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100 Tips for the Substitute Teacher

100 Tips for the Substitute Teacher

The Big 100“Wait-what? We have sub in [insert class title]? YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!  I’ll see if I can pick up some water balloons at lunch.”  What image does this innocent quote bring to mind? Who is talking?  Guess what?  The speaker was a compassionate, young seventh grade girl.  See, that’s not close to the worst of what you might hear, and in high school, it gets even worse (now many of the kids have a drivers license, allowing them to prepare better during lunch).

For those few who might have any shred of decency, and didn’t at least crack a smile reading the first lines, I bet you feel sorry for the substitute teacher.  If you don’t, let me tell you that this teacher is currently coping with a number of domestic problems, not the worst of which is the fact that his pet parrot now watches and emulates Glenn Beck (if you don’t know who he is, let me also tell you his 3 year old son is struggling to overcome his fear of Big Bird. You had to have found at least one of those statements funn-I mean, worthy of sympathy).

However, this sub, and many other substitutes are in luck.  Super luck, as it may be, because I have decided to write an 8,700+ words long post telling substitutes around the world exactly how to survive in their ruthless career (along with pictures, which you can click on to make larger).


The first thing every sub must do at the beginning of class is take attendance.  This ensures that the students are in the correct classes, and was instituted due to a recent influx of people skipping study hall to, oddly enough, sit in on AP Chemistry lectures.  Also, attendance gives a few elite students a reason to be late; without it, there is no fun in being late and annoying the teacher, and students might accidentally be on time (or even-gasp-early).Taking Attendance

1). Calling Names.  This is by far the most outdated and yet still most widely used method of taking attendance.  It involves calling each student’s name and waiting for an answer.  Students, being incredibly stupid in everything except avoiding and disregarding rules, have realized there are ways to have other people, aside from whose name is actually being called, answer.  Therefore, Mr. Substitute teacher, if you realize that, according to who answered, the class should be full, and there are only ten people in the class, be aware that something is very wrong.  This means that those ten students have eaten the rest of the class, and are probably eyeballing your lean vs fat body makeup.

2). Electing Another Student to do this.  This is another old way to take attendance, but it works slightly better and faster than the one above.  It involves giving a student the sheet and allowing them to decide who is present or absent.  However, the student is often irresponsible, so make sure to choose someone who will do the job right.  Someone who shows up late to class, is wearing a backwards baseball cap, and doesn’t have their homework is usually a good choice.  I’d avoid those with glasses, the quiet kids, the ones in collared shirts, and anybody who looks subdued.  If the person taking attendance doesn’t strike fear into the class, the class will likely mug him/her for the attendance sheet and burn it in an act of rebellion.

3). Using a Seating Chart. This method is where you look at the desks and see who is absent, cross-referencing it with a seating chart provided by the teacher.  Usually, though, the teacher’s seating chart is an expression of abstract/modern art, and undecipherable unless you cross your eyes.  Therefore, I’d recommend crossing your eyes.  Also, if you do some ballet during attendance it makes this chart more readable.

4). The Count. You can always just count the students, and give the number of absent people to The Office Attendance people.  This is made easier by the fact that teenagers are usually still at the beginning of class, and by the fact that any number between 1-5 is believable, and unverifiable, by people above you on the administration ladder.

5). The illegible handwriting. While this works for many things, it can always be applied to attendance.  Scribble a few lines and send it off to the office.  If they ask for clarification, mumble something and then cough.

6). The Devious Lie. You can also capitalize on teenager’s ruthlessness.  Pass around the attendance sheet and tell students that they must check off their names to be entered to win gum. This prevents them from marking down the absent people. While they might realize that the sheet says “Attendance” at the top, remember, teenagers lose all intelligence when gum comes into the equation.

Leaving/Entering the Class

This is also a big deal for substitutes.  Teenagers try to leave and never come back until the end of class, and, thus, have spent many years digging tunnels through the insulation and floors to achieve this.  However, do not despair, because you, as a substitute teacher, can still survive using these methods.

7).  Ebay is your friend. Warn students that anyone leaving the class must leave behind their phone, and that anyone gone for more than five minutes can retrieve their phone from the ‘electronics’ section of Ebay.  If a teen tells you that they don’t have a phone, see “Discipline”, because there is no who teen doesn’t have a phone.  If they continue to protest, though, lend them your phone, so they can then give it to you and leave the class.  If they are gone for more than five minutes, list your phone on Ebay and wait for the student who borrowed it to buy it back and return it to you.

8). U-haul is also your friend. You have to plan ahead for this method, and you must arrive at school before any students.  The trick is to park a rented U-haul truck so it can be seen from the classroom windows.  Leave all but the side facing towards you untouched; for this side, paint “Madam Zebrowski’s Chinese Factory Tours for Unaccompanied Minors with no concerned family members-Recruitment Truck 0716”.   Any student who still asks to leave the classroom hasn’t yet learned how to read (so you should ask them to take attendance before they leave).

9). Use Bathroom Passes. These are always great innovations; I’ve seen teachers use slips of paper, to paper slips, to small pieces of paper.  Therefore, you must set yourself apart, and use a monogrammed bowling ball.  This prevents a student from bolting without leaving the hall pass behind, and it is a federal crime, teens are told, to be seen in the halls without a hall pass (if the student leaves the school property, then it becomes a felony)Bungee Cord.

10). Hit up the Hardware Stores.-for bungee cords.  Most teens wear belts, most doors have handles.  You could attach a bungee cord to each, essentially leashing the student to the door.

