SUBSTITUTE’S SUITCASE: Don’t Leave Home Without It!


[semester equivalent = 2.00 credits]



Julie Bora



Learn insider information to support your role as a top-notch K-12 Substitute Teacher, one who is in demand by administrators, teachers and of course, students. Whether just starting out or a veteran, you will tap into whimsical ways, helpful hints, and proven practices to support your subbing day. Investigate effective strategies and collect carefully chosen activities and ideas that activate learning. By the conclusion of this course you will be able to enjoy and manage any class with the confidence and polished sureness of an efficient and loving teacher. You will know what to do in any situation.

LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, participants will have:

  1. Prepared to substitute teach at any grade level, in any content area, for any length of time.
  2. Assessed environmental learning spaces from the viewpoint of a learner.
  3. Developed their very own Entry Routine for use on subbing assignments.
  4. Expanded their personal repertoire of effective strategies and activities for the substitute teaching trade.
  5. Examined and reflected upon their style and increased their ability to manage any classroom, anywhere, anytime.
  6. Applied the learning acquired as a sub on site.

Completion of all specified assignments is required for issuance of hours or credit.  The Heritage Institute does not award partial credit. 


Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participant’s their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), or Washington State Clock Hours or Oregon PDUs. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours and Oregon PDUs.



Continuing Education Quarter credits are awarded by Antioch University Seattle (AUS). AUS requires 75% or better for credit at the 400 level and 85% or better to issue credit at the 500 level. These criteria refer both to the amount and quality of work submitted.

  1. Completion of Information Acquisition assignments 30%
  2. Completion of Learning Application assignments 40%
  3. Completion of Integration Paper assignment 30%


CREDIT/NO CREDIT (No Letter Grades or Numeric Equivalents on Transcripts)
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) Continuing Education Quarter credit is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis; neither letter grades nor numeric equivalents are on a transcript. 400 level credit is equal to a "C" or better, 500 level credit is equal to a "B" or better. This information is on the back of the transcript.

AUS Continuing Education quarter credits may or may not be accepted into degree programs. Prior to registering determine with your district personnel, department head or state education office the acceptability of these credits for your purpose.



Choose a book from the Bibliography OR select a relevant book on your own.
The Bibliography is located at the end of the syllabus.
Textbooks may be ordered on-line or through bookstores. 

None. All reading is online.


Material costs will depend on the book you select from the Bibliography OR one of your own choosing which addresses substitute- teaching strengths and issues.



Assignment #1: Another Space Called Home

Pick your own textbook! From the Bibliography choose a book to read or another book with prior approval from the instructor.
Write a 1-2 page summary of new learning.  If taking this course in a group, each person should read a book.  Only one person needs to write a summary.
Send to instructor:, Subject to read ‘Substitute #1.’

Assignment #2: Setting the Stage

Watch the following video YouTube: School of Rock 2003 Trailer
Now it’s your turn to consider how to start. Understand that one chance importance of making your best first impression.  Things that start well tend to end well, and things that don't, don't.
Observe a learning environment at the beginning of the day (elementary) or the onset of a lesson (secondary.) Note how the teacher or sub eases the students into learning. Is there an entry routine? If so what does it look like? How might you ease your students into your day together? Develop an entry routine for your subbing self.
In a 1-2 pages describe your substitute entry routine including any variations for subbing in various grade levels and/or content/specialty areas. If you have a dismissal routine, describe that too.
Send to instructor:, Subject to read ‘Substitute #2.’

Assignment #3: Collecting on Site.

As substitute teachers we sometimes find ourselves in unfamiliar or unpredictable situations that call for improvisation. To navigate these rolling waters, it's a good idea to collect items and ideas of interest that will enable and assist you to respond appropriately in a wide variety of circumstances. Look around both inside and outside of school, snap photos of any appealing ideas and items that will support your substitute teaching . With this artistic collection to inspire and support scheduled and spontaneous scenarios, you most always will have a ready response in hand.
Submit photos of favorites from your collection & write a one-paragraph description to accompany each one.
Send to instructor:, Subject to read ‘Substitute #3.’

Assignment #4: Stocking Your Suitcase.

Write down a list of your favorite activities and supporting materials. For all online finds be sure to cite your source.
Design a color-coded Table of Contents designating categories of specific use, e.g. Entry Routines, All-Purpose, Quick Fun, Lesson Starters, Content Area lesson plan, Puzzlers, Games, Riddles, Circle Time Activities, Bathroom Passes, Dismissal Routines.
Include a separate section for Emergency items (band-aids, Kleenex, etc.) and procedures (fire drill, earthquake, blizzard/ice storm, vomiting, bleeding etc.)
Mark each activity/item with a matching color-coded label. (Some activities will fit in more than one category.)
Procure a suitcase or other portable container and duct tape your Table of Contents inside. Fill ‘er up!
Submit your color-coded Table of Contents and a picture of your organized Substitute’s Suitcase.
Send to instructor:, Subject to read ‘Substitute #4.’

