SUBSTITUTE’S SUITCASE: For Online, Hybrid or Brick & Mortar Classrooms!


[semester equivalent = 2.00 credits]



Shaila Bora



Uncover insider information to support your role as a top-notch 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 use on any subbing assignment. 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 K-12 class, in any situation, with the confidence and polished sureness of a master teacher.

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 & Dismissal 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 with students.

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

The use of artificial intelligence is not permitted. Assignment responses found to be generated by AI will not be accepted.

Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participants their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, or Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, and Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours.



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.



Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. 
Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 

Assignment #1: Spaces Called Home

Pick your own textbook!

From the Bibliography choose a text to read or with prior approval from the instructor, select a book of your own interest .

  • 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.

Post your response.


Assignment #2: Setting the Stage & the Curtain Call

Watch the following video on YouTube: School of Rock 2003 Trailer

  • Now it’s your turn to consider how to start.
  • Understand that one chance opportunity to make your best first impression.  
  • Things that start well tend to end well, and things that don't, don't.

Think about learning environments at the beginning of the day (elementary) or the onset of a lesson (secondary.) Imagine how you might ease students into learning. Develop any grade level entry routine for your subbing self.

In 1-2 pages describe your substitute entry routine. If you have a dismissal routine, describe that too.

Remember: Things that start well tend to end well, and things that end well, end well!

Post your response.

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 & outside of school and online. Collect ideas and items to inspire and support spontaneous scenarios as a substitute teacher. Stay relaxed with a prepared ready response at hand!

Submit five (5) pics of favorites from your collection & write a one-paragraph description to accompany each one.

Post your response.

Assignment #4: Stocking Your Suitcase.

Assemble your list of favorite activities & tasks including supporting materials. For your own reference be sure to cite your source for online finds.

  • Now design a color-coded Table of Contents composed of 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 or create an online version. Fill ‘er up!
  • Submit your color-coded Table of Contents and a picture of your organized Substitute’s Suitcase or online version.

Post your response.

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.

When working at the physical space, 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, the people in the tech dept. 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 universal template to contain any school’s vital information. Put it in a file in your suitcase.

Post your response.

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. ( I may ask permission from you to share a tip with other course participants by adding your book review to the Bibliography!)

Post your response.



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 do not have a classroom available to you, please contact the instructor for course modifications. Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. ​Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 


Assignment #7: A Day As A Sub

Try out a strategy, technique or protocol from the text you chose in Assignment #1.  Reflect on the results of your trial. 

In a 1-2 page report, describe the strategy/technique/protocol, analyze the outcomes and document your new learning with specifics.

Post your response.

Assignment #8: Visitation & Observation

Visit and observe a classroom either online or in person, where another substitute teacher is teaching. Afterward discuss with a focus on anything of interest: for example, tricks of the trade, management styles and routines, new adaptations, failures, successes, empathic communication, entry & exit routines.

In a 1-2 page paper summarize your curious conversation and any new learning that enriches your substitute-teaching repertoire.

Post your response.

Assignment #9: Lesson Development.

Complete one(1) of the following assignment options:

Assignment #A:

  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.


Assignment #B: 
Use this option if you do not have a classroom available.

  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.

Post your response.

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
Read at least 3 articles or studies on ways a substitute teacher might support confrontational & oppositional students.  What does the 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.     

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.

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.

Post your response.


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

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

Write a 400-500 word Integration Paper answering these 5 questions:

  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?


Instructors will comment on each assignment. If you do not hear from the instructor within a few days of posting your assignment, please get in touch with them immediately.


Shaila Bora, M.A. is currently working toward her PH.D. in Philosophy. Courses offered by Shaila are designed to tap into the creative potential and intuitive knowledge that each of us carries within. Through light touch supervision, we will open a dialogue that encourages experimentation with new techniques, and ways of being and doing that are already latent and waiting to be called forth. Nurturing this unique artistic spirit entails reflecting on and acting from your own experiences, observations, suggestions, questions, relationships, and perhaps a gentle nudge from a supportive someone else. So go ahead and choose the adventure that commands your thoughts and liberates your energy. Are you ready to try something new now? Come on, jump in, and let the magic happen.


SUBSTITUTE’S SUITCASE: For Online, Hybrid or Brick & Mortar Classrooms!

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
Ms.D, 7,236: A Substitute Teacher's Perspective, Independently published (June 27, 2020) 95 pages. ISBN-13 : 979-8655641013
Not only a funny and likeable read, but this memoir truly gives a glimpse of what it might really be like when you step into another teacher’s classroom.  Mrs. D did not shy away from difficulties that she experienced as a substitute.  Some of her stories inspire and others are heartbreaking, but each one helps a sub realize that even one day spent in the life of a student can make a lasting impression. 
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.
Vialet, Jill and Amanda von Moos. Substantial Classrooms: Redesigning the SubstituteTeaching Experience. 1st ed., Jossey-Bass, 2021. "The most intriguing part of this text for me was the way in which the authors described a single day of substitute teaching through the lens of various individuals who are impacted by one teacher’s absence and his or her temporary replacement.  The statistics that they shared in this section were also very eye-opening!  I was shocked to learn that the average American student spends one entire school year out of their K-12 education with substitute teachers! " -Emily Guerreo, course participant
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.