11). Bring a bucket. The only real reason students can come up with to leave the class is to use the bathroom.  Bringing bucket and placing it in the corner solves this problem.  In fact, oddly enough, this method seems to increase the endurance of most teen bladders as well, so it is a double positive.

12). Just say no. Does anybody really need to leave the classroom?  Of course not.  Say no.  Barricade the door with books, and stand vigilantly guarding it.  Just make sure to notify the local law enforcement that this is a teaching policy and not a hostage crisis.  If you forget, though, when they show up with the negotiator make sure to ask for a full-time teaching position.  I’m sure they’ll offer it, seeing as you are such a commanding figure in the classroom.

Basic Class Operation

This sub-section (no pun intended) deals with basic class function: passing out papers, collecting papers and homework, and turning on/off the various electronic devices.  This is vital to how smoothly the class functions, and students receiving the correct homework assignment (so that they have the pleasure of being proud of and recycling their own work instead of someone else’s).

13). Calling out names. Similar to “Calling Names”, this assumes each student can claim their work.  However, this leaves you vulnerable to mispronouncing another student’s name, which is also a federal crime (although this one was pushed by the student’s union, not the teacher’s union).  To remedy this, you can call grades instead, such as, “Person who got 100%”.  Although this may leave a small pile behind, this can be cross-referenced with the attendance sheet to see if someone is absent (usually “Dude who got an F-“ is sick and unable to claim their work).

14). Making it a sport.  Crumple up the assignments into balls, and throw them at the students.  They are forced to catch them, un-wrinkle them, and pass them around to the correct people.  In fact, if you have a lighter, making the assignment flaming balls instead of regular rumpled-balls adds to the excitement.  Heck, sometimes the building itself will get excited to the point where it wets itself (as seen by the sprinkler system).  This is a good thing, because it will also alert the nearby fire department (who are all great paper-ball throwers), and that will really entertain the students and win respect for yourself.

15). Making it a target sport. This is basically a reversal of #14, for collection assignments; the students will all throw their crumpled-up homework at you, who are trying to dodge.  Oddly enough, whenever this method is used students seem to have tons of homework they must turn in.  Then you pick up the homework off the floor and place it in the blue bin with the white arrows on it by the teacher’s desk, ‘cause that is usually the turn-in bin.

16). Origami. Simply ask each student to fold their homework into the most complex origami they know.  Then, leave the army of cranes/boats/planes/boxes arranged in a way so that when the teacher returns and sits at their desk, they become creeped out by the paper that is watching them, never to return, securing you a full-time position in the class.  Make sure to alert the students to the ‘creeped out’ part, omitting the fact that this might help you to return (make that a surprise), and your popularity will skyrocket (largely because it seems as if you are breaking the rules, but, in reality, you are only ‘bending’ them-that was a bad pun. You know, bending rules, folding paper, origami? I’m going to go hide under the bed now).

Power Button17). Look for a circle and a line. This method applies to turning on/off the projector/computer/technology in the room.  See, the people who manufacture all the technology got together at one of their high-end conventions and decided that instead of putting any descriptive words on the power buttons, they should put a symbol there instead.  The decision was clinched when the head technology symbol creator (to whom one can attribute the astounding brilliance of the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ volume labels) got drunk.  He misheard someone, who was arguing currency (“a yen ain’t better”), as asking for “a 10-point letter” (remember, he was drunk). Being an avid Scrabble player, he tried to draw a ‘Q’.  However, when almost finished he lost motor control of his right hand, and filled in the gap of the circle with a straight line.  Thus, if you are looking for the power button, look for this symbol.

Teacher’s notes

Often, the teacher will leave notes for a lesson plan or how to handle certain students.  These tips will help you to decipher these notes to discover their true meaning, regardless of what you think the teacher wanted you to do.

18). Utilize notes on students. If the teacher was kind enough to mention that you should ‘watch out’ or ‘be wary’ of, say, student Butch, then utilize this.  First, determine who Butch is during attendance (unless he was eaten, in which case don’t worry), or when passing back/collecting papers.  Then, of course, tell Butch that you will pay for his college education if he behaves during the class.  You’ll never have to pay, of course, because if the teacher felt the need to mention Butch, it is unlikely he will go to college, as famous as he’ll get in the teacher circles (instead, he will be gifted a degree from whatever college he applies to without attending, because the college professors will have heard of him and don’t want him in class.  You’d be surprised how rumors can grow in the teachers’ lounge: “You say he has medium size feet and black hair? God help us.”).Using the notes

19). Use the lesson plan provided. This helps you avoid thinking about the lesson, instead simply spouting whatever it is the teacher wants you to teach.  Most teachers provide a lesson plan.  If they don’t, let their students know that it is because they didn’t provide a plan that you will now share some stories (“Back in the war…”).  However, if you are ever unsure of what the lesson is on, walk outside and look at the sign on the door.  While the sign probably won’t tell you the subject of the class, when you need a professional salvage crew to scrap the wreck you made of the lesson (“And, see, 2=2 because of the economic factors that H.G. Wells told of in his three laws of motion…’), you can give them the correct room number.

20). Read aloud the notes on students. This might not actually accomplish anything, but I figure if you read what the teacher thinks of Butch to the class, they will find it hilarious and will instantly respect you more. Butch, however, will probably try to poison your coffee, so you should make sure he is aware that you don’t drink coffee.  Instead, you should remind him you only drink Orange Jamba Juice every Thursday from the Jamba Juice on 5th street, where you are usually the first customer in the morning.

21). Leave the teacher notes. Since the teacher obviously feels you are incapable of teaching the class and left you a lesson plan, you should feel free to add to it, so that if a substitute is ever clueless enough not to know how to teach, they will have your added input.  Notes such as, “Ignore the rubber band shot after switching slides” and “Use bathroom now-it’s your last chance for three years” are extremely helpful.

