Interview

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 a professional educator who is hired to fill in for a teacher who is absent from school. The substitute teacher is often called a “sub” for short.

A sub may be called to work at the last minute or may be given notice of an absence in advance. In either case, the sub must be prepared to teach any subject at any grade level.

To become a substitute teacher, you must have a bachelor’s degree and be certified to teach in the state where you will be working. You may also need to complete a training program.

If you are interested in becoming a substitute teacher, you should be prepared to answer some questions about your qualifications and experience in an interview. In this guide, we will provide you with sample questions and answers that you can use to prepare for your interview.

What subject area do you most enjoy teaching?

Substitute teachers often fill in for a variety of subjects, so the interviewer wants to know which ones you enjoy most. This helps them determine if your teaching style matches their school’s curriculum. When answering this question, be honest about what you like and why. If you have experience teaching multiple subjects, explain how you make each one interesting for students.

Example: “I love math because it is logical and there are always answers. I find that many students feel more confident when they can see an answer right away. In my last position, I started a math club where we worked on challenging problems together after school. The kids really enjoyed working through the problems with other students and seeing different approaches to solving them.”

Why do you want to be a substitute teacher?

This question can help interviewers understand your motivations for becoming a substitute teacher. They may want to know that you’re passionate about working with children and helping them learn. You can answer this question by explaining what inspired you to become a substitute teacher, such as an influential teacher or experience in the classroom.

Example: “I became a substitute teacher because I wanted to give back to the community and support teachers who inspire me. I remember my first-grade teacher was so kind and patient, and she always made learning fun. She inspired me to pursue teaching as a career, and now I hope to be just as inspiring to students.”

Describe your leadership style.

Substitute teachers often need to be leaders in the classroom. They are responsible for managing students, keeping them focused and ensuring they complete their work. Employers ask this question to make sure you have experience leading a group of people. Use your answer to explain what leadership style you use and why it works well for you.

Example: “I believe that effective leadership is all about communication. I always make sure my students know exactly what’s expected of them. For example, if I’m teaching a lesson on fractions, I’ll let them know how many different types of problems we will cover. This way, they can prepare themselves before I start each new section. I also like to give frequent feedback so everyone knows how they’re doing.”

What are your academic credentials?

Substitute teachers need to have a minimum level of education, but the specific requirements vary by state. Academic credentials are usually listed on your resume and cover letter, so interviewers may ask this question to make sure you meet their state’s requirements. If they don’t mention any particular qualifications, it’s safe to assume that you should hold at least a high school diploma or GED.

Example: “I graduated from Central High School with honors in 2016. I then went on to attend State University where I earned my bachelor’s degree in English literature.”

Do you have prior experience as a teacher?

Substitute teachers often have experience as a teacher, but it’s not required. Employers ask this question to see if you’re familiar with the role of a substitute teacher and what they expect from you. If you do have prior teaching experience, share your most important lessons or how you helped students learn something new.

Example: “I’ve been a substitute teacher for five years now. I started out as a full-time teacher at an elementary school where I taught math. One day, one of my students asked me why we had to learn math when we’d never use it in real life. I told them that learning math is like learning a language. You don’t know all the words right away, but once you learn them, you can apply them to other situations. Math is the same way. It may not be used every day, but knowing it will help you understand many things.”

Describe your teaching philosophy.

Substitute teachers often have to adjust their teaching style to fit the needs of a classroom. This question helps an interviewer determine how you’ll adapt your teaching style to meet students’ needs and whether you’re prepared for this challenge. In your answer, describe what makes you a good teacher and why you believe that’s important.

Example: “I think it’s important to be flexible as a substitute teacher because each class is unique. I always try to make sure my lessons are engaging and hands-on so students can learn in different ways. For example, if one student doesn’t understand something when I’m explaining it, I’ll find another way to explain it or provide more examples until they get it. I also like to give students opportunities to practice skills on their own so they can develop independence.”

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing substitute teachers today?

Substitute teachers face unique challenges that full-time teachers do not. Interviewers may ask this question to see if you understand the difficulties of substitute teaching and how you plan to overcome them. In your answer, try to identify a challenge substitute teachers face and explain what you would do to address it.

Example: “The biggest challenge facing substitute teachers today is communication with their students’ primary teacher. I think it’s important for substitute teachers to maintain open lines of communication with the regular teacher so they can learn about each student’s unique needs. To do this, I always send an email to the primary teacher after every class I teach. This way, I can find out more information about my students before I meet with them again.”

How do you create a positive learning environment in your classes?

Substitute teachers often have to create a positive learning environment for their students in a short amount of time. This question helps the interviewer determine how you plan and execute lessons that keep students engaged and motivated. Use examples from your previous experience to explain what strategies you use to help students learn effectively.

Example: “I find that creating an engaging lesson plan is one of the best ways to ensure my students are actively participating in class. I always try to make sure each day’s lesson has some type of hands-on activity or game so students can practice new concepts while having fun. Another way I maintain a positive learning environment is by making sure all students feel comfortable asking questions. I encourage them to raise their hand at any time if they need assistance.”