Assignment #5: Rigorous Reconnaissance.

Learn about the school before your first subbing assignment there. Perform Rigorous Reconnaissance. Visit the school’s Homepage and familiarize yourself with information about the school and community as well as insight into what's expected of students and teachers.
Do a dry run. Figure out the timing of your commute. Arriving early is the sure way to start a day in the best possible way.
Learn the names of the school secretary and custodian, some of the administrators and if possible non-teaching support staff.
Get a physical lay of the place you will be working at so that you can confidently navigate locations. Familiarize yourself with the school building and grounds. Get the map of the campus and building(s.) Ask where resource classes are held. Locate the attendance office, bathrooms, the gym, the cafeteria, the media center, the nurse's office and the faculty lounge. Note where they are in relation to your classroom.
Design a template to contain any school’s vital information. Include office staff, administrator, faculty names you’ve subbed for, and all maps and campus info. Put it in a file in your suitcase.
Submit a copy of the template to instructor:, Subject to read ‘Substitute #5.’

Assignment #6: Best Practice Techniques

As a basis for creating a well-managed learning environment, read about and review best practice teaching tricks, anecdotal tales and downright disasters of the substitute teaching trade. Go to Amazon. In the search box type Substitute Teaching. Choose three (3) Look Inside books to review on these topics.
  1. Create an Annotated Bibliography of three (3)books. 
  2. For each book reviewed add your personal recommendation featuring your favorite tip for subs.
  3. Submit both the Annotated Bibliography and your tip recommendations.
Send to instructor:, Subject to read ‘Substitute #6.’



In this section you will apply your learning to your professional situation.  This course assumes that most participants are classroom teachers who have access to students.  If you are not teaching in a classroom, please contact the instructor for course modifications.  If you are a classroom teacher and start or need to complete this course during the summer, please try to apply your ideas when possible with youth from your neighborhood, at a local public library or parks department facility,  (they will often be glad to sponsor community-based learning), or with students in another teacher’s summer classroom in session.

Assignment #7: A Day As A Sub

Try out a strategy or a technique from the book you chose in Assignment #1.  Reflect on the results of your trial. 
In a 1-2 page report, describe the strategy/technique, analyze the outcomes and document your new learning with specifics.
Send to instructor:, Subject to read ‘Substitute #7.’

Assignment #8: Visitation & Observation

Visit and observe a classroom where another substitute teacher is teaching. 
Afterwards discuss tricks of the trade, challenges, disasters and successes.
In a 1-2 page paper summarize your curious conversation and any new learning which will support your substitute-teaching repertoire.
Send to instructor:, Subject to read ‘Substitute #8.’

Assignment #9: Lesson Development.

Complete one(1) of the following assignment options:

Assignment #A: (SEND commentary to Instructor)
  1. Develop a lesson to reflect what you’ve learned in this course.
  2. Implement your lesson in your learning environment.
  3. Write a 2 page commentary on what worked well and what could be improved. Include student feedback.

Send to instructor:, Subject to read ‘Substitute  #9A.’


Assignment #B: Use this option if you do not have a classroom available. (SEND lesson and summary to Instructor)

  1. Develop a lesson to reflect what you’ve learned in this course. (Do not implement it.)
  2. Revisit this lesson and then compose a 1-2 page piece of fiction that describes the noteworthy success you imagine you will have after you have tried it out with learners.

Send to instructor:, Subject to read ‘Substitute  #9B.’

