I have to be honest and say I didn’t enjoy subbing. I didn’t do any subbing until I was fully qualified and I was really desperate for a job, for my own class and subbing was terrifying for me as a nervous newly qualified teacher. However, the skills I learned on subbing, the relationships I built up with school principals and staff members, the ideas I got in each school were invaluable and I wish I had appreciated this at the time.
I know lots of newly qualified teachers this year that are subbing and are desperate for their own classrooms – I get that, I was there too but you will have your own classroom soon and you’ll have a bag of tricks from lots of subbing experience too! I think it’s really important to remember that.
For student teachers, subbing is really fantastic too as you get real experience in planning, classroom management and teaching which will really stand to you on placement and throughout your career!
Build up a relationship
Teachers have such an impact on the children they teach and interact with on a daily basis. This is why school principals have to be so careful with choosing a teacher to work in their school. By subbing, you get the opportunity to build up relationships with principals and school staff so you’re no longer just a name on a piece of paper but a teacher who has worked in the school and who the principal knows.
Teaching is a really small community (yes there are loads of us but someone always knows someone else). The amount of times a substitute teacher has come to our school for a day or two and then get booked up for the next few weeks by other schools in the local area always amazes me! Principals are always looking for good, reliable substitute teachers for their schools so building up a positive relationship with one school will likely lead to a lot more subbing in the area and beyond.
Know different schools in your area
Every school is different. Schools within 100m of one another may have a different ethos, culture and way that things are done. I’ve worked in so many schools since I graduated, in Waterford, Brighton and Dublin and I can honestly say that no two schools have been the same.
Subbing gives you a fantastic opportunity to see which school is a good fit for you. Maybe you prefer a small multi grade school or maybe a large multi stream school is a better fit for you. I know during my first year, I subbed in lots of mixed schools and single sex schools as well as large and smaller schools and each one was unique. I now know which schools were right for me and which I’d love to work in if I ever moved back home to Waterford.
Try different class levels
I think this is so important and such a great benefit of subbing. I currently teach in a senior school (3rd to 6th class). I’ve had 5th class for the last three years and have 6th class this year for the first time and even that small jump to 6th is so different. With subbing you could be with Junior Infants on Monday, 5th on Tuesday and SET for the rest of the week.
This can be tricky but it is also hugely beneficial as you begin to build up your skills with different class levels, become more familiar with the curriculum and learn how best to differentiate and support children of all abilities.
Learn new skills
Through subbing, I began to learn things like differentiation and classroom management. While working in one school as a support teacher for a few days, I learned how team teaching works. It was a DEIS Band 1 school and I picked up so much by just observing the class teacher and seeing how everything was set up. I still use some of these tips and ideas when doing station teaching in my own class.
Being in a school also gives you the chance to see programmes like Literacy Lift Off or Mata sa Rang in action. You can build up some understanding of these programmes and learn more about how to complete further training etc. in them.
Through observation, you can see how different routines are set up in the classroom. You can also watch more experienced teachers in action throughout the building and pick up some tips for classroom management etc.
By taking a look at displays, you can take photos (with permission and to be kept privately – these SHOULD NOT be shared on social media etc.) and begin to build up a bank of ideas for different class levels too.