Creating a Positive Environment for Preschool Substitute Teachers

5 ways to create a positive environment for the substitute preschool teachers

Are you a preschool or childcare administrator who regularly uses substitute teachers to fill in staffing gaps? Actually, scratch that – chances are very good that if you are a preschool or childcare administrator you regularly use substitutes to fill in staffing gaps. It’s a (mostly) unavoidable part of the field. Staff call out and you need rooms filled with reputable and reliable people who are more than just another body. So, naturally you call the folks at Piazza and they send you one or two (or more) of the best qualified preschool teachers out there. That part is easy. They show up and you roll out the red carpet and greet them at the door with a freshly brewed hot cup of coffee and a homemade scone. No? I mean that would be amazing, but probably not practical. Fortunately, there are a few things that are within the realm of possibility.

Here are 5 ways to create a positive environment for the substitute preschool teachers at your sites:

1 – Be prepared

The simplest one of them all perhaps. But this one is key. It sounds obvious but being prepared for your substitutes to come and fill in is critical to the success of their day (and subsequently, your day). Have any relevant paperwork ready for them to fill out. Have their name tag or badge (if required) ready for them to wear.

2 – Onboarding matters

You’re busy and your program never stops needing your attention. When staff call out it’s another little fire you need to put out. We all know that your job is beyond full time. You don’t have a lot of spare minutes in your day. However, when you have a substitute who is new to your site, taking a few moments to offer a quick onboarding will go a long way in helping them to adjust quickly. Show them the basics and allow them a moment to settle in. Facilitate introductions so the substitute isn’t put in an awkward position to do that with the other teachers. Be sure to show them important areas like breakrooms, restrooms, and supply storage. Introducing them to their co-teachers for the day or at least a few of the staff will allow them to establish a few connections. Before you leave your substitute ensure they feel confident about what is expected of them for the day.

3 – Game plan

Speaking of expectations, a great way to help encourage a smooth and seamless day is to have the substitute’s teaching plan for the day written down. This is within reason of course because we all know this is subject to change at a moments notice. Taking a moment to think ahead to where you need them and when and also writing that information down is a game changer. Again, it helps the substitute to feel as though their time at your school is valuable and intentional.

4 – Pulse checks

It’s not enough to simply set your substitute up for success in the morning and then leave them to fend for themselves for the rest of the day. This is especially true if the substitute is new to your facility. Check in frequently to see that your substitute is understanding their role for the day and is feeling settled and comfortable with the responsibilities you’ve assigned. If necessary, take the time to clarify and listen to any challenges they are facing. This will help alleviate tension among staff and hopefully stop any conflict before it begins.

5 – Thank you

Just about as simple as the first suggestion to be prepared. Saying “thank you” to your substitutes is invaluable. Your schedule might not line up to allow you to personally send off every staff member on your team, but even if the substitute still has an hour to go and you are heading out for the day, taking a moment to thank them for their time is a great way to help them feel that your school is different than others. So often we go about our day and hear very little about the things we do unless it is criticism. While that is an inevitable part of the job, it’s nice to hear a simple thank you every so often. Appreciation goes a long way in relieving burn out.


Next time you call Piazza Premier Preschool Staffing Agency and they send you the very best the field offers, you will solidify your rank as a top tier program by following these simple steps and creating a positive environment for every substitute who walks