Common Challenges for Substitute Teachers And How To Manage Them

Being a substitute teacher is not easy. Dealing with an unfamiliar environment difficult students are some of the common challenges for substitute teachers. Try these tips to enhance your substitute teaching experience.

Aggressive Incidents/Bullying 

Make it clear to students that both aggressive behavior and bullying are unacceptable and will not be taken lightly. Also, tell your students that they can come to you if anything out of the way happens. As soon as a problem occurs, take action to stop it. This will give you both the respect of the students and also control of the classroom. Trying to connect with an aggressive student or bully is a great way to gain the trust of a student that might not be too fond of teachers.

Bathroom Trips 

Before you let any child or group of children (depending on age level) go to the bathroom, make sure to review bathroom policies with students. If you are dealing with elementary-aged students, going over bathroom procedures such as flushing, etc. is always a good idea. Have students sign out or use a hall pass when going to the restroom so that you have either a written or mental record of where a student has gone and what time they left. Also monitoring the bathroom and periodically checking in is not a bad idea.


Begin the class talking about cheating policies and discuss with the students why studying or working hard to make a good grade feels much better than making a good grade by cheating. Discuss the consequences that cheating can have on a test or assignment. For example, “How do you know if who you’re cheating off of is right.” and “More often your gut is right in testing situations, are you sure you want to chance cheating?” are great questions to get your students thinking about whether or not they really want to try cheating. Rearranging the seating arrangement, asking students to block their work with a blank folder, and pacing around the room are also great ways to ensure that the students are held more accountable.


Create a classroom environment where the students are encouraged to ask questions and make sure you always take their questions seriously. Use phrases such as “That’s a great point!” or “I’ve never thought of it that way!” to keep students engaged! Monitor the class for participation so that you can let the teacher know who was participating and who was not.


Collect any homework that was due and make a list of who did and who did not turn in their assignments. Also, make a note of any in-class and/or homework assignments you pass out to the class so that the teacher has a record. Also, if you have free time at the end of class, letting them start on their homework early is a great way to keep the class focused and engaged.

The online substitute teacher training program can provide additional tips for preparing subs to be effective in dealing with common challenges for substitute teachers in the classroom.