Substitute teaching can be a stepping stone into a fruitful career in education—if you play your cards right. There are many advantages to being a substitute teacher. Subs develop practical knowledge and classroom experience that can serve them well as full-time teachers and educators. Though substitute teaching is notoriously difficult, it can elevate your chances of being offered a full time teaching position. Many people falsely believe that building a career in education is near impossible for substitute teachers.
We sat down with Source4Teachers' New Jersey Recruiter, Eric Cruz, to set the record straight and dispel the most common myths that hinder substitute teachers from gaining full time employment.
MYTH 1: IT’S BETTER TO ROTATE SUBBING BETWEEN SCHOOLS
As a substitute teacher your days are numbered, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop relationships with hiring decision makers and influencers. Once you figure out which grade levels and content areas you’re strongest in, prioritize accepting openings that match those interests. Get to know other teachers and develop a rapport within the department. Leave lesson progress updates for the teachers to review upon their return.
“Schools appreciate having someone they already know and trust when interviewing FT teacher candidates. The sooner you start building relationship with schools the easier it is to get into a FT role.”
“We get substitutes who receive references from teachers on staff.”
“The earlier you start out working in a school the better. There are many ways to get on a school’s radar. Being a familiar face at a few schools will help you get your foot in the door a little bit easier.”
MYTH 2: GETTING CERTIFIED IS EXPENSIVE
Substitute teachers interested in pursuing a career in education risk getting stuck in the cycle of subbing by not participating in the NJ teacher certification process. New Jersey Standard Teaching Licenses are required of full time teachers working in any public school, and most charter and private schools.
Some substitute teachers limit their FT job searches to independent schools with relaxed qualification requirements. Subs beware, as this decision could have repercussions on your future career growth and job security. All things considered, teaching without your certification can come with a price.
Affordable teacher preparation programs are available for substitute teachers on a limited budget. Financing a master’s degree or Pathways certification programs can cost upwards of $1000 per course. Traditional alternate route programs cost significantly less, averaging less than $500 per course.
“Any certification of any kind should be highlighted on the resume. That helps me identify somebody very quickly for a teaching position.”
Pro tip: The more specific your certification is the better. Teaching candidates with 8-12 and subject area certifications are sought after more frequently than those with K-5 certifications. STEM, ESL, and Special Ed certifications are also in high demand.
MYTH 3: IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO GET THE ATTENTION OF DISTRICT LEADERS
Building relationships with school administrators and district leaders is fundamental to the candidacy of substitute teachers. School leaders oftentimes are responsible for writing letters of reference for subs. These are very busy people, but that doesn’t mean subs should be intimidated by them. Build a solid relationship with the school secretary and other front office administrators. They have access to everybody in the school. Ask for their advice on how to approach the principal and other school leaders. These are the people who will determine whether a school will be your future employer.
“Don't be afraid to let the principal know you have applied for a position that is open at their school. If you have a good relationship with them, it will help you move along in the process to full-time teaching. Prove that you’re a reliable teacher and have be patient.”
“Substitutes need to network with school administrators, keeping in mind that all communications should stay professional and centered on teaching and education. Even written communication can make a positive impression.”
What other tips do you have for subs on getting into FT teaching roles? Share your advice in the comments!
Since 2003, the Rutgers Alternate Route Teacher Training Program has helped substitute teachers, career changers, and recent college graduates launch careers in education through a fast-tracked teacher certification process. With a unique emphasis on training candidates to become 21st century educators, Rutgers Alternate Route graduates go on to excel as leaders in education through a variety of roles from classroom teaching to administration. Learn more about our program.