Being able to handle stressful situations, engage new audiences, multi-task and solve problems are all highly desirable skills for a tech employee. How do you build these skills right out of college when you may have never had a job in tech, or if you are just starting out in the field? Become a substitute teacher.
In many cases, substitute teaching can be even better than gig work. Schools everywhere need help, as nearly every state of the country has a critical shortage of full-time credentialed and part-time substitutes. The work you put in helps further your career and helps the students in your community.
Here’s how substitute teaching can benefit your tech career, even if you don’t choose to become a full-time teacher.
You’ll Learn to Multi-Task
Substitute teachers play a vital role in education because every day, they ensure that student learning stays on track when teachers are absent. Substitute teachers have to effectively manage blocks of time throughout the day, making sure students complete their work and classroom administrative tasks get done.
That usually includes making sure students behave and stay on task. They are asked to share information about assignments or lessons, take attendance and at the end of the day, create a report for the regular teacher. These tasks occur simultaneously and sometimes with little oversight. Demonstrating that you can keep several tasks and several people doing their job is an important skill on any resume.
You’ll Learn to Adapt
As a substitute teacher, each day brings new challenges, which can be part of the fun. You might teach history one day and algebra the next. You might also work with students in different grade levels at a variety of schools. Each time, you’ll learn something new. You’ll have support from the school and you’ll also get plenty of practice thinking on your feet.
If a lesson plan has unclear directions or is missing information, you may need to adapt it during class or think of new ways for students to learn information. Sometimes you may have to come up with a lesson plan on your own, especially if the job posting was last minute and the teacher didn’t have time to prepare a lesson. In that case, it’s smart to plan ahead.
You’ll Interact With New People and Ideas
Substitute teachers meet new people and learn new ideas every day. As you switch classrooms, schools or districts, you’ll interact with principals, vice principals, front office staff, teachers and students of all ages. With all these new faces, you’ll learn to develop relationships quickly and be able to confidently walk into new situations.
In addition to meeting new people, you will also get to learn about new topics. Every time you teach you’ll become a mini expert in a subject. In what other job could you learn about metamorphosis one day, the Harlem Renaissance the next and then end your week learning about Shakespeare?
Not only will you build skills that help you understand a subject quickly, but you’ll also become an expert at effectively explaining it to someone else. The ability to share knowledge and help others do their jobs better is a key skill for team leaders and managers.
You’ll Develop Listening and Speaking Skills
The ability to effectively communicate with others is essential in any job, and that often means listening just as much, if not more, than you speak. As a substitute teacher, you’ll talk and listen to students, other teachers and administrators all day long.
In class, you may have to introduce a new concept, explain an exercise or read an announcement. You might also listen to students read aloud, give their own presentations or share ideas from their small group work. When you’re listening, you’ll have to be attentive and ready to give in-the-moment feedback or capture notes for the permanent teacher to read later.
Because you have to communicate with so many people throughout the day, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to hone your verbal and written communication skills. Working on these skills can translate into being better at giving presentations, leading meetings, providing effective feedback and other key skills.
You’ll Build an Interesting Resume
Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for people who can demonstrate their ability to perform a skill or a job, and they find that evidence in your cover letter, resume and interview answers. Anyone who can survive a day in a classroom of 30 first graders has plenty of ways to prove their ability to multitask, remain positive in the face of uncertainty and be forward-thinking.
Similarly, substitute positions in middle- and high-school grades may need varying levels of subject matter mastery for subjects like math and algebra, foreign languages or history in addition to classroom management skills. Listing your experiences and accomplishments as a substitute teacher will help you stand out among tech resumes and demonstrate your diverse set of capabilities.
You’ll Show Care for Your Community
In addition to the workplace skills that you’ll gain, becoming a substitute demonstrates a commitment to giving back to your community. Someone who has real-world experience and has demonstrated initiative and community engagement is a differentiating factor hiring managers are seeking.
To add consistency to your experience, become a long-term sub by helping out at the same school or specializing in one subject area. It’s also possible to get to know one particular teacher or team of teachers and sub for them routinely. This will demonstrate your willingness to delve deeply into a topic.
Finding that first job on your long-term career path can be daunting especially if your work experience is lacking, so look at substitute teaching opportunities in your community and start the approval process now. You may find that you love being in the classroom and that a career in education is where you’d like to land for the long term. At the very least, the skills you gain will be an asset to last a lifetime.
Substitute Teaching 101
Here are a few basic things you should know about being a substitute teacher.
- You’ll be required to take a tuberculosis risk assessment or show a negative TB test.
- You will need to pass a background check and get fingerprinted.
- You’ll need to prove your basic skills and knowledge with either a 4-year college degree, by passing a state-administered test, earning a score of 500 on the verbal section and 550 in the math section of the SAT or ACT, or scoring 3 or better on relevant AP exams.
- Most substitute teachers earn at least $21 an hour for the average school day, but some districts can pay up to $500 a day for certain subject matter experts.
- School typically starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 3:30 or 4:00 p.m.
Your state’s commission on teacher credentialing will have details. Additionally, a county office of education or an outside organization like ours can streamline the process. The marketplace approach offered by Swing makes it easy to become a substitute teacher and find substitute jobs. Whatever path you choose, it’s worthwhile to get your paperwork in order before contacting the district.