Assignment #10: 500 level only

In addition to the 400 level assignments, complete one (1) of the following assignment options:
Option A)  Confrontational & Oppositional Students
Readat least 3 articles or studies on ways a substitute teacher might support confrontational & oppositional students .  What does research say about how to hold students accountable and keep them focused on task and motivated to learn on a day when their teacher is absent? How successfully have you interacted on these occasions?
Compose a  1 page guide for substitute teachers, a guide with helpful tips for when students break down and just don’t want to cooperate anymore.
Send to instructor:, Subject to read ‘Substitute #10A.’
Option B)  Visual Walk Around  
Walk into any classroom when teachers and students are away and take a visual walk around.
Ask yourself: What draws me in? Is this a space where I would want to learn? What sparks my interest here? How is the furniture arranged? Where is the teacher’s desk located? Is there additional  softer lighting? What color are the walls? Can I relax in the beauty of it all? Are there spaces that clearly define areas of the room for different activities? Are there private nooks for individual reflection? Does this space have that family feel? Does the space feel static or dynamic? What makes me smile, surprises me or takes my breath away? What is exhibited on the walls? What do the bulletin boards display?  What features could be changed and rearranged to create a culture of thinking where everyone is energized, engaged,and empowered? How is this space connected to nature and the world at large? Does the space feel authentic or ordered out of a catalogue or copied from a television soundstage? What are my additional observations about the physical space?
In 1-2 pages describe and discuss:
a) what we can tell about the learning that is happening in this classroom?
b) what we can predict about the individual learners who inhabit this space?
c) suggestions concerning how you as a sub will make best use of the learning environment to support learner collaboration and to boost individual and group creativity.
Send to instructor:, Subject to read ‘Substitute #10B.’
Option C)  Movie Models 
Watch a movie from the Video Section of the Bibliography.
In a review narrate a couple of vignettes that speak to and inspire the teacher in you.
Describe how your learning from the movie can support or enhance your role as substitute teacher.
Send to instructor:, Subject to read ‘Substitute #10C.’


Assignment #11: (Required for 400 and 500 Level)

(Please do not write this paper until you've completed all of your other assignments)

  1. What did you learn vs. what you expected to learn from this course?
  2. What aspects of the course were most helpful and why?
  3. What further knowledge and skills in this general area do you feel you need?
  4. How, when and where will you use what you have learned?
  5. How and with what other school or community members might you share what you learned?

Send to your instructor at their email address. Subject line to read  "(put course name here) Integration Paper"


Please indicate by email to the instructor if you would like to receive comments on your assignments.


Julie Bora, M.S.T.  B.S. Biology/Pharmacology   *    M.S.T. Elementary Education - Pre-K, Kindergarten and Grades 1- 6 .

Since 2006 Julie has been composing and designing interactive syllabi for teachers desiring to develop their practice and themselves. Julie has taught a variety of subjects in Elementary, Middle and High Schools in rural, city and inner city environments. With this vertical view she joyously supports professional and personal development both her own and that of others. We are all learning together, every day. Are you ready to try on something new now? Let's jump in and let the magic happen.




SUBSTITUTE’S SUITCASE: Don’t Leave Home Without It!

