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The Importance of Providing Training to Substitutes


The importance of training substitutes before they begin work in a school district cannot be understated. Many of the nation’s substitute teachers are undertrained and underprepared for their work in the classroom. Fewer than 10 percent of substitutes receive any training according to Geoffrey G. Smith, Utah State University’s executive director of the Substitute Teaching Institute. On top of that, only 42 percent undergo any form of orientation. It is necessary to acknowledge that, for many substitutes, their first job in a school district is their first time working in any classroom. An unprepared substitute is easily overwhelmed and frustrated, and this reflects strongly on student achievement.

Full-time teachers are legally mandated to undergo years of training and preparation, while no minimum standards exist for substitute teachers. According to research, public school students between kindergarten and grade 12 will have been instructed by substitute teachers for the equivalent of one full school year. Substitute teachers make a significant impact on a student’s education in that time, and districts should be doing their best to ensure substitutes are well prepared.

While an undertrained substitute can create a multitude of issues for the district and substitute alike, the solution is a simple one – districts must provide some form of training to their substitute staff before they begin work. This training should be provided in the form of a short classroom management seminar and an orientation session. Providing basic classroom management and teaching strategy training will greatly improve a substitute’s confidence at work and reduce the risk of incidents in the classroom. Additionally, it is crucial to train substitutes on district policy and safety procedures to ensure that all substitutes exude the same level of professionalism as regular district staff. District training should also cover topics such as the various needs of special education students and Individualized Education Plans; substitutes should be prepared to effectively support each student’s unique needs. For the best results, these initial training classes should be complemented by online training resources that substitutes can refer to regularly, as well as additional training sessions throughout the year to keep their skills sharp.

In addition to the immediate benefits of preparing substitutes for their work in your schools, Peter W. Cardon’s Recruiting and Retaining Substitute Teachers concludes that providing training is the most effective means of attracting substitutes and minimizing substitute turnover. District training classes make substitute employees more confident in their work and more likely to accept assignments regularly in your schools. This added benefit of retention is a bonus for districts dealing with the national teacher shortage that, according to recent data, is only getting worse.

In the face of budget cuts and resource limitations, many districts may find it challenging to offer comprehensive training to their substitute workforce. It has become increasingly common in recent years for districts to seek relief from the burdens of substitute program management in the form of outside partnerships. One such partner, ESS | Source4Teachers, is capable of managing substitute programs more effectively than districts can accomplish internally, while simultaneously relieving districts of costs, administrative duties, and freeing up valuable resources. 

Over the past 17 years, ESS | Source4Teachers has created an in-person, multi-faceted training program for all substitute positions. This training program is developed by veteran educators and behavioral specialists. ESS | Source4Teachers’ training instructors direct substitutes in face-to-face training seminars specified to each type of substitute position. These seminars are supplemented by hundreds of available online training modules, as well as recurring onsite training courses held throughout the school year. By setting a new standard for substitute training, ESS | Source4Teachers provides school districts with substitutes that are more prepared, confident, and effective in their roles. This results in reduced substitute turnover and more effective learning days for students.

For more information on how ESS | Source4Teachers can improve substitute training in your district, please contact our team at (877) 983-2244.

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Download this industry guide developed by ESS | Source4Teachers’ training experts to help your district assess how well you’re preparing your substitutes.