Think you want to become a teacher? Try substitute teaching first.
If the idea of becoming a teacher has been running around your mind for a few years, it might be time to take it seriously. By seriously, I mean look into teaching to see if you like the reality of it as much as you like the idea of it. The best way to do that is to get experience in the classroom by substitute teaching. ‘Subbing’ (as it is commonly called) is, hands down, the best way to try teaching different ages and look at different curriculum to find out both who you want to teach and what you want to teach.
Getting Into Substitute Teaching
A surprisingly large portion of teachers moved into education as a second career. It’s estimated that between 30% to 40% of new teachers are career changers, people who worked in other industries and felt called to become teachers. A smart move if you’re considering this type of career change is to dip your toes into the new field and see if you like it first. For potential teachers, subbing is an easy way to try out teaching before committing to a training or certification program. Typically all you need to become a substitute teacher in your area is a bachelor’s degree and a clean background check (it also helps if you like kids, but we’re hoping at this point you’ve already decided that). You can google your closest school district to find out what the requirements are to be a substitute teacher and fill out an application form.
Benefits of Substitute Teaching
There are several major benefits to substitute teaching before starting any teacher training or alternative teacher certification program. Here are the top four, in no particular order:
- Find out what age range and subject area you actually like. Maybe you think you want to teach third grade- but once you substitute teach for a few days you discover that you want to work with kids who are a bit older…or younger. Or maybe you think you want to teach high school English, but discover that your real interest is in middle school Social Studies. Better to find out before you complete a certification program and get your own classroom.
- Develop contacts in different schools in your area. You’ll quickly get to know the substitute coordinator for the schools where you work. When the time comes to look for a teaching job, you’ll have the best insider connection available.
- Enter your first classroom better prepared to help your students. Whether you have kids of your own or not, no one is quite prepared for his/her first day in front of 20+ students. When you substitute teach before you start a teacher certification program, you get a better understanding of what you need to learn in terms of child development, classroom management tactics, teaching philosophies, etc. In short, you are better prepared to learn how to be a teacher when you’ve experienced a variety of classrooms and seen what you do and don’t want to replicate in your own classroom.
- It’s a flexible schedule. If you are trying to find a new career, substitute teaching also gives you the schedule flexibility to job hunt and do interviews on days when you’re not in the classroom. You can schedule assignments days or weeks ahead of time, and pick days to have ‘off.’ You can pay your bills, get experience and research job options at the same time.
A Growing Need for Teachers
The need for teachers rose about 13% in the last 10 years and is expected to keep growing. Wherever you go, communities will always have schools and always need teachers. So if you’ve been thinking about making a change in your life and becoming a teacher, now is the perfect time to get started! Contact your local school district and see what it would take to get on the substitute teacher list for this coming school year. Request to substitute teach in the grade level and subject area you think you want to become certified in. Then try a few grade levels up and down to see what fit you really like best. Make contacts at the schools and talk to current teachers. See what you think and then decide of you want to commit to a traditional teacher training program or an alternative teacher certification program.
If you’re interested in teaching, don’t miss out on the best way to introduce yourself to your next career. Get started as a substitute teacher this fall and move one step closer to a career with meaning and impact.