What age group do you feel you teach best?

Substitute teachers often work with a variety of age groups, so it’s important to be able to teach all ages. However, you should answer this question honestly and explain why you feel that way.

Example: “I find I am most comfortable teaching elementary school students because I have been doing it for the past five years. I know how to handle their energy levels and can relate to them well. I also enjoy working with middle schoolers as they are at an age where they are starting to learn more about themselves and who they want to be. High schoolers are great too, but I find they require more attention and guidance.”

How do you manage classroom dynamics and student behavior?

Substitute teachers often need to manage classroom dynamics and student behavior. The interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your strategies for managing these situations. In your answer, describe a time when you had to intervene in a situation with students or other teachers.

Example: “I have experience working with students who are acting out in class. I once worked as a substitute teacher at an elementary school where one of the classrooms was having behavioral issues. I spoke with the regular teacher about how they handled similar situations. She told me that she would give them warnings before sending them to the principal’s office. I followed her lead and found it helpful to let students know what behaviors were acceptable and which ones would result in consequences.”

What are some tips for preparing for a Substitute Teaching assignment?

Interviewers may ask this question to see how you plan for your day and ensure that you are prepared for the assignment. They want to know that you have a system in place to make sure you arrive on time, have all of your materials and can focus on teaching students rather than worrying about missing something important.

Example: “I always try to get to work early so I can meet with my supervisor or principal before class starts. This allows me to learn any last-minute information about the classroom or school that might be helpful during the day. I also like to review the lesson plans from the regular teacher so I can understand what they were planning to teach and if there is anything I need to change.”

How do you create a positive learning environment in your classes?

Substitute teachers often have to create a positive learning environment for their students in a short amount of time. This question helps the interviewer determine how you plan and execute lessons that keep students engaged and motivated. Use examples from your previous experience to explain what strategies you use to help students learn effectively.

Example: “I find that creating an engaging lesson plan is one of the best ways to ensure my students are actively participating in class. I always try to make sure each day’s lesson has some type of hands-on activity or game so students can practice new concepts while having fun. Another way I maintain a positive learning environment is by making sure all students feel comfortable asking questions. I encourage them to raise their hand at any time if they need assistance.”

What are the most important qualities for a successful substitute teacher?

Substitute teachers are often called upon to fill in for a variety of classes and grade levels. Employers ask this question to make sure you understand the unique challenges that substitute teaching presents. In your answer, explain what qualities you have that help you succeed as a substitute teacher.

Example: “I think one of the most important qualities for a successful substitute is flexibility. Substitute teachers need to be able to adapt to different classrooms and situations quickly. I am always prepared with lesson plans and activities so that I can change things up if needed. Another quality I believe is essential is patience. It’s challenging to work with students who aren’t used to seeing you, but I know how to keep my cool and remain calm when working with them.”

How do you plan lessons when you’re not familiar with the students or curriculum?

Substitute teachers often have to plan lessons on the fly, so interviewers want to know how you’ll handle this situation. Your answer should show that you can think quickly and come up with engaging activities for students.

Example: “I always try to learn as much about a school before I start my substitute teaching job there. If I don’t have time to do research beforehand, I ask the teacher what they covered in class that day and then look at their lesson plans or handouts to see if I can use them to help me plan my own lesson. Sometimes I find that I need to modify the lesson based on the age of the students or other factors, but it helps me get started until I can create something new.”

Have you ever addressed a class in an unconventional way? If so, please describe.

Substitute teachers often need to be creative and flexible when teaching a class. This question helps the interviewer determine how you adapt to different situations and challenges. Use your answer to highlight your problem-solving skills, creativity and flexibility.

Example: “I once had a substitute teacher who was sick for two days in a row. I was assigned to teach his class on both of those days. The first day he taught, he gave us an assignment that we needed to complete before the next day. He didn’t give us any instructions about what to do if he wasn’t there the following day. So, I decided to take over where he left off and explained to the students that they would have to finish the assignment by the end of the week.”

How do you handle difficult workloads?

Substitute teachers often have to manage a variety of different classes and grade levels. Interviewers want to know how you will handle the workload if they offer you the position. Use examples from your previous experience to show that you can multitask and prioritize tasks effectively.

Example: “In my last substitute teaching role, I had three different classes with varying age groups. The school district was short-staffed that day, so I didn’t get any help. However, I used my organizational skills to keep track of all the students’ names and grades. I also made sure to give each student individual attention when needed. This helped me ensure that no one fell behind in their work.”

What challenges have you faced while substituting?

Substitute teachers often face unique challenges that full-time teachers do not. Interviewers ask this question to learn about your experience with these challenges and how you overcame them. In your answer, describe a challenge you faced and the steps you took to overcome it.

Example: “The biggest challenge I’ve faced as a substitute teacher is getting to know my students quickly. When I first started substituting, I would spend time introducing myself to each student before class began. However, after a few weeks of doing this, I realized that I was spending valuable teaching time on introductions rather than lesson planning. To solve this problem, I created an online form for parents to fill out so I could get basic information about their child before school started. This allowed me to start class right away instead of wasting time on introductions.”

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