1- In many cases you need a bachelor's degree in any field to substitute. Sometimes there is such a great need for subs that a state may allow people with at least 90 credit hours of college to sub. You must apply to your State Board of Education and get a Substitute Certificate. There is a fee for this and it must be renewed every few years. Of course, if you already have a degree in Education and have a teaching certificate, then you do not need the Substitute Certification.
2- You must apply to a school district and be hired as a substitute. Each district may have different expectations for their subs. You will be able to read about them on their websites. They will also require a fingerprint clearance. If you have a criminal record of any kind, that will probably disqualify you from working with children.
3- You must love children, and be able to be patient and kind, yet firm and confident with a classroom full of children.
4- You must be able to read and follow the directions a teacher will leave you, as well as have some of your own tricks up your sleeve for when the directions are sketchy or not there at all. (That only happened to me once or twice, and usually because the teacher had to leave in an emergency. Most teachers leave more than enough material.
As I said, being able to substitute was a blessing to our family. Even when I still had preschoolers at home, I was able to teach because my husband worked nights, so he was there to take care of our children in the daytime while I was teaching. I got home early enough for him to sleep before he had to go to work. He also napped when the children napped. This was a great bonding time for our kids and their dad. He would often take them for walks to the park or they would watch favorite shows together. We never had to pay for daycare, which saved us a lot of money! Here are a few more of the benefits:
1- I was able to have a flexible schedule. If my children were sick and couldn't go to school, I could stay home with them. If they had a field trip, I could still go with them. (Sometimes I went as a teacher! So, I was paid to go on my child's field trip!) Also, the hours are good. If school ends at 2:30, you can be on your way home by 3:00 or 3:30. And, of course, I had all of the same holidays as my children, including summers off!
2- You can usually choose what schools you want to work for. I almost always worked at my children's school. When school was out, they just came to the room I was working in and they could do homework or help me as I finished up the end of day stuff. (I usually graded some of the classwork, left everything in neat piles for the teacher to see, made sure the room was straightened, left a note to the teacher about the day, etc.)
3- The pay is pretty decent as far as teacher pay goes. Every district has a different pay scale that is usually per diem. Sometimes you can get long term positions that pay better, but the work is more difficult because you are the acting teacher who must make plans and take grades. Also, some districts only allow teachers with regular certificates, rather than sub certificates, to take long term positions.
4- The work environment is usually so friendly and a lot of fun. Not only because you are working with the kids, which can be so much fun, but also difficult at times, but getting to know the other teachers and staff is wonderful. I have made some wonderful friends among the teachers and staff members that I worked with and they taught me so many good ideas about teaching. It was great to have a strong support group as I learned and grew into a better teacher over the years.
Is Subbing For You?
If you feel a little unsure about whether subbing is the job for you, here are a couple of ways to find out if you would enjoy it and be good at it:
1- Volunteer to help in your kids' classrooms. Watch what the teacher does and see if you could help out by running a small group for the teacher. This will quickly show you if you can deal with the minor (or major) problems students will throw at you. Watch how the teacher deals with behavior issues or struggling students. Get a feel for the flow of the classroom and watch for ideas about how to get the class's attention.
2- Try teaching children at your church. I had taught young children at church for many years and had taken a teacher development class that the church offers before I ever started substituting. It may sound surprising, but I have used ideas and activities that I learned from those experiences many times while subbing. Not religious ideas, but just things that work with children.
Remember, if you are afraid that you don't know everything about everything that there is to teach, or that you can't remember how to do Algebra, you will have the Teacher's Manuel and when you review that, things will come back to you. Also, sometimes you learn right along with the students! I have come home with some fascinating science and history tidbits that I hadn't learned before I was teaching!
If you decide to go ahead and give subbing a try, my best advice is to remember that kids can tell if you care about them. You must be firm and have a structured day, for your sanity and their's, but you must also show them that you care. Smile at them, reward them with stickers, compliment good behavior, be patient, laugh at their jokes and don't stress over the small stuff. Once you get over your nervousness, subbing will become an enjoyable job and a great way to supplement your family's income.