What I Learned as a Long-Term Teacher Substitute

I had the pleasure of long-term substituting a preschool class this year and I have learned so much throughout the process. Of course with any job their are some pros, cons and gray areas.

In April I was asked to start a substitute job as a roving sub at a Preschool. While doing this I also helped the office with day-to-day duties, enrollment and I worked with the Family Support Specialist. I stayed throughout the summer to help with enrollment as they were extremely busy.

I was planning to start my experience as a K-12 teacher substitute when just two days before school started I was asked to long-term sub a preschool class at the school I was working at until they found a teacher. I of course said yes and I was so nervous about this huge job. I jumped into this job two days before school and I was in training sessions both days. I spent after hours getting the stacked furniture down, the toys out and the room ready. The school and I were thinking a teacher would be hired within 4-6 weeks, then we were thinking another 4-6 weeks and before you know it I long-term subbed the first half of the school year. I learned a number of things while teaching the most beautiful group of three, four and five year old children.

Here’s a glance at some of the biggest things I experienced these past few month

1. You do have to write your own lesson plans

This long-term substitute teaching job that I just finished up was my first experience subbing any class before. I had no idea what to expect. One of the scariest things for me was lesson plans and curriculum. I honestly thought that I would be given the lesson plans to work off and I could tweak them a little bit if I wanted. I quickly found out that I was wrong. The first week I was given a lesson plan so I knew what one should look like and because I really didn’t have much time to get one together. I was also given a curriculum book with supplemental books, a timeline of what should be taught each week and some other resources to help.

One of the biggest concerns I had with writing my own lesson plans was whether or not I was teaching my kiddos what they needed to be learning. I quickly found out that if you are following the curriculum, adding in your fun creativity and giving it your all you have nothing to be worried about. The second thing was that fact that you are spending your own personal hours on these lesson plans on a substitute pay schedule. Being a day-to-day substitute you don’t spend your own hours writing these, you come to class and they are there for you.

The positive side I have found with writing your own lesson plans is you get to be as creative as you want with lessons and activities. The kids really get into it if you love what you are doing.

2. You Do Have to Do the Prep Work

All those awesome and creative lessons or activities you put together will need some sort of prep work, which most of the time gets done at home. Yes, more personal hours spent. I did have amazing aids in my class so they were a huge help in getting a lot of the prep done during circle time, inside play and story time. If I didn’t have that I couldn’t imagine the hours I would be spending. My husband helped quite a bit  with all the cutting and organizing which was a huge relief and time saver.

Something I do wish I would have done at the beginning of the year was assigned monthly Parent Partners to help with prep. I of course thought about this weeks before my assignment ended. I would have assigned two families a month to be my teacher partners. They would do thing like cutting, organizing, stapling etc. each week at home. You would be surprised at how many parents said they would totally do it when I thought of the idea. Just something to think about. I am 95% sure I will have parent helpers when I have my own classroom… it just makes sense.

This is what my classroom looked like right before opening the door on the first day of school.


3. You will more than likely spend your own money on some supplies

If you are somewhere in the education field I know you have heard this before, “teachers DO spend their own money on classroom supplies.” I didn’t spend to much as I was very cautious about this, especially since it wasn’t my own personal class. I think in all I probably spent about $150.00 of my own money on different supplies. Most of the things I bought were craft supplies, good behavior treats and organizing tools. I know that the amount of money I spent doesn’t come close to what most teachers spend on a given half-year but it was a lot for me on  substitute budget. I know I could have spend hundreds each month. You just want your kids to have everything.

I also made an activity supply wish list a few times for parents with basic craft supplies we needed for upcoming projects. I had some pretty awesome parents that helped out as much as they could. That is all I could really ask for.

4. This is a great experience for all upcoming teachers

Being a long-term substitute lets you look through the little key hole to see what it looks like in the big world of being a teacher. Of course a ton of other to-do’s and I’m sure much more additional hours will be spent once I’m an actual teacher but it was great to get a little experience. It’s valuable when applying for the credential program and eventually a job. I am not going to lie, I am extremely nervous to have an actual K-12 substitute job when I go back to school in January but I think having this experience will make my jitters go away once I get in front of students.

I was also able to build relationships with people in the education field who have become friends. Networking in any job field is important. These network connections are great for questions, ideas and more. Plus, who doesn’t need more people in their corner.

5. You will Absolutely love your kids and they will melt your heart

This seriously trumps all of the hours spent at home working on things, all the before and after hours you spend in your class, the pay, the money spent and all the little things that may make you think why am I doing this long-term job.

The kids are why I did it. I am writing this part and I seriously can’t stop SMILING. Of course I had days where they were driving me crazy and I told myself I can’t do this tomorrow but I just couldn’t leave them. It is crazy to think about how much they have grown as little people educationally, emotionally and socially. My kids who weren’t able to count to 2 were counting to 10 and up. My kids that couldn’t speak any English were putting small sentences together. My kids who knew how to write their name learned how to write more defined letters. My kids who had a hard time following the simplest of rules or instruction were able to learn and tackle them head on. It’s just insane to think about the growth that took place in my class in only 5 months. When I would see these things I would say to myself “This is why I want to be a teacher.”

Moving on…..

I was extremely sad to leave this long-term position but I can’t wait to start substituting for K-12. I have a Liberal Studies degree so I went to school for K-8 teaching. I plan to visit my class as often as possible and I know they will do wonderful things.


Have you ever been a long-term substitute? If so let me know how it went in the comments section. I’m interested to see if you have encountered the same experiences.

Mrs. Megan Dao

The Animated Classroom