Previous school rules

Often, there is a list of policies already in place at the school you are teaching at.  Common ones include no weapons, no drugs, no alcohol, and no school-sold soda.  Usually, you can bend these policies to your advantage, especially when using “discipline”.The rules

22). Read the rules. Most students have never read the 178,452 pages of school policy, surprisingly, so you should read it aloud to the class.  This uses time, bringing you closer to the end of the day, and it also, arguably, teaches the students something.  Best of all, though, if a supervisor walks in, it makes you look really good.

23). Brainstorm new rules. After reading the rules, you should have students brainstorm new ones.  You can subsequently submit these with your notes to the teacher, and strongly suggest they be implemented.  After all, America is a democracy, right?

24). Ponder the rules. If done correctly, this can be very entertaining to either the students or the teacher (but never both).  Basically, ask students to find the three examples of metaphor in the school policy, and then make that into a lesson plan.  This is very memorable, so students will be sure to remember your name when the teacher asks which sub to request (although there might be a ‘not’ in front of it.  However, this is a sign of appreciation).

25). Enforce the rules.  There is usually an offender in every class, whether it is an exposed midriff or a runny nose.  Take advantage of the fact that most students didn’t read the policies of the school and take this opportunity to utilize an entertaining “Discipline” method.


One thing that students hate about substitute teachers is that they can never seem to remember names of students, or that they mispronounce the names of students, leading to a number of, um…accidents involving the sub.  This is positive, though, because it means that substitute teachers’ life insurance rates are low.

26). Sound it out.  Be phonetic.  You learned to read, didn’t you? Well, use those skills!  If you are unsure of how to pronounce a name, sound it out before shouting it.  This helps in pronouncing all names, from Nicholas Patisse to Zachary Xu.  In fact, using the confidence this method affords, make sure to shout it extra loud.  If nobody answers, it is likely because they are absent (see “Attendance”).

27). Use another language.  If you really get stuck on a name, go to Google translate and translate it into an obscure language.  Then, when you say the name and the student tells you that it was mispronounced, you can tell them that was what their name sounded like in Azerbaijani (the letters don’t change in the box on the translator, just the accent).

28). Pretend to use another language. This is similar to the one above, but it can be used without access to a computer.  Basically, just call out the name.  Then, when the students laugh because of the poor pronunciation, you can tell them that was the name in Macedonian.  They will all be amazed, unless one of them is enrolled in the school’s Macedonian class, in which case you had better sprint out of the classroom.  You should run to the office and ask why, exactly, do they even have a Macedonian class offered?

Staying Vague29). Stay vague and general. Disregard names entirely.  Instead, call out things that are unique about the student, or just call out “Hey, you” and point.  For example, “Hey, you with the gum!” and, “Oy! With the face!” work well.

30). Make your own names. This is easy and fun.  Simply figure out what is most obvious about a person and call them by that.  Nicknames can be anything, as long as they aren’t derogatory (you know, something like, “Chipper”.  This suggests the person is no better than a bark chip on a playground.).

31). Force students to wear nametags. Give them all nametags and ask them to write their name on one.  Then have them stick it to their back.  This way, when they turn around, you can see their name and yell at them to face forward (why else would you need to know their name?).

Free Time

No matter how great a substitute teacher you may be, there will always be free time for the students at some point during the class.  This is BAD.  The students will use this time to organize rebellion and build siege weapons.

32). Snipe Hunt.  The always-popular snipe hunt, adapted for a classroom.  Describe a snipe to students and tell them the first one to catch it gets gum.  You think you last saw it under the desk in the back, but you can’t be sure.  Also, these birds have invisibility powers.

33). Bouncy-Ball. Bring one of those super-bounce balls and throw it as hard as you can at the nearest wall (make sure to shut the windows).  The male students will go nuts trying to catch it.  Bonus points for hitting a students face.

34). Riddles.  Give students some riddles to solve (you can put them on the board).  However, make them so obvious that they are unsolvable, something like “I am blue and I fill the sky.  What am I?” (the sky), or “It walks on four legs in the morning, walks two in the afternoon, and has wheels in the evening.  What is it?”Opening a coconut

35). Coconut. Bring a supply of coconuts.  If there is free time, give each student a coconut and explain, at length, the health benefits of drinking coconut milk.  Then pass out straws and wait.  No student will be able to crack theirs open against the fake-wood-but-really-actually-plastic desks, so unless Butch brought a hammer, knife, or other weapon, (in which case you can remind him of school policy and see “discipline”) this will take the student’s free time.

36). Rubik’s cube. Bring a 3×3 Rubik’s cube, but before giving it to the students, you should disassemble it.  Then offer however many pieces there are to the students and watch as they try to re-assemble it (otherwise, there might be someone who knows how to solve a Rubik’s cube; in fact, Butch probably does).

37). Attack Butch.  Encourage students to attack Butch with school supplies so that he runs out of the classroom.  Not only will Butch no longer be around, therefore, to intimidate/scare/annoy/heckle/break you, but I can also stop using him as the butt of many of these jok-I mean, tips.

A needle in a haystack38). Needle in a Hay Stack. If you are in a rural town, go outside, find some hay, and bring it inside.  Since you can’t have a needle (it could be used as a weapon to kill any student who is under 0’ 2”), you can use a staple.  Drop it in the hay, which you’ve spread on the floor, and mix it up.  The student that finds it gets a prize (the prize is getting to keep the staple).  This has the added bonus of ensuring you’ll never be asked to sub at the rural school again.

