Archive for August, 2010

Goal Setting 101

For a substitute teacher, there is plenty to ready besides stuffing your bag with the must have items for school. In fact, getting your essentials in order is just a small part of the preparation.

It reminds me of a noteworthy quote that I’m sure you can recall:

“The game [of golf] is 10% physical; 90% mental.”
– Jack Nicklaus

I believe that the same holds true for those who substitute teach. Our job is rigorous and demanding physically, but it takes even more mental stamina to get through the day, positively.

I’m a firm believer in goal setting. In fact, I think that setting goals can build and strengthen that mental stamina, especially for substitute teachers. It is easy to get bogged down in the mundane, day to day, in and out, nomadic life of a sub. However, if you can create a list of things you want to accomplish each day or during your time as a substitute, I believe it can really put a positive spin on each an every day.

  • Start by listing some things that could make your day brighter, go more smoothly, create some fun/adventure while you sub.
  • Add things that you would like to accomplish in your career & things that  can help further you in your path to pursue a job.
  • Ask yourself how can you take advantage of your job as a substitute teacher& what can you learn from this experience.

Once these thoughts are jotted down, begin to formulate a set of goals for the year. Here are some suggestions: get involved in the school community through volunteering, commit to journaling positive experiences & good ideas, work to build strong relationships with building principals, achieve a set number of observations & letter of reccomendations, attend professional development workshops, be better prepared with materials & ideas for down time while teaching.

I hope that by completing a list of goals, you will be able to find fulfillment in your day to day and that you can find a bit of sunshine peaking through the often times cloudy days of subbing.

miss miller


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Whistle While You Work

The seven dwarfs had it right when they suggested singing a tune while at work!

An important attribute of a successful substitute teacher is having the ability to captivate the attention of your students. It is often hard, without having a relationship with the classroom of students, to achieve this; however, a song can truly change just that!

Whether you have a few extra minutes or a life-less crowd of kiddos, knowing a catchy song or finger play can help students to become engaged in a lesson.

First, gather some of your favorite songs, finger plays, rhymes, and chants — songs for all ages, different seasons, and various times of the day (such as a line up song).

Need to find some songs? Visit one of my favorite websites — — to find printables, lyrics, and activities that are fun & educational.

Once you have a list of your favorite songs, write each song down on an index card. You can even take it a step further & categorize/color code each song (by grade level, season, routine, etc.)

The cards can be organized in an easy to carry case such as this:

Use an index card holder !

Or, be savvy & punch a hole in the top left corner and attach with a binder ring!

Look how cute!

Having songs on hand can solve a case of the Monday-blues or a mid-week slump! Carry these along with you so you can truly whistle while you work!

miss miller

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Back to School Shopping: 4th edition

Planner: Check!
Business Cards: Check!
Notebook: Check!

We’ve taken care of some of the essentials of our back to school shopping and now we are left with the extra items that will help you find success in your daily subbing adventures!

  • Colored Markers/Sharpies
  • Stickers
  • Tablet/Post-its
  • Children’s books (1 for primary, 1 for intermediate)
  • Game/Activity (materials or ideas to fill extra time)
  • Whistle (to call in for recess)

[Side note: in addition to these things that will aid in your teaching, you may also want to include these items to spare you from minor disasters — safety pins, asprin, water, tide-to-go pen, mints, tissues, & hand sanitizer]

These items sum up the list of must-haves in your back to school bag! (Though I wouldn’t be surprised if a few other suggestions are added from time to time. Got a good suggestion that wasn’t listed? Comment & share!)

I hope that you are rested & ready to tackle another wonderful school year! Happy preparations & good luck this year!

miss miller

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Back to School Shopping: 3!

I’ve been dedicating several posts to some important back to school shopping picks for substitute teachers. So far, I’ve packed my bag with a planner & personal business cards! Along with those items [and one that I feel is most important]  is a simple notebook!

A notebook?” you ask.

Yes! A notebook! Now let me explain, as a substitute you are going to be walking into some of the BEST and most OUTSTANDING classrooms. You will be surrounded by a wealth of resources, ideas, and examples of fabulous teaching! These experiences should not be left dwelling with the spider webs in the deep recesses of your memories — they should be written down!

So next time you find yourself sitting in the chair of a highly qualified, creative, and resourceful teacher– whip out your handy, dandy notebook and jot it down! Take note of your surroundings, classroom management techniques, unique games/activities, fun songs & movement activities… the possiblities are endless!

Even if you happen to be a part of a less than stellar classroom environment, write down those “do nots” too! Anything that you can reference in the future will help you.

I'm a sucker for Vera, but you can find your favorite notebook at


This past year, I purchased a simple notebook & tabbed it for the different grade levels. It was easy to reference when I had a longer term assignment and needed to find a good weather song or a great creative way to line students up.

Not only is this a smart way to build up your repertoire of teaching tips, but I assure you that it will come in handy when you are preparing for an interview!

miss miller

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Back to School Shopping: Take Two!

Being savvy

is just as important for a substitute as it is for a businessman. I say that because it is very important  that you are making good contacts and establishing a good network.

One thing that will aid in this endeavour is having your own, personal business card! Which is the second on my list of must-haves for your back to school bag!

Business cards: are effective for handing out contact info to teachers or principals as a way to have your number/email address ready & on hand! For those substitutes in a long-term setting, they are also a great way to establish open communication with parents. You never know when you’ll be in a situation where a crisp, clean, and contemporary business card will help convey a professional and prepared impression! [Note: these cards can jump start a side career, such as tutoring! What a great way to start a personal & educational business!]

DIY using heavy cardstock & Publisher. There you will find a great template that can help you outline a stylish card OR check out one of my favorite websites,, to have a card custom-designed for you!

seller poshgirl boutique offers a wide variety of business cards at

It is appropriate to include: Your name, degree/certification, email & phone number

Business cards are practical & polished. It is a way to make YOU stand out as a professional, leaving quite a nice impression, if I do say so myself!

 miss miller

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Back to School Shopping: Part One

So what will fill your back to school bag?

We prepared as a child, and now as an adult. Heading back to school warrants a shopping list for substitute teachers, too! Sharpen those pencils & jot down the first of many suggestions:

Planner: This functional staple [in any teacher’s bag] serves a multitude of purposes! Save school phone numbers & important email addresses, organize your schedule, as well as have a monthly/weekly view of your availability.

It is important to not rely solely on online schedules & calendars. A personal, hard copy always comes in handy! Keeping track of your days can also help to verify accurate payment.

Here are a few functional & fun planners:

Erin Condren Planner for Target

Create your own planner @

Sleek, sophisticated Moleskine Planner

Get organized & get excited! This is just the start of fun things that can fill your back to school bag!

miss miller

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A Renewed Outlook

As the new school year quickly approaches and summer begins to say it’s farewells, it is hard to avoid the dread that surrounds the first sounds of school bells…

Here we go again, another year of the unpredictability of substitute teaching.”

At least those were my first thoughts as I quickly grasped the reality of my future this fall: another year of substitute teaching.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were many things that I loved about substitute teaching last year: the ability to strengthen my skills as a teacher, the chance to get a taste of the wealth of good teaching ideas, building relationships with exceptional educators, and the flexibility of my schedule.

I believe that those pros are only the tip of the ice berg of the wealth of learning opportunities that substitute teaching offers. And that is why this blog was created:

to equip substitute teachers with the ability to perform their job at a superior level, to inspire substitute teachers to set goals and reach them, and to encourage substitute teachers to value their role in the educational world.

So here is to a brand new school year — May it be one full of renewed hope, strength, and perseverance as you live out your life as a daily substitute!

miss miller

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