How To Become A Substitute Teacher In California 2024

how to become a substitute teacher in california

Some parts of the world also refer to a substitute teacher as a relief or casual relief teacher, while they use the term “emergency teacher” in other areas.

A substitute teacher or relief teacher renders help or assistance in guiding and teaching students in the absence of a normal full-time teacher. Moreover, the absence of the permanent teacher may have been due to leave, maternity, or sabbaticals. Which may need the presence of a substitute teacher while away. Substitute teachers ensure that the academic activities of students go smoothly.

In this article, we’ll be reviewing how to become a substitute teacher in California. The types available, the benefits, and the skills required to become a substitute teacher in California.

What Are The Duties Of A Substitute Teacher 

While the full-time teacher is away or on leave, there is a need for a substitute teacher to take up their work. They’re to ensure the guidance of students with their assignments. And also take up course outlines provided by the full-time teacher. To achieve these, they may need to be flexible in carrying out their task effectively. Moreover, adaptable to new teaching environments, and also possess pedagogical skills to meet the standards and scheme of the school.

Other duties required of substitute teachers include:

1. Explanation of homework, class exercises, and other assignments.

2. Ensuring that the classroom is always noise-free and neat.

3. Marking and monitoring of students’ attendance.

4. Following the permanent teacher’s lesson plan. 

5. Abiding by the school rules and regulations.

6. Documentation of all classroom activities and other related notes.

7. Supervision of the classroom and students’ behaviors. 

8. Organizing quizzes and tests.

9. Giving instructions in specific subjects.

10. Supplying educational support to students. 

However, the duties of substitute teachers may differ. This is based on the classes they take and the student’s needs. In some cases, the permanent teacher drops notes for the substitute teacher on what and how to take the class.

Key Responsibilities Of A Substitute Teacher 

Apart from the regular duties expected of a substitute teacher, it’s important to know of a substitute teacher that the duties of a substitute are beyond those. To ensure the successful delivery of their work as substitute teachers, there is a need to take note of some major responsibilities as highlighted in this section:

  • Maintenance of orderliness and discipline among students in the classroom to ensure a secure and conducive environment for learning.
  • Reviewing and recording their students’ progress and also giving feedback to full-time teachers about how they had managed the class on their return.
  • Adhering to the school rules and regulations and emergency activities when expected. And also ensuring the safety of their students.
  • Building a good relationship with their students, other members of staff, and the school management at large to ensure a positive environment.
  • Employing a variety of teaching methods to carry students along during teaching, will help speed up active learning in students.
  • Being conversant with the school protocols and policies to ensure compliance and proper representation.
  • Updating skills and knowledge effectively in teaching techniques and strategies, classroom management, and other skills related to controlling the classroom and students.
  • Must be effective in time management to ensure that they cover all lesson plans, and likewise other administrative tasks.
  • Establishing effective communication with school management and administration concerning all student affairs or issues that come up during each lesson day.
  • Implementing classroom procedures and routines to support the structure established by the regular teacher.

What Are The Types Of Substitute Teacher

Substitute teaching is subject to change over time. No matter the type of substitute teacher, it’s expected of all to be flexible, adaptive, and also resourceful. They must also be ready to relate with students of varying ages. In all, there are five types of substitute teachers. They are:

1) Short-term substitute teachers

This is also called ‘The Quick-Step-In’. In other words, this type of substitute teaching can be described as teaching students with no prior notice, and classes being taken with short periods. Short-term substitute teachers are characterized with being superheroes who need to step in for a day or two. Being a short-term substitute teacher means being able to get quick on one’s feet and ready to take kids with fun. They should have the ability to adapt easily to lesson plans and class management even with little or no time for preparation. The ability and flexibility to control and manage classroom activities are the topmost skills considered in being a short-term substitute teacher.

2) Long-term substitute teachers

Also called the ‘Long Term Haul’, are teachers that take longer periods than the short-term substitute teacher. Their job is usually extended to cover for a permanent teacher’s absence. This long period allows them to relate closely with students and bond well with them. They get to outline lesson plans and guide kids through learning for weeks and sometimes months. They can also engage in class grading. The permanent teacher’s absence might have been due to maternity leave.

3) Emergency substitute teachers 

The Ready Responder or Emergency Substitute Teachers usually take classes with no prior notice. They are hired in a situation whereby the school is unable to get a teacher in advance;. And this requires them to be exceptionally adaptive and well-skilled to manage classes and take care of unpredictable assignments. Moreso, they must be ready to maintain order in class and as well deliver instructions to keep the school running smoothly during such periods of unforeseen shortage of staff. They are individuals who may not have a teaching background but just love to teach.

4) Special Education Substitute Teacher

They are also called the ‘Special Hero Teachers’. As a special education substitute teacher, there’s a need to be patient, empathetic, understanding, and possess special skills to create supportive and engaging classrooms for students with different needs. This type of teaching also requires having an extraordinary heart for students. Teachers in this category must be familiar with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and be able to adapt to various teaching methods to fulfill each student’s specific needs. Special Education Substitute Teachers are trained to take students with a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical abilities.  

5) Subject-Specific Substitute Teacher

The Subject Maestro or Subject-Specific Substitute Teacher takes classes on their area of expertise. For instance, if an individual has a deeper understanding of a subject matter, he’s expected to take classes only on such subjects. Examples are Maths, Science or Humanities. This type of teaching gives room for more dispensation of effective instruction and their ability to answer students’ questions with ease.

