17 Substitute Teacher Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from a substitute teacher, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

A substitute teacher is someone who fills in for a regular teacher when they are absent from the classroom. They are responsible for teaching the class and managing the students in the absence of the regular teacher.

If you are interested in becoming a substitute teacher, it is important to know what to expect during the interview process. This guide will provide you with information on the most common questions asked during a substitute teacher interview. It will also provide you with tips on how to answer these questions.

Are you certified to teach in this state?

Substitute teachers often need to be certified in the state where they’re teaching. Employers ask this question to make sure you have the necessary certification and are able to teach their students without any problems. If you aren’t certified, explain why and what steps you plan on taking to get your certification.

Example: “I am not currently certified to teach in this state. However, I am working with my local school district to get my certification. I will finish all of my coursework by June 1st so that I can take the exam before the end of the summer. Once I pass the exam, I will send proof of my certification to your school.”

What are your qualifications to teach this subject?

Substitute teachers often need to teach subjects they may not have experience with. An interviewer asks this question to make sure you are prepared to teach a subject you might not know much about. Use your answer to explain that you can learn new material quickly and adapt to different teaching styles.

Example: “I am certified to teach all subjects, but I do have more experience in math and science. However, I find that I am able to pick up on the style of any teacher I sub for. For example, when I was filling in for a history teacher last year, I read through the curriculum before class started. By the end of the day, I felt comfortable enough to lead the lesson myself.”

How would you handle a classroom with students who have behavioral issues?

Substitute teachers often work with students who have behavioral issues. The interviewer wants to know how you would handle these situations and ensure the safety of all students in the classroom. Use examples from your experience working with challenging students.

Example: “I once worked with a student who had ADHD, so I was prepared for any behavior issues that may arise. When I first met the student, I asked them what they needed from me as their teacher. We created a plan together where we could help each other succeed. This helped us both feel more comfortable in the classroom. If I ever encountered a similar situation again, I would try to create a plan with the student before class started.”

What is your teaching style and how would you adjust it to substitute teach?

Substitute teachers often need to adjust their teaching style to fit the needs of a new classroom. Employers ask this question to make sure you can adapt your teaching style and that you have experience doing so. In your answer, explain what your teaching style is and how you would adjust it for substitute teaching.

Example: “I am an active teacher who likes to keep my students engaged with hands-on activities. I find that this style works well in most classrooms, but if I were to substitute teach, I would scale back on some of the more energetic lessons. For example, instead of leading a class outside for a game of tag, I might use a smaller activity like a relay race.”

Provide an example of a time you had to step in to teach a class when the teacher was absent.

Substitute teachers often fill in for absent teachers, so employers ask this question to make sure you have experience doing so. Use your answer to highlight your ability to teach a class without any preparation and how you adapt to the situation.

Example: “When I was substitute teaching at an elementary school, one of my colleagues called out sick with the flu. The principal asked me if I could cover her class until she returned. I agreed, and when I arrived at the classroom, I found that there were two students who had been absent the previous day. I spoke with them privately and learned they were having trouble with their assignments. I gave them extra time to complete their work and provided additional help as needed.”

If you were asked to teach a subject you’re unfamiliar with, how would you approach the situation?

Substitute teachers are often asked to teach subjects they’re unfamiliar with. The hiring manager wants to know that you can learn the material quickly and effectively, as well as how you would approach a challenging situation.

Example: “I have been teaching for five years now, but I still feel like there is always something new to learn. If I were asked to teach a subject I was unfamiliar with, I would first do some research on the topic. Then, I would find out what my students already knew about the subject so I could build upon their knowledge. Finally, I would create an engaging lesson plan that would help me cover the material while also keeping the students engaged.”

What would you do if a student was acting out in your class?

Substitute teachers are often called upon to handle challenging situations with students. Employers ask this question to make sure you have strategies for handling these types of scenarios. In your answer, share a specific example of how you handled a similar situation in the past.

Example: “I once had a student who was acting out in class. I asked him to come speak with me privately so we could discuss his behavior. Once he and I were alone, I explained that I understood why he might be upset or frustrated but that it’s important to respect others in the classroom. He apologized and promised to do better. After that conversation, he returned to class and behaved well.”

How well do you handle criticism?

Substitute teachers often receive feedback from their supervisors and other school staff members. Interviewers want to know that you can handle constructive criticism well, especially if they plan on giving you feedback during your time as a substitute teacher. Use examples of how you’ve received feedback in the past and what steps you took to improve or change your teaching methods.

Example: “I understand that receiving feedback is part of being a teacher. I always welcome constructive criticism because it helps me learn new techniques and ways to better support my students. In the past, I have had several mentors who gave me feedback after each class. They helped me identify areas where I could improve and provided tips for improving those skills. As a result, I feel confident that I can apply any feedback I receive to help make myself a more effective teacher.”

Do you have any experience working with special needs students?

Substitute teachers often fill in for regular classroom teachers who have special needs students. These students may require more attention and care than other students, so the interviewer wants to make sure you’re comfortable working with these students. If you do have experience working with special needs students, explain what kind of student they were and how you helped them succeed.

