By: John Wasinski

Making the leap from short-term daily substitute teacher assignments to steady long-term assignments is a goal for many substitute teachers. There are challenges to making this transition and it is best to "look before you leap." In this article we will review what questions you might want to ask when interviewing for a long-term substitute teaching assignment.

The best situation for most substitute teachers is to accept a long-term assignment in a school where you are comfortable and familiar with the students, the building, routines, and many of the staff. This is next to ideal. However, if you have been sending your resume or responding to job postings for long-term positions, you may not have prior experience in the school and you will have to assess the situation on your interview day.

Some principals will take great care in interviewing you and orienting you to the school and your duties. Supportive principals will think ahead to how you feel coming into the situation and contemplate what you need to know ahead of time. Others, due to time constraints, understaffing, or lack of awareness, will rush through the interview, offer you a position, and leave you anxious and unsure as you prepare for your first day.

This article will cover my suggestions for what information, at a minimum, you should be provided with on your interview day. It is appropriate for you to respectfully ask for a tour, some introductions, and other information. Be prepared to explain why you need to know. You may wish to practice what you will say, ahead of time, so that you come across as organized, pleasant, and professional.

Here is the list of five suggestions for long-term substitute teachers on interview day:

  1. Observe the class you will be teaching. It may not be possible for you to spend an extended time there, but in a few minutes, you should be able to sense the general climate for student behavior and for teaching style. Also observe the layout and decor of the room to assess whether it is a match to your teaching style.
  2. Tour the school. After concluding your talk with the principal, see if a staff member can take you for a tour or if you would be allowed to walk around for a few minutes. You will want to evaluate the general student behavior in the halls, note if the library and computer lab seem well equipped, and begin to get a mental picture of the school's layout.
  3. Get firm dates for the start and end of the teaching assignment. If the principal can not provide you firm dates, try to find out why and get the best idea you can of the length of the assignment.
  4. Get a firm date for your "processing in" appointment with human resources. Also, some school districts charge the applicant for drug testing and background checks. Ask specifically for the information you need, so you can plan your time, and your funds, for this process. Find out what documents you will need to bring to your appointment, and if you will have to drive to multiple locations for your background check, drug testing, and orientation, or if they will all be on-site. Ask if there will be a delay before you can start work while your papers are processed. In some larger districts, the paperwork might take 1-2 weeks of processing time before you can begin work. Find out so you can plan ahead.
  5. Ask for the contact information of the permanent teacher you are replacing, the school secretary, the principal, and the central office. You will want to contact the teacher by email that evening to get more information on the curriculum and the students. You will want to start to prepare a laundry list of questions for the teacher or other school staff, so that you can have all the answers you need before starting your first day of work.

By following these suggestions, you will be more prepared for your job than most long-term substitute teachers are. This will give you a better start and you will make a greater impression on your students, colleagues, and administrators. Best of luck to all substitute teachers who are "making the leap" this year.