39). Hand out Candy. The students will take it.  Then, you can take away the candy and give an hour-long lecture on accepting food from strangers, and why it might encourage strangers to give away food continuously, leading to their death by starvation.  And, with quick enough hands, you can use the same 30 candies for your whole career.

40). Sell Advertising. I suppose I should have put this under the “income” category, because that is what it accomplishes, but you need spare time to enact this.  Simply sell advertising to a number of pharmaceutical companies, because those companies only advertise to people who have no strong demand for those products (children’s shows, major league sports, etc.).  Of course, you will need to be able to speak fast at the end of each one, and keep a straight face while telling your students that the product you just recommended will probably kill them, or at least cause a severe esophagus malfunction that leads to the regurgitation of their lungs.

Common Offenses and their Meaning

If your class is unruly, this section will be of terrific help.  Often, you will see the same types of unruly behavior across a wide variety of locations.  This section attempts to analyze and provide meaning to these instances (think of it as becoming “Student Whisperer” instead of a dog whisperer, which, by the way, could be the next prime-time show were the networks to continue running out of funding for violent special effects).

41). Spitball.  While this has fallen out of popularity in recent years, it is a classic, so I might as well start with it.  Usually the student shooting the spitball is sending a message about the state of society, as they know it.  Something like, “Look! In addition to giving America it’s nourishment, McBurger-Jack-in-the-Bell-Ville also gives away free straws!” wouldn’t be too far off the mark.

42). The Rubber Band. Another classic, but this one has kept up with the change in technology (whereas there is now an “iStraw” app for smart phones that helps people break their phone faster than the national average, which is 43.7 days, by dunking it into a drink.  This app has a choke hold on the straw industry).  This trick alerts you to the fact that there is another substitute teacher in the building that day, one new enough to believe that each and every student has a loose arm socket that they need a rubber band to secure.  Capitalize on this by directing as many of these rubber-band shooting students to this sub’s classroom, because you would like to know if that sub believes in the afterlife. Texting

43). Texting in Class. If a student has their phone out and is furiously typing away, don’t be offended.  It simply means that they are busy voting for whom they feel is the best player of a sports competition.  Of course, if you catch them watching the sports game on their phone, be very offended.

44). Murder. All this tells you is that a few of your students may be sociopaths.  While this might be good to know, there isn’t anything you can do about these students.  After all, your evidence is likely shaky, and when you go to testify you’ll lose credibility when you tell you are a substitute teacher.  Clearly, you just want your 15 minutes of fame, because substitutes are always all over the tabloids (“Mr. Johnson, sub, isn’t a US citizen!” and “Sub Mrs. Smith gives birth to three-headed alien politician!”).

What to Wear

Your personal attire matters for your career, just like a fireman’s clothing: they both help you survive while doing your job.  Much of this section was left out due to common sense (hopefully, you know not to wear polyester-it’s flammable).

Sub in uniform

You, in full uniform.

45). Groucho Marx Glasses. This is the most vital part of your costum-I mean, attire.  Not only does this allow you to keep your real identity secret from pranking students, but this also lets you participate in “I’ve got your nose!” fairly well (although I warn you that the plastic used to manufacture those noses is probably full of carcinogens and, if you throw it out, a bird will likely choke to death when it gets stuck in the nostril).

46). Pocket Protector. Frankly, I have never seen anyone in real life wearing one of these.  However, they are extremely important.  Not because you need to protect your pocket, but because of the image they present: serious, down-to-business, and smart enough to find a pocket protector in stores.  Also, there is the off chance that a sick student will walk up to you and throw up in your pocket.

47). Knee-High Waders. The motto of all the boy scouts, I believe (even though I never actually did boy scouts) is, “a badge for every occasion”.  It might also be, “be prepared,” though, and that is what you must be.  I mean, think about it.  Knee-high waders will keep you looking your best if, as it always seems to at the worst possible moments, the toilet overflows.

48). Arrow through the Head. Not a real arrow, of course, but one of those fake ones that is attached to a headband.  This will give the impression that you are already dead, and, thus, the students should not make any effort to make your life even more miserable.

49). Bulletproof Vest. Again, be prepared.  Also, these are simply cool to have.  Hands down, this will boost your coolness factor and freak the students out.

Your Name

Just as the students hate it when you butcher their name, it is not appreciated when they kill your name.  Therefore, here are a number of things to ensure that your name escapes the cow farm of names (long joke-basically, butcher kills cows, cows come from farm, and your ‘cow’ escaped, probably by digging a tunnel using a spoon).

50). Write it on the Board. Write your name in all caps on the board, with pronunciation.  Then, if any student messes your name up, list their name under it, with an arrow saying: “Couldn’t read this.  How stupid.”  Public embarrassment is a terrific solution to many problems.

51). Constantly Remind Students. Nothing re-affirms words like repetition.  I’ve heard one must hear a word at least 10 times to ‘own’ it.  Therefore, say things like, “Good Job, that’s the right answer.  By the way, I’m Mr. Smith,” and, “Yes, you may go to the bathroom.  Also, my name is Mr. Smith”.

52). Lie. If your name is bad, you need to lie.  Names that are words or celebrities fall under this category (such as Mrs. Slaughter or Mr. Norris).  Instead, become either Mr. or Mrs. Gorgoveztskyorinithmisian (and, of course, combine this with tip #50).

