5 Tips for Making Your First Day of Subbing a Success

This document is intended as guidance to help SwingSubs who are new to teaching start out strong. We have seen that new subs who follow the steps below are more likely to have a positive experience on their first day.  


1. Make sure you know where the assignment is and when you are expected to arrive



First impressions are important, especially when you are just starting out as a sub and are building up your confidence in the classroom. Make sure the first impression you give to a school is that you are a responsible professional.  Dressing professionally, taking the time to plan your morning commute, and ensuring you know when you are expected are the first steps. Make sure you take into account rush hour traffic and time for parking when planning your arrival so you don’t start your day off flustered.  See this article on how to use Google Maps to always arrive on time.

Remember, being in charge of a class you don’t know is challenging enough.  Do your best to avoid adding stress to your morning by knowing where you need to be and when.  


2. Plan to arrive at your first assignments earlier than requested

Whether it is your first time ever being a sub or just your first time at a particular school it is worthwhile to plan to arrive 15-30 minutes earlier than requested.  This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the school’s office manager/secretary, the campus, the bell schedule, where the adult restrooms/staff lounge is, and ask any questions you have before the morning rush kicks into high gear.  This also lets you get settled into your classroom for the day well before students start filing in.

Remember, you can also get a head start on this before you get to the school by clicking on and reading the “Instructions for this School” on the My Commitments tab of the online platform. This link will give you a lot of the most pertinent information about the school and will help you be ready to go when you arrive at the school.


 3. Follow the plans that are left for you

While the extent and quality of lesson plans teachers leave for subs can vary significantly you will always be best served to stick as close to the lesson they leave you as possible.  If you cannot find the lesson plan or are having trouble understanding it, ask the other grade level teachers or one of the school’s administrators for help.  Whatever you do, don’t disregard their plan and just do your own thing.  There are two main reasons to avoid this:

1) Teachers have specific goals and outcomes for the lesson they leave you; these plans are often tied to broader goals for the academic growth of the students.  Disregarding the lesson can make the sub-day feel like a “lost day” for the teacher even if you gave the students the best lesson ever.  

2) Especially when you are a new sub, you will have your hands full of classroom and behavior management. You do not need to add an additional layer of complexity to your day.  Just make sure to ask for the lesson plan when you get to the school and do your best to execute it.  In short, keep it simple. 


4. Stay calm and positive

Classrooms can be hectic places, but only if you let them be.  Students will take their cue from you and if you remain calm and stay positive you will be amazed at how students respond.  In particular, it is important to remember that behavior is largely a product of its immediate environment and that behavior ultimately responds better to positive rather than negative consequences.  While it is hard to do in a single day, creating a safe and positive classroom by staying calm and reinforcing good behavior (rather than punishing bad behavior) will make it much easier to execute the day’s lesson.  

It is important to be engaged with the class.  Actively monitoring the classroom and walking around to ensure all students are on task is a great way to manage student behavior without having to resort to negative reinforcement.  For great videos on managing a classroom in a positive way you can check out the Teaching Channel, in particular, this video focuses on creating a safe and positive classroom.  


5. Complete as much as you can and leave a full report.

Teachers love to know what did and did not happen in their class when they were out.  Make sure you leave a full report on what you were able to cover and what you did not get to as far as the lesson plan is concerned.  Also mention any student behavior, especially positive things (“Alex M was helpful all day and set a great example for the rest of the class.”).  If any major negative episodes occur, write down what happened and make sure you tell one of the other grade level teachers or an administrator.

Finally, make sure you leave the classroom in the condition it was when you arrived and sign out when you leave the building.

While there is nothing that will replace experience, following the steps above will make your first days as a sub much smoother and will allow you to start building up your confidence and classroom management skills.   


  • Be professional
  • Be on time (or early)
  • Follow the plan
  • Stay calm
  • Let the teacher know what happened while they were out.