Saturday, May 21, 2011

How to get ahead in subbing (and yes, it involves really trying)

I wrote most of this as a comment on another sub's blog and then thought "hey, wait! Why does their blog get all these cool ideas and mine doesn't?" So here is an expanded version on my reply to the question, "Is subbing a popularity contest? Why do some subs get significantly more calls than others?"
Being a good teacher is the first step in getting lots of calls. The second step is to treat subbing like a career in free-lancing. That means publishing business cards, shaking hands, introducing yourself to teachers, secretaries and administrators, and being available to your customers. Check your e-mail regularly, have your phone number on your cards and notes, and clear your schedule. Your business card should create your "brand" - stay away from cutesy apple clip art unless you want to only sub K-3. Mine has a graceful leafy plant design in violet, with one leaf photoshopped to be a yellow-red gradient, my one nod to the autumnal aesthetic in back-to-school stuff. As an art teacher, I want my card to have good design! Up top it says "GT Goddess Experienced District Substitute" (It used to say MS/HS Humanities when I first started but now I know that I like teaching math and science too) and underneath my cell phone number and district e-mail. I also have stationary with that same leaf design that I can use for my notes - again with the "brand."
When you are writing your notes, it is good to use student names - it shows you actually learned a few and that you were aware of what was happening in the room. Also, sign off on a positive note and ask to come back, sealing that by leaving your sub number and phone number. I know a lot of teachers are anxious about how their class behaved, if you can sound like you actually enjoyed spending time with them that can increase your chances for a call back. Many schools and teachers pick subs not just for their expertise, but for their "fit" in the building, so complimenting students and staff goes a long way. For example: "Johnny had a little trouble staying quiet for the reading activity, Mr. Jones from next door was super helpful and gave me some tips and the activity went smoothly from there - Johnny even shared out an answer!"
I start each school year with an e-mail to all the teachers I subbed for in the past year (keep track!) telling them I'm back on the sub list (many assume that if you are that good you have a classroom job now) and that I would love to sub for them. I usually get at least 10 immediate requests for days from just that one effort. Throughout the year I take calls at pretty much all hours, spend a lot of time discussing scheduling and lesson plans, and keeping track of all schedule requests.
I treat subbing like a small business: self-promotion, networking, the works. But it still comes back to being a good teacher and doing your best in the classroom every day.

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