53). The Cattle Brand. Continuing the cow joke, I stumbled upon this brilliant idea.  Brand your name! Oh, not on students, of course, because that is probably against the law.  On the board, I meant (unless you live in some place like Nebraska and have cows grazing outside the school.  In this case, you should brand the map on the wall with your name, because you want to remember not to sub in Nebraska again). It will draw the students’ attention, and constantly remind them of your name (the smell of burning white-board is hard to forget).Whiteboard with branded name


Apparently, a new fad amongst teachers is to give tests as often as plane fares change, because of the correlation between a teacher trying to earn enough money to pay the bus fare to the airport and the erratic schedule of the public bus system (and while students test, the teacher can work a side job, such as being a technical writer).  This has resulted in a drop in grades, due to the fact that, while the number of test questions has increased, the number of answers the students bother to learn has not.  What this means for you, as a substitute, is that it is likely you will need to give a test to students during the day, and that you should be prepared to do this.

54). The Golden Rule of Cheating. If you catch a student cheating, they obviously would like to be cheated off of as well.  Therefore, you should snatch their test and copy all of the answers that they have so far onto the board at the front of the room.  If anybody so much as glances at these answers, they too are cheating, so you should do the same with their test.  If the class is made up of normal teenagers, and not teens who show up to school with a collar and tie and seven last names (one of them being a number written with Roman numerals), by the end of the class the board will be covered in answers.  At this point, you can allow cheating, because it is likely that each student will be stupid enough to cheat off of his or her own answers on the board.Background Music

55). Background Music. Music has been proven to increase intelligence at some point in an organism’s lifetime, I think, so playing music during a test will increase the average score.  Therefore, during a test is a great time to learn a new instrument, especially trumpet, drums, or barry sax.  However, if you don’t have an instrument you’d like to learn, I’ve heard Mozart at 3,200 decibels or above works as well.

56). Take a Job on the side. Nothing should prevent you from doing other work while students take a test.  However, make sure that you are equipped with a mask of some sort, so that you can slide it above your eyes as you look down and make it seem as if you are still scanning the class (but it can be difficult to find a school-appropriate mask).  This is important.  If you are not giving the impression that you are constantly watching the students, then they will form groups and, consequently, all blame a group member for their failure instead of themselves.

57). Answering Questions. Sometimes, a student will ask a question about something on the test.  This is always an attempt to gain help with the question, no matter how innocent it might seem.  Therefore, you need to avoid answering these questions, and instead go on the offensive (attack is the best defense).  Questions like “What is your name?”, and, “Where were you on July 5, 2007?” should be sufficient to turn the student away.

58). Seating Arrangement.  Seating arrangements can make it easier or harder to cheat, depending on how close the desks are.  To ensure it is impossible to cheat, you should utilize all objects in the room to spread the students out.  Especially useful are the removable ceiling tiles, opening windows, and trash can/recycling bin.


Yes, you read that right.  I know that substitute teachers make less than most signs these days (you know, the ones with people inside that walk around busy intersections advertising a “HUGE SALE!”), but there are ways to remedy this.  The most popular way is to get a different job, but then you wouldn’t need the other 45 of these tips.  Therefore, I’ve devoted this section entirely to ways you can utilize your current occupation to make a profit (because teachers these days make less than the gas fare it takes to get to school).  Also, after this section I will try to restrain myself when it comes to jokes on how little teachers make (because the teachers of today barely—ahem, sorry).

59). The Small Print. Gotta love it, for it is the most useful tool of making extra money.  You know all those papers that need a parent signature? Parents don’t even read those anymore (“What’s this? And organ donor form? Yeah, sure, son, just have fun.”).  Attach a clause at the bottom of one of these papers in size 3 font that basically says the parents are signing away all of their kid’s present and future assets, except the braces, which you don’t want.  For added entertainment, attach this clause in bolded, all-caps size 24 font and see all of the forms still come back signed.

60). Steal School Supplies. This takes a little while, because you can’t steal massive amounts.  However, if you take, say, three paper clips a day, in a few millennia you will have enough to become a door-to-door paper clip salesman (assuming, of course, that in future millennia there are still doors, and not some amazing and frequently re-released Apple product instead).

61). E-mail. Yes, sure, it is outdated, but you still can’t beat it when it comes to scams.  Use any spare time you have to create a very believable invitation for money for, say, a long-lost grandmother in Libya.  Then simply utilize the school’s list-serve of e-mail addresses.E-mail scams

62). Be an Entrepreneur. Chances are, the school facilities are lacking a lemonade stand.  That’s good, less competition for you. You need to show up at the school an hour early, with thirty or more fresh Starbucks products.  Then, as people walk in the door, offer them one. Next, sadly inform them that you need money to send to a princess in Liberia who needs your help, so, accordingly, the mocha they just started will cost them $3,248.

The Staff Lounge

At some point, assuming you are not tied up in a bathroom, rotting until the next fire drill (because someone is always in a bathroom during a fire drill, and, consequently, causes hysteria among the mysterious beings who live inside the teacher’s walkie-talkie), you will probably get to spend time in the staff lounge.  Often, society is more stable in here than it is in the classroom, but there are still a few things you need to know.

63). Use the Coffee. If there is a coffee machine in the lounge, I’m sure it is due to some obscure state-law pertaining to teacher’s rights.  The coffee won’t actually taste good, but it won’t kill you, either (because the school knows that some substitute teachers are simply not ‘in the know’, and would drink the coffee).  You should instead water the plants with it, because it won’t kill the plants, either (due to a state law brought about by tree-huggers).  If the plants are fake, you should still dump the coffee on them (weigh your options: tasting bad coffee, or looking like a mentally unstable teacher by dumping coffee onto fake plants).

64).  Eat the Donuts. If there are donuts, eat them.  There is no state law that provides for them, so this means they must have been bought at a place that knows how to make food that will kill both plants and humans.