Other types of substitute teachers include:

  • The Digital Guru or Virtual Substitute Teacher
  • The Variety Virtuoso or Flexible Day-to-Day Substitute Teacher
  • The Language Linker of Bilingual Substitute Teacher
  • The Team Player: Paraprofessional Substitute Teacher

What Are The Benefits Of Becoming A Substitute Teacher In California

Becoming a substitute teacher can unravel a whole lot of benefits and offers even outside of the classroom. 

Some of these include:

1) Autonomy: Becoming a substitute teacher gives an individual the opportunity to set one’s schedule. This may be more beneficial if one is an entrepreneur, artist, or small business owner. It’s also a great opportunity for retirees, students in master’s and doctoral programs, and stay-at-home parents who wish to have a substitute source of income. 

2) Diversity: Becoming a substitute teacher gives one a wide range of acquiring lots of experiences. In the course of substitute teaching, an individual can begin to teach high school seniors Spanish and also fill in as a second-grade teacher. 

3) Experience: Substitute teaching gives an individual the opportunity to gain experience and help answer questions such as “Is being a teacher worth it,” and “Should I be a teacher”. If one finds yes to the above questions, the experience might make an individual become a full-time teacher. 

Above all, being a substitute teacher will make an individual one who impacts a powerful knowledge and role in a child’s life supplying them with the knowledge they need to grow. 

What Are The Skills Required To Become A Substitute Teacher?

Variety, flexibility, exhilaration, ability to add fun to teaching are the topmost skills needed to become a substitute teacher. However, there are many important reasons to become a substitute teacher. If you’re an individual looking forward to becoming a substitute teacher in California, the first question to ask yourself is: What will be required of me? 

Below are some of the skills a substitute teacher must possess:

  • Interpersonal skills: must be able to interact with students and build trust.
  • Presentation abilities: To deliver lesson plans confidently.
  • Classroom management: To maintain order.
  • Critical thinking skills: Ability to adapt to diverse situations.
  • Time management: must be able to handle class schedules efficiently.
  • Organization: must be able to keep track of students’ materials and assignments.
  • Instructional skills and subject knowledge: ability to confidently teach different subjects.
  • Communication and interpersonal skills: must be able to work effectively with students and staff.
  • Problem-solving and quick thinking: ability to proffer solutions to problems and be able to handle unexpected situations.
  • Professionalism and reliability: must be dependable and uphold a positive attitude.
  • Leadership skills: He/she must be able to coordinate with the students. This is because they are the authority in the classroom.

What Is The Salary For Substitute Teachers In California 

The average salary of a Substitute Teacher in  California is $20.68 per hour.

Steps On How To Become A Substitute Teacher

The following are the steps and procedures for becoming a substitute teacher in California:

Step 1: Earn A Bachelor’s Degree

An individual must possess a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university before thinking of becoming a substitute teacher. A bachelor’s degree in education may be a terrific choice, but individuals in substitute teaching must have a broad range of educational backgrounds with degrees in Psychology, Early childhood education, Counseling, English, Sociology, Mathematics, Biology, and Art history.

Step 2: Take Additional Qualification Tests

After earning the bachelor’s degree, one should take additional qualification tests to earn a minimum score of 123 on the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), to assess one’s math, reading, and writing knowledge. One can also opt-in for the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET) – an exam designed to verify one’s knowledge in a single subject, like English or Sociology. This will help an individual stand out among other applicants when applying for substitute teaching jobs. 

Step 3: Pass a Background Check: 

All teachers including substitute teachers are expected to go through a background check as child safety is important in public and private schools.  This is done through the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This is done to ensure that candidates don’t have a criminal record involving children. 

Step 4: Get a Tuberculosis Test: 

As child safety is important, child health is also imperative. On this note, the state of California requires teachers to get a tuberculosis test 60 days before applying as a substitute teacher.

Step 5: Gaining Knowledge of the Latest Education Technology: 

A substitute teacher needs to familiarize himself with the most up-to-date technologies used in schools. This may include interactive whiteboards, educational games like Socrative, and video platforms like Animoto. The knowledge gained will not only help one stay relevant but may also give one’s students a different and immersive learning experience.

Step 6: Basic Skills Proficiency Coursework and Exam: 

These are important as they will certify that one has a handle on the essential skills (and knowledge) required in the classroom.

Step 7: Putting Together a Physical Toolkit: 

In most cases, classrooms are of course expected to be equipped with the necessary facilities needed to teach students but it’s also advisable for a substitute teacher to have a go-to kit that contains pens, pencils, a timer, and other classroom essentials as it makes one more prepared and assured.  

Step 8: Creating a Visual Reminder of Student Expectations: 

As a substitute teacher, one of the topmost skills expected of one is the ability to maintain order and good behavior in the classroom. This will help create a view in the school’s management that one can take from school to school (and class to class) that shows individual expectations.


Becoming a substitute teacher comes with handling kids with care and patience, adapting to different environments, and being ready to tutor students even with no notice.

It’s also expected of a substitute teacher to endeavor to gain more knowledge of lesson planning, and fun activities that are acceptable in classrooms for specific grades and ages. 



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