Cultivating a Welcoming Environment for Substitutes

School Districts

August 30, 2023

One of the most intimidating parts of any new job is the first day: entering a new workplace, meeting coworkers, learning the ropes, and trying to adjust to the culture. For most jobs, this first day only happens once. For substitute teachers, this happens every time you walk into a new school building.

To make matters even more challenging, this first day can often come with no guidance at all. Sometimes, we are expected to navigate a school on our own or learn about the culture on our own or even come up with a whole lesson plan for the day – in an entirely new environment! What is already an intimidating day becomes even more stressful.

So, what can schools do? The best plan of action is to implement a substitute welcoming plan! This easy to execute strategy helps substitute staff feel more comfortable, creates consistency in your building, and adds an extra level of preparation for teachers.

Here are a few steps your district might consider when implementing a welcoming plan:

  • Create a Physical Plan: Create binders that substitute teachers can bring with them to the classroom. These binders should be K-12 with lessons for every subject area and include the school’s emergency procedures, district policies, and an easy guide to the timesheet process. For easy access, these should also be available online.
  • Provide Points of Contact: Walk substitute teachers to their class and have school leaders and faculty stop by the classroom to say “hello” and “thank you.” This helps substitutes feel appreciated and welcome in the school, especially if they are greeted by neighboring teachers.  It can feel gratifying to know that another teacher is on your side!
  • Follow Up: Be open to feedback about school performance. Check in with subs regularly to see what is going great and what their concerns are. Pay special attention to any notes written by substitutes, as these can provide a thorough explanation of why a sub may or may not return to the district. Use this feedback to make improvements to your substitute welcoming plan.
  • Consider Competitive/Incentive-based Wages: Nowadays, substitutes have a wide array of gig jobs to choose from, including food delivery, freelancing, and passenger driving. Schools may consider more competitive wages to keep up with the changing job market, or they may consider additional perks, such as bonuses, paying for substitutes’ training, or giving substitutes paid time off on holidays.