Decorated Staff Lounge65). Decorate. This accomplishes two things: it endears you to the staff, and it makes the place feel like home.  Personally, I’d recommend bringing holiday lights, a stuffed animal head of some sort, and a gramophone.

66). Install Security Measures. Make the teacher’s lounge even safer by installing further security measures to keep unruly students out.  No matter how the teachers show it, know that deep down, they appreciate having to enter their password and username, submitting a DNA sample, and scanning their retina to use the sofa.

67). Junk Mail. Usually, teachers have mailboxes somewhere in this lounge, but, sadly, they do not often get enough junk mail to read.  This leads to many teachers feeling saddened every time they check their mail, because they can’t get that warm feeling from seeing “TO: Jonathan Anderson or Current Resident or Sentient Being with Money”.  You need to bring your junk mail from home (I’d usually save up at least a week’s worth) and distribute in the boxes, earning you the gratitude of the teachers.


This is the political platform of all three-headed alien politician’s, so, as the father/mother/guardian of one, you need to push respect as a value as well.  There are many things that can be done to show respect in the classroom, but here are a few common ones.

68). Shoe Shine. The shininess of student’s shoes gives you a terrific representation of how much they respect you.  For dull or muddy shoes, don’t allow that student to make eye contact with you.

69). Facial Expression. This is also aids greatly in determining respect, because teenagers all have the same expression.  That means that anyone who doesn’t look like they are only minimally managing to scrape enough brainpower together to remember to breath and pump blood is being disrespectful.

70). Port-o-Potty. This borders the other side of the line-your respect for students.  It shows you understand that they often take excessive amounts of bathroom breaks, and you have done your beA fine line between respect and fearst to accommodate them (but make sure that the health inspector isn’t coming that day.  If he is, well, why do you think that port-o-potties can be locked from the outside using rope or string?).

71). A Fine Line.
Between respect and fear.  Therefore, you could do any number of things to instill fear in the students, which could be misinterpreted by a blind onlooker, wearing sunglasses, as respect.  I’d recommend threatening to become a lawyer.

Emergency Situations

Emergencies happen, but not very often.  That is why schools have drills for these emergencies as well, so the local news, were they to run out of cat-in-a-tree stories, can say, “And, in five minutes, after I redo my totally natural hair with some lard, the Jefferson Fire Drill-stay tuned.”

Fire Alarm72). Fire/Fire drill. This is most common, happening from once a month to twice weekly, depending on whether or not the school counselor uses tarot cards and burning, smoky incense to forecast student’s schedules (setting off the alarm).  Usually, you are required to go outside and form lines, and then count people, grabbing a walkie-talkie as you go (in case a fire is loud enough that it becomes more useful to talk into the static desolation than to the teacher seven feet to your left).  If you are missing anybody, you are permitted to scream obscenities into the walkie-talkie (“TARTAR SAUCE! JIMMY’S STILL INSIDE!”), or, if you have a sore throat, you can bluff and say everybody made it out.

73). Earthquake/Earthquake drill. This is one where you are required to stay in the building, cowering under desks (which, by the way, have any number of unneeded metal supports to prevent you from doing so).  Unless there is a real earthquake, students will fall asleep, so make many loud noises during this drill.  If there is an actual earthquake, students will get out their phones to take pictures or text others, so you should ignore the falling debris and walk around confiscating student phones.

74).  Lockdown/Lockdown drill. The principle of hiding is key in this one as well, and it occurs when a criminal is around the school premises.  However, you shouldn’t be worried, because you are wearing a bullet proof vest (if, by some fatal error, you skipped that tip, by all means, panic.  Although it is not recommended, you could even get out the walkie-talkie and pray to the god of static).

75). Tsunami. There is no drill for a tsunami, but in the event one occurs, you should set off the fire alarm.  Then, while everyone is lined up outside, you can raid the art hall for enough materials to quickly build a boat.

76). Nuclear War. Surprisingly, you don’t actually have to worry about this.  The federal government does, but unless you are teaching science and you really get out of control, you should be okay.  That is why there is an indemnifying clause for violence committed by teachers in science class, for it is for the good of the nearby population (and you wondered why science classrooms always had the most yardsticks and obscure torture devices).

Motivating Students

In the unlikely event that the tips in “Discipline” are not enough to motivate the students, there are a few (borderline-legal) things you can do to further stimulate brain activity and force the students to learn.Electric Shock

77). Electric Shock. The safest way to execute this is with a bathtub, a hairdryer, and a student.  Because of the legal implications, I’m not going to say much more, but I will tell you that some sort of electrical charge should stimulate the student’s brain pretty fast.

78). Magic Tricks. These are absolutely terrific for motivating students.  Tell them that if they finish the work in x minutes, they can volunteer to be cut in half.  In fact, these can be cross-applied to ‘Income’; for example: “Now, who would like to see twenty dollars disappear? Why do I need your twenty? I don’t have twenty dollars in my wallet, I’m a teacher.”

79). Certificates of Appreciation. Because these are widely used nowadays from the workplace to schools, it can be assumed that these are terrific motivational tools.  You simply need paper that looks like somebody dropped in the vat of chemicals they use to make instant coffee, a border, and the words ‘appreciate the hard work of’ and some letters after your name, like ‘signed: Mr. Johnson.  Mr. Johnson, Ph.D., E.D., C.D., D.V.D., L.E.D.’

80). Chalupas. This is a great motivator for basketball teams (if they score over 100, the crowd gets free Chalupa coupons), so it will probably work for the classrooms as well; hand them out for high academic achievement.  Just make sure that the students (similar to the players) don’t get any Chalupas, but rather that you give them to whoever is cheering the students on (yourself).

