use that to your advantage! Do you have a sub who’s retired from a specific career? Send them to high school to provide authentic opportunities for your older students.  Focus more on what our subs do well rather than any weaknesses they may have. Remember substitute teachers have a wealth of knowledge on a variety of topics; they just need to be discovered.
  5. Encourage your staff to think like a sub.  Teachers know their students better than anyone.  The minute that first sniffle of sickness begins or they hear about that off-campus professional learning opportunity, they wonder about the behavior of their students in their absence.  They have a sneaking suspicion who will test the sub’s boundaries and who will be frustrated by the lack of continuity in their learning. Rally teachers to prepare their students for absences and departures from the normal routine.  Have teachers provide subs with important information that will lead to a successful day. Who is a trusted helper? Who should not run an errand unsupervised? And it never hurts to ask teachers to leave notes and reminders for their students.  Before leaving for an absence, writing “How can you make Ms. Smith proud?” and leaving behind a pad of sticky notes for students to document their own behavior is creative and effective. Incentivizing also helps: “Extra awesome behavior earns a prize upon Mr. Smith’s return.”
  6. Use a substitute teacher booking service.  The fastest, most reliable way to get subs in your schools is to utilize a substitute teacher booking service like Book a Sub.  With hundreds of substitute teachers on their platform, you can get connected with as many subs as you need so your classrooms are always covered.


The best subs can sometimes be difficult to come across and are unfortunately tough to keep around.  Increase your substitute teacher pool and maintain it this year.

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