Example: “I’ve worked with a few special needs students over my career as a substitute teacher. One student I had was autistic, and he would sometimes get overwhelmed by loud noises or bright lights. To help him feel more comfortable, I would dim the lights in the room before class started and keep the noise level low. He also liked to know where everyone was at all times, so I made sure to always tell him when someone new entered the room.”

When preparing to substitute teach, what is your process for reviewing the teacher’s lesson plan?

Interviewers may ask this question to understand how you plan your day and ensure that you are prepared for the class. Your answer should show that you take time to review important information about the students, their learning styles and any special needs they might have. You can also use this opportunity to explain how you make sure you know what materials you need to bring with you to the classroom.

Example: “I always try to arrive at least 15 minutes early so I can read through the teacher’s lesson plan before the start of the school day. This allows me to get a better idea of what the students will be learning and helps me prepare my own teaching style and materials. If there is anything specific I need to know about the students or if there are any unique circumstances in the classroom, I like to find out as soon as possible so I can adjust my plans accordingly.”

We want to ensure our substitute teachers feel welcome and comfortable in our school. How would you build rapport with students and teachers?

The interviewer wants to know how you will fit in with the school community and ensure that students feel comfortable around you. Use your answer to highlight your interpersonal skills, such as communication and conflict resolution.

Example: “I always make sure to introduce myself to teachers before class starts so they can tell me about their expectations for the day. I also like to get to know my students by asking them questions about themselves or what they’re learning in class. This helps me build rapport with students and makes them more comfortable talking to me when they need help. I also try to learn a few names each day so I can call on students by name during class.”

Describe your experience working with technology in the classroom.

Substitute teachers often need to be familiar with the technology in a classroom. This question helps an interviewer determine if you have experience using specific software or other tools that are used in their school district. In your answer, describe any previous experience working with technology and highlight any skills you have that make you qualified for this role.

Example: “In my last position as a substitute teacher, I was called into a fifth-grade science class where the students were learning about electricity. The teacher had just started teaching them how to use a circuit tester when she needed to leave for a meeting. She asked me if I knew how to use it, and I told her I did because I had previously worked at a middle school where we learned about circuits. I helped the students complete their assignment while the teacher finished her meeting.”

What makes you an effective teacher?

Substitute teachers need to be effective in the classroom. Employers ask this question to learn more about your teaching style and how you can help students succeed. Before your interview, think of a few things that make you an effective teacher. Think about what skills you have that help you connect with students or manage a classroom effectively.

Example: “I believe that being organized is one of the most important parts of being an effective teacher. I always come prepared to class with lesson plans and materials for each day. This helps me keep my students on track and ensures they’re learning the material we planned to cover. Another skill that makes me an effective teacher is my ability to communicate clearly with parents. If there’s ever a concern, I try to address it as soon as possible so everyone knows what’s going on.”

Which teaching methods do you prefer and why?

Substitute teachers often use a variety of teaching methods to keep students engaged and learning. Interviewers want to know which methods you prefer, why they work for you and how you plan lessons using different approaches.

Example: “I believe in keeping the classroom fun while also challenging students with new concepts. I find that my students learn best when I make sure they understand basic principles before introducing more complex ideas. For example, if I’m teaching about plants, I’ll start by explaining photosynthesis and then move on to more advanced topics like plant reproduction. This helps me ensure all students are understanding the material.”

What do you think is the most important aspect of being a substitute teacher?

This question is an opportunity to show the interviewer that you understand what it means to be a substitute teacher. It also gives them insight into your personal philosophy on education and how you would approach this role. When answering, consider focusing on one or two aspects of being a substitute teacher that are most important to you personally.

Example: “I think the most important aspect of being a substitute teacher is creating a safe learning environment for students. I believe that when students feel comfortable in their classroom, they can focus more on learning and less on worrying about their surroundings. To create a safe learning environment, I plan to arrive early each day to get to know my students and make sure they have everything they need.”

How often do you think a teacher should be replaced?

Substitute teachers are often called in to fill in for a teacher who is sick or on maternity leave. However, some schools may need substitute teachers more frequently than others. Interviewers want to know that you understand the importance of having a permanent teacher and how often they should be replaced by a substitute.

Example: “I think it’s important to have a permanent teacher as much as possible because students learn best when they’re used to their teacher’s style. I would only call in a substitute if there was an emergency or if the teacher needed to take a long-term leave. If a student has a favorite teacher, I’d do everything I could to ensure they had them back as soon as possible.”

There is a teacher’s lesson plan on your desk, but you have your own ideas for how to teach the day’s material. What do you do?

Substitute teachers often have to work with the materials and lesson plans left behind by their predecessors. This question helps an interviewer determine how you will handle this situation, as well as your ability to think on your feet. In your answer, explain that you would use both the teacher’s plan and your own ideas to create a new lesson plan for the day.

Example: “I believe it is important to respect the work of my colleagues, so I would read through the original lesson plan before deciding which parts of it I wanted to keep and which ones I would change. Then, I would combine those elements with my own ideas to create a unique lesson plan for the day.”


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