Western society is not particularly healthy. Teachers get sick often, just like students, and someone has to replace them in their classes. Schools are not able to replace the missing teachers with other regular teachers anymore, like they did in the past. The absences are way too common, and regular teachers have their hands full with their regular assignments.

Therefor most school districts, or even individual educational institutions (when big enough) hire a few substitute teachers to help with the workload. They do not have their regular classes, and simply go wherever the regular teacher is missing.

This is no easy job, but it pays well, and it can give you the hands-on experience you will benefit from while applying for a regular teaching job, later down the road, when you finish your studies and get a certification.Let’s have a look at some questions you may face while interviewing for this interesting job.


In your opinion, what is the role of a substitute teacher in a classroom?

Most substitute teachers simply try to maintain order in the classes. They tell children to play, or to do their homework, and that’s it. However, you should show a different attitude in your interview.

Say the interviewers that you will look at the lesson plans of a regular teacher, ask students what they did in the last lesson, and start from there. Maybe you aren’t an expert in the topic, but as long as you have books and goals for the lesson, you will at least try to move forward with the students. This is easier at elementary level, but you will try at any level of education.

Members of the hiring committee know that it’s not easy to lead an effective lesson in a foreign classroom. You do not know the students, or the most effective teaching methods. You may fail, but you will at least try. Your role is to try your best to continue where the regular teacher stopped. That’s the attitude they seek in a good job applicant.


What teaching methods do you prefer as a substitute teacher, and why?

Substitutes always have it tougher with discipline in a classroom. Because as soon as kids see that a regular teacher is absent, they hope for an easy ride.

You need to be creative to get their attention and to make them engaged in the lesson. I suggest you to say that instead of teacher-centered methods, you prefer interactive/participate methods, or even some creative techniques such as teaching by playing.

Another alternative is saying that you prefer individual approach to each classroom. You will walk in, talk to the students for a few minutes, try to get a basic grasp of the atmosphere and expectations. You will also check the lesson plans. Considering everything, you will decide to use this or that method.

What will you do if there is a group of disruptive students in a classroom?

You should do the same thing you’d do as a regular teacher. Do not be afraid to take a disciplinary action against a disruptive student, though as a substitute teacher you may not know their background, and the reasons for their behavior, or what their reaction may be.

Say that you will warn them, repeatedly, and if it doesn’t work you will report them or send them to the Principal’s office. Regular teacher or not, you won’t let one disruptive student, a group of them, to spoil the morale in the entire classroom. Show some courage in your answer.

* Do not forget to check also: 7 sample answers to “Why do you want to be a teacher?


In your opinion, what role does reporting play in this job?

Ensure the interviewers that you plan to make a report for the regular teacher, so they know where to resume the education once they return to work. You can take it even one step further, saying that you’d prefer to call the teacher to have a short chat and report on the things that happened in the classroom (including problems with discipline and similar stuff).

Of course in order to be able to do this, you make regular notes for yourself during each lesson, and write a short summary at the end of it. Reporting is important for you, and you do not plan to underestimate this activity as a substitute teacher.

* Special Tip: If you generally struggle in the interviews, or simply want to do more than your competitors, have a look at the latest version of my eBook, the Teacher Interview Guide. Up to 7 great answers to all 40 most common teacher interview questions will help you stand out and outclass your competitors. Thank you for checking it out!


Working as a substitute teacher can be very demanding, both mentally and physically. How do you plan to handle the pressure?

You shouldn’t wear pink glasses in your job interview. Ensure the interviewers that you are aware of the challenges that this job presents. It includes teaching always in a different classroom, missing a regular schedule, traveling a lot (when you substitute at different schools across the district), not having enough time to build relationship of trust with the students, and so on. Basically you have to start from scratch all over again.

You may feel tired, for sure you will on some days. You count with this. But you want to follow your teaching mission, you see the meaningful purpose of the job and understand the indispensable role substitute teachers play in education. Your inner motivation and drive will help you overcome the challenges–or at least you hope so :).


Where do you see yourself in five years time? Do you want to work as a regular teacher one day?

You should have some ambition. Even if you aren’t sure what will happen in your life in five years time, or perhaps have different plans (raising children, traveling the world, changing your field of employment), you should refer to the career of a regular teacher in your answer.

You can also say that you see this position as an excellent way of testing your skills, and an opportunity to make sure of your career choice. A job of a substitute teacher is more difficult than a job of a regular teacher (at least as long as you really try to teach, and won’t tell the children to play with their smartphones). If you manage to succeed as a substitute, it will be an extra motivation for you to complete your education and apply for a regular teaching job.


Some other questions you may face while applying for a job of a substitute teacher


Conclusion, next steps

Interview for a job of a substitute teacher belongs to interviews with average difficulty. Try to prepare for the questions from this article, and do some research about the school district where you apply for the job.

As long as you manage to show right attitude to teaching and to explain clearly why you want to work as a substitute teacher, and what you want to achieve with your work, they will give you a chance to prove your abilities. Good luck in your interview!

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Glen Hughins
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