Baker, Nicholson, Substitute: Going to School With a Thousand Kids,  Blue Rider Press: New York, NY.  2016.
ISBN-13: 978-0399160981.  Just open up to any of the 28 days that Mr. Baker subbed and you will feel right at home!
Dehan,C and S. Rasmussen, Super Sub: A Must-Have Handbook for Substitute Teachers,  Goodyear Books: Tucson, AZ.  2007.
ISBN-13: 978-1596471160.  Here we find a collection of standards-based activities and lesson plans for nearly every subject and every elementary grade including ESL/ELL. A handy reference book for when an absent teacher leaves no instructions. Also features a section laying out the dos and don'ts of subbing, provides ideas for classroom management, and in the final chapter offers time-fillers for navigating those remaining minutes between the end of a lesson and transition or dismissal.
Gilden, May​, ​Successful Substitute Teaching in the Elementary Classroom​, May Gilden: San Bernadino, CA. 2019. ISBN: 9781089900184. "Overall, this resource is quick to read, accessible, and has several go to activities that can be easily adapted to any classroom situation. One of the best tips the author reminded me of is that experience is the best teacher."- Marjorie McAndews, course participant.
Johnson, LouAnne, Teaching Outside the Box: How to Grab Your Students By Their Brains, Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.  2015.
ISBN-13: 978-1119089278.  The 3rd edition is a must read for substitute teachers because topics include project-based learning, brain-based teaching, integrating standards, and creating smooth transitions. There also are reflection questions to inspire dialogue in teacher education classes and professional development courses, so an apt read for collaborative groups as well as H.S. teachers.
Kelly, Melissa, 180 Tips and Tricks for New Teachers, Adams Media: Avon, MA.  2008.
ISBN-13: 978-1598696561.  “This was a book I was given when I graduated from College.  I have gone thru it and its pretty dog eared from use.  There are 180 tips for teachers.  The first and foremost tips for success is being fair, consistent, flexible, have a positive attitude, high expectations for myself and students and have a sense of humor.  It’s divided into chapters under the above tips and a great chapter on how to communicate with your students.  The tips are pretty straightforward and easy to use.  I felt comfortable reading this text.  And it has been a great help to me in the classrooms that I visit.”  – Patricia K. Shepherd, course participant
Plevin, Rob, Classroom Management Success in 7 Days or Less, Rob Plevin Life Raft Media Ltd. 2019.
The author proposes that fulfilling three basic needs of students will lead to classroom management success.  These three needs are: 1) to be empowered though recognition.  2) to nurture curiosity: include some fun, adventure, and variety in the learning.  3) students want to feel accepted, valued, and connected.  The author promises to present ways to help satisfy all three areas.  He lastly suggests that a positive attitude ( a growth mindset) ought to be the foundation on which these three needs are built.
"I found the activities the author supplied at the end of the book to be really great. The activities are a bunch of “quick hitters” that can be fun and active.  They were free to copy and I put a bunch of them in my suitcase."- course participant.
Pressman, Barbara, Substitute Teaching from A to Z, McGraw-Hill: New York, NY.  2008.
ISBN-13: 978-0071496322.  Appropriate for Kindergarten through Grade 8- preferred text for Elementary and M.S. teachers enrolled in this course.
Rubinstein, Gary, Reluctant Disciplinarian, Cottonwood Press: Fort Collins, CO.  2010.
ISBN-13: 978-1936162154.  This book is a riveting tale from incompetence to success, of a very funny guy. It is light reading that walks down the many mistaken paths subs take as we find our way out of the woods.
Springer,S. and Persiani,K., The Organized Teacher's Guide to Substitute Teaching, McGraw-Hill Education; 1 edition (August 21, 2012,) 274 pages.
ISBN-13: 978-0071745468  "There is a great first chapter on building your survival kit:  Supplies, Activities, Reading Strategies, Story Writing, Games and Activities, and Plans...each of these topics has a CD icon beside them in the book that correlates to the CD Rom in the back with all the blackline master copies are located.  The CD worked perfectly in my computer and I had a great supply of reproducible copies.  The graphics were simple and appropriate." --- Lindsay LeBreton, course participant.
Tulley,G. and J. Spiegler, Fifty Dangerous Things, NAL Trade: New York, NY.  2011.ISBN-13: 978-0451234193.  A book chock full of exciting ways for learners to explore the world around them, both at school and at home.
Wilson, Kenneth L., Tools for Energized Teaching: Revitalize Instruction With Ease, Teacher Ideas Press: Westport, CT.  2008.
ISBN-13: 978-0325007700.  The book title says it all! Usable for teachers of any discipline and any age learner.

1. Stand and Deliver
Never believe that students are unable to learn. Instead of teaching to the lowest common denominator, Jaime Escalante sets his sights much higher, getting them to pass the AP Calculus exam. Based on a true story.
2. Dangerous Minds
Teaching English in a tough inner-city school, Michelle Pfeiffer as real-life former marine Louanne Johnson, reaches the "unteachable" through caring and understanding. “Dangerous Minds” teaches the importance of making our own choices and not allowing circumstances to rule us.
3. Lean on Me
Morgan Freeman plays Joe Clark, the real-life, bat-wielding Principal whose goal was to bring discipline and learning to Eastside High School in New York. This film shows the importance of having strong leadership at the top.
4. Mr. Holland's Opus
This memorable movie gives all teachers hope that they truly have an impact on their students. Richard Dreyfuss is wonderful as a musician/composer who must take a teaching job to support his family. In the end, Dreyfuss' character realizes that he has had as much if not more of an impact from his teaching as he would have as a composer.
5. Dead Poet's Society
Robin Williams plays an unconventional English teacher in a very conventional private school. His love of poetry and his inspiring teaching methods have a great impact on his students.
6. To Sir With Love
Sidney Poitier as a novice teacher takes a teaching position in the rough part of London in order to pay his bills. Realizing that his students need to be taught important life lessons more than the curriculum, he throws out the lesson plans and makes a real impact on their lives.
7. The Miracle Worker
Anne Bancroft plays Annie Sullivan who uses 'tough love' to get through to the deaf and blind Helen Keller. Excellent portrayal of the importance of perseverance.
8. Renaissance Man
Danny Devito's character proves that William Shakespeare still has much to teach students. “Renaissance Man” teaches important life lessons on responsibility and character.
9. Music of the Heart
This film shows the influence that one person's drive and vision can have on others. Meryl Streep plays real-life Roberta Guaspari who moves to Harlem as a single-mother and becomes a violin teacher. Working through racial and other barriers, Roberta creates an acclaimed music program in an area where many would have said it was impossible.
10. The Karate Kid
Sometimes we have to have our students do things that they will not understand until much later. Basic skills are most important; honor and integrity are central to character. Students need to see us beam with excitement over their achievements.
11. Pay It Forward
This film explores the concept of Random Acts of Kindness in a school setting.