Homeland Security

As great as you might be in using all of these tips, there will always be a school where the students are too unruly to control.  While ‘discipline’ methods may take care of this, here are some self-protection measures for those times when the students use lunch to sharpen the plastic spoons and launch full-fledged rebellions.Rioting Students

81). The Newspaper. This is a sturdy first line of defense, and it can give the appearance that you are too removed to realize the students are not working.  However, it is extremely flammable and very flimsy, so take this into consideration when the torches and pitchforks get passed out.

82). The Sandbags. A more durable option than the newspaper, sandbags will usually keep you safer.  Just remember to arrive early to set them up properly, and also consider that this could be against school policy .

83). Use the Desk. The teacher’s desk can be hidden behind, but I really mean that you should not hesitate to use the supplies found on top of it.  Paperweights and rulers can be very, uh, handy in a pinch.

84). Call for Help. Your ultimate lifeline is the teacher’s phone.  However, it is encrypted for security reasons, so you may need to press ‘9’ or ‘1’ or any number of other buttons to get to a live person.  Otherwise, this can be an outlet to talk to the dial tone deity, the cousin of the supreme static being who lives in the walkie-talkie.

Notes from the Office

At most high schools, it is common for the office to send summons and subpoenas for various students by way of slips of paper delivered by very responsible illiterate (read: asleep) students.  These can interrupt class and cause much drama, so be careful when dealing with these notes.Note from the office

85). At the Teacher’s Convenience. This is one of a number of options for when the student’s presence is requested, and, when saved up, this can severely dent your class size and decrease the physical advantage your students have over you.  Over a class, save up these notes until the last twenty minutes.  This should send an influx of two to five students to the office at once, which is more than enough to baffle the many administrators.  This, in turn, prevents the office from complaining about any ‘unconventional’ teaching methods you might use.

86). Don’t Shoot the Messenger. It is likely that the student delivering the note is brain-dead and incoherent, so you should play with their head for your personal entertainment (one of the perks of the job).  Statements such as, “Oh, I don’t have that student” will really mess up the system (and, if you’ve followed all the other tips, it is unlikely whether or not you know if that student is present).

87). Pass it Down the Row. Give the note to the first student next to you and tell them to pass it down.  This gives the impression you are in control and actually know who this student is, while ensuring that the class follows up on the issue when the student returns (“What in God’s green-but-only-kind-of-green-now earth did you do?”).

88). Send a Substitute. Chances are, the office won’t notice.  They simply have to call x students to the office a day to keep people walking through the halls so the motion sensor lights stay on.

89). Misdirection. This depends mostly on facial expressions, and will endear you to the students (and should be combined with #86).  When receiving a note, scan it, and then be outraged/amazed/angry/surprised/constipated while looking at the class.  Then, of course, hand it to the messenger and inform them that you don’t have that student in class (but if you did, he is probably the one in the back with the pencil sticking out of his ear).


No matter how many tips you follow, it is this section that will be most vital to keeping you alive from day-to-day.  Also, for example purposes, I was forced to bring back Butch from the Juvenile Detention Facility where I originally found him. I have referenced this numerous times, so, without further ado, I give you ‘Discipline!’

90). Liability Waiver. While not strictly discipline, you will need this to be allowed to execute most of these methods.  To get it signed, simply ask the students to sign it.  However, there will be one kid who reads it and refuses to sign this.  Do not hesitate to put that kid’s name on the board (he won’t know why, but, assuming he doesn’t lose the ability to read in the space of five seconds, he will be freaked that his name was written down and offer to do anything).

91). Stockades. Old things can be great.  I mean, look at electricity! It’s been around for a century, and we all still love it.  Or take Brett Favre.  He was a lot better than a few rookie quarterbacks somewhere (who all had mobility/nervous disorders). This was originally a punishment in the middle ages, but it has seen popularity skyrocket because no one is willing to eat non-organic fruit thanks to some educated studies done by people with aluminum foil hats.  I’m sure you could get stockades off of Craigslist, and whether or not you use them is up to you (they work well as an intimidation device, too).Funny Stockades

92). Thank Students. In elementary school, this could have been motivation, but in high school, being constantly thanked by the teacher is a reputation suicide.  Make sure to make these sincere, though, because sarcastic thanks boost student’s reputation (so instead of “Thanks, Butch, for detonating that smoke bomb and letting the class diamond back rattler loose so we can be hysterical,” say, “Students, we can now thank Butch for a educational survival opportunity where we must avoid a deadly predator in less-than-optimal conditions.”).

93). Dunk Tank. Collect trouble students’ cell phones and place them on the platform of a dunk tank (again, see Craigslist).  Then give the other students the opportunity of trying to dunk the phones.  This is not legal, but that is why you have the liability waiver.

94). Move Students. Any student causing trouble should be moved from their current position.  I’d recommend moving them so that they are hanging upside down from the top of a bookshelf and the blood rushes to their head.

95). Hanging. Not hanging with gallows, of course, just hanging people out the window by their toes.  This is a great method, because it has the added advantage of showing everyone outside the classroom how strict a sub you are, and that you shouldn’t be messed with.

96). The Coffee-Spill. This only has to be used once, and then it should control the class.  When you need to discipline a student, walk over to them and, while yelling, ‘accidentally’ spill coffee on their clothes. Then, of course, profusely apologize with enormous hand gestures, spilling coffee on those around them.  Next, remind the class that they wouldn’t want you to get upset and spill coffee again.  However, make sure this is not the coffee from the teacher’s lounge, because, being fake coffee, it does not stain clothes.

The End of the Day

If you need to use these tips, then I congratulate you: you are a survivor.  You’re not home free yet, though, because there are still a few things to deal with.

