5 Reasons to be a Substitute Teacher


What do you do when you need to earn some money quick, and the job market is tight?

When you rely on multiple streams of income, and you don’t have a regular eight to five job, it’s good to have a job that you can turn to that is certain to generate income when you are in a financial tight spot.

For me, one such job is to become a substitute teacher.

We can all think of many reasons not to like about being a substitute teacher, but one overriding reason to like it is that you can generate some quick cash.

The only requirement is that you must have a teaching certification to quality. You don’t have to have actually taught in the past, but you need that certificate in hand. If you already have a degree, there are universities where you can earn a certificate in one year, while studying part-time.

I have been a substitute teacher two times. Once, when I returned from working in Honduras with the Peace Corps, and the second time was when I started again just last month.

5 Reasons to be a Substitute Teacher

1.) Steady money. In the district I work with, substitute teachers are paid between $75 and $125 per day, depending on location of the school and teacher experience.

2.) Short hours. It’s usually 6 to 7 hours.

3.) Interesting people. Teachers and school volunteers turn out to be very interesting people to get to know. Some of them are down right inspiring. I met an effervescent grandfatherly gentleman last week at lunch in the teacher’s lounge who was a minister/substitute teacher. He had worked on the Indian Reservation, and several other remarkable places, as part of his career.

4.) To get a microscopic view of our educational system. I have a better understanding of the strength and weaknesses of the education system. The system is good in that it funnels the energies of many dedicated teachers into schools, but I found many kids attending schools are not prepared to succeed in school, mainly through a variety of issues in their home life.

5.) You get paid no matter how bad the day goes.

3 Reasons not to be a Substitute Teacher

1.) You can be stuck with bad students for the entire day. Sometimes all you can do is grit your teeth, and just try to get through the day.

2.) You have to connect with kids quickly. Not so easy when you don’t know their names or backgrounds, and they see “having a substitute” with synonymous with “having a free day.”

It’s a great feeling when you do connect with kids. Recently, I had one student come up and talk to me what his goals in life were, and one of his goals was to become a teacher. Sometimes students will come up to me after class and tell me that appreciated having me as their substitute teacher, or ask when I’m coming back again. That always helps the old ego.

3.) Some kids won’t like you no matter how good you are. They don’t want to be in school, and they don’t want people telling them what to do, least of all a substitute teacher.

Coping mechanisms to maintain some control of the classroom

Here are some ways that I have discovered to keep the kids pointed the right direction, and to maintain some shred of professional dignity in the process.

1.) Keep kids busy. A good teacher will leave a lesson plan for you that keeps the kids productively busy all day. The bad teachers leave a lesson plan with too few activities for the kids, or in some cases, they leave no lesson plan at all. I always bring my own lesson plan, just in case.

2.) Deal with problems with some sort of consequences, if only to write names on board.

3.) Don’t dwell on bad experiences; start with a clean slate each day. Let criticism roll off you like rain off duck’s back.

4.) If one thing doesn’t work with the kids, try something else. I have certain activities, like games and brain twisters, to fall back on that work in most circumstances. This is easier to do, the more experience that you have.

 Of course, there is a humorous side to being a substitute teacher:

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16 Responses to “5 Reasons to be a Substitute Teacher”

  1. Untemplater says:

    Good for you Terry! Sounds like quite a challenge since I’m sure every class has at least a handful of difficult kids. That’s funny and true what you said about getting paid no matter how bad the day goes!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. These are all great reasons to be a substitute teacher~! Hey, if you have the time and patience for kids….then why not? Any way to earn extra money sounds great to me.

  3. Pauline says:

    Good luck with the blogging contest! Having a substitute was really a free day… are you talking about income net or gross? doesn’t seem like a lot since you need to prepare for every class a different thing and probably add to the hours a brief from the principle. My mum is a normal teacher and says she works about 20h per week from home on top of classes. That would mean an extra 5 hours for your 7 hours day?

    • Terry says:

      Yes, normal teachers definitely put in many more hours than we subs do.

      Usually there is not much preparation for substitute teachers to do, as the regular teacher generally leaves us lesson plans for the day.

  4. I taught at summer school one summer during college. Made me realize I could not be a teacher. My husband teaches 5th grade, and we are grateful for subs, especially the ones who do make an effort. Congrats on your nomination.

    • Terry says:

      I find 5th grade to be one of my favorite classes to sub for. All grades have pluses and minuses, but 4th and 5th graders seem to be old enough to display some maturity, yet young enough not to be too jaded, or self-absorbed. Of course, I’m painting with a pretty broad brush.

  5. simone hardy says:

    Absolutely Terry. I am doing this now.In New Jersey you don’t need a certificate, you need 60 credits. I took this avenue reluctantly but it has proven to help me self-develop because you have to sharpen your think on your feet skills and the money isn’t bad either.

    • Terry says:


      I too went into substitute teaching a with a little trepidation, but as you say the experience helps to sharpen your wits, and helps to bring home the bacon.

      Thank you for your comment!

  6. […] 5 Reasons to Be a Substitute Teacher at Fix Em Up Rent Em Out.  A surprising but excellent post from Terry. […]

  7. Bill says:

    I think being a teacher would be a very rewarding experience. It’s great that there are people like you who are willing to help lead the next future batch of young people. It hurts to hear that you feel a lot of students aren’t prepared for school, though. Why do you think that is?

    • Terry says:

      That’s a good question.

      My impression is that a lot of the kids that have trouble in school also have an unstable family life. For one reason or another, the parents don’t seem to be actively involved in their child’s live, or don’t put an emphasis on getting a good education.

  8. […] 5 Reasons to be a Substitute Teacher by Terry @ Fix em Up Rent em Out […]

  9. I was a substitute teacher for 7 years after 7 years of full-time teaching. Subbing is demanding, but you need the skills and reflexes to manage it. Sounds like you do. Sometimes it can lead to ta full-time teaching job. I used to provide a rewarding activity for those who had finished their work. It was a great motivator to work without causing distractions.

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