Minimalist clock97). Escape. You have to be able to leave the building without the principle catching you and reprimandin-I mean, thanking you for your work, because their thanks will last awhile (first they will thank you, then they will ask whoever is nearby to thank you, then they will comment on what a special occasion this is, then they will sing the alma mater).  So, as I have mentioned previously, spoons work extremely well.

98). Clean up. You should leave the classroom neater than you found it, but this could take a long time.  To speed up the process, raid a nearby school bus for the bodily fluids kit, which they won’t miss.  You can also burn everything and go for a minimalist look.

99). Network. Add this to your resume, because you have just completed your ___ consecutive day as a fully functioning substitute, with all limbs still attached and mobile.

100). Find a Good Lawyer. Don’t ask why, just do it.  Always be prepared, remember?  Also, changing your name and moving to another state would also be a good idea at this point.

There you are, readers, teachers, students, teens, and anybody I missed.  100 tips for the substitute teacher.  Feel free to share this with anybody and everybody, especially any teachers or substitute teachers you know (subcontext: because I haven’t done anything for the last week except write this super-long post, and I now have to explain why my eyes are red and purple and why my hands won’t stop twitching like a nervous squirrel who just walked into a nut factory, to contaminate it with salmonella of course), just give credit where it’s due (subcontext: send this blog more readers).  Out of curiosity, which tip was your favorite?

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  1. It WAS VERY LONG but I have used #'s
    1,2,3,26,30,34,84 and 94


  2. Wow. I saw the link to this on another post, and it's very funny, but I have to ask: HOW LONG DID THIS TAKE?! I read most of it, and it looks like you put a LOT of effort into it. Well done, I say, well done!
    Grace Kent

  3. Well, I've been working on it since, if I remember correctly, 4:53:26 P.M. on Monday, April 17th, 2006 (so, adjusting that to account for random fluctuations in the space-time continuum, it took about 2 weeks). Thanks for reading it and taking the time to comment.

    - Phil

  4. That was indeed a long post, but I survived it and it was totally worth it :D Very funny. If I was older and a subsitute teacher I would totally use half of these, for real, just for kicks and have a hidden camera to catch the fun in action.

    You're guyses blog is awesome, btw, and I mentioned you on my blog (onthewingsofabird.blogspot.com) :)

  5. Yes, I can definitely imagine how funny a hidden camera video of, say, the bungee cord tip would be. However, I think that if you considered doing anything like that you probably wouldn't last long as a substitute before being fired, but, hey, it's worth the sacrifice.

    Thanks a ton for mentioning us on your blog, and also thanks for commenting.

    - Phil

  6. The Hard Truth says:

    Not bad, but I’d like to add something-


    Attendance- kids want to play games? Here’s what I say- “I’m calling names once and once only. I will not yell, I will not scream, I will not wait. If you can’t shut your mouth long enough for me to do this, you’ll just be marked absent and YOU can explain to the office why you were skipping MY class.”

    Speaking “MY”. I see it all the time from fellow “subs”. They let themselves be cast as “substitutes”. I am not a substitute. “Substitute” is a word that does not exist in my occupational vocabulary. A substitute infers something that is sub-par…..of inferior value. If you ALLOW yourself to be treated like garbage, that’s exactly what you’ll be treated as, and it’s 100% YOUR own fault.

    “Mr./Mrs. ______ let’s us…..”.

    I don’t care, I’m not Mr./Mrs. ______. Once they get back, you can do anything you want. 99.9% of the time your hear this, it’s BS, anyway.

    Stand up, have some dignity, and demand respect from people, including the staff. If they don’t like it, tough. Go to a smarter school that appreciates the value of good, reliable, proactive people.

    My #1 tip, be effective first, and popular second. I know plenty of people who are “popular”, because the kids LIKE them. However, the kids don’t RESPECT them. Big difference. Most of the kids I work with learn that I can be a good guy, but there’s a line.

    Sorry to ramble, but just a few of my thoughts.

    • Thanks for your thoughts and taking the time to comment. Coming from the student’s perspective, I’ll say that you are generally right in your thinking (in my opinion).
      – Phil

    • Known as the Outspoken teacher says:

      Amen!! I have done precisely as you have with regard to attendance, asserting my boundaries, etc. At the beginning of the year with my soon to be former District, I had one HS teacher attempt to derail my methods and self-esteem by stating, “You CAN’T ezpect them to listen to you when YOU JUST COME IN HERE for the day! You’re not with them every day! I’m with them EVERY day!” (What she was really saying was: Who in the hell do you think you are coming into my classroom and taking over?!)

      The kids will clue into this dynamic and use it to their advantage… If students are unruly, rude and disrespectful, it’s usually because regular teacher has poor boundaries and little self-respect. Teachers who model strong, healthy boundaries create classes where students do not harass their guest teachers. Why else would the same student know she/he can get away with behaving very badly in one class, yet would not dare to do so in another?

      And yes, I’ve moved on to yet another District….

  7. Ellie. :D says:

    Super long but it was totally worth it! I must say, you have a grand sense of humor. :D Just found this blog while browsing through the many brain-cell-killing articles on what we call the Internet and I love this!

    • Thanks, Ellie. But teens don’t have to worry about losing brain cells, because we don’t have any to begin with. Although if you aren’t a teen, worry. Thanks again for the compliment.


  8. Sandra Lazcano says:

    this will be good for giving the teachers a laugh in the teacher’s lounge!

  9. Thank you for the humorous blog! I am a sub in a high school Spanish classroom ready to scream! This made me laugh and a bleak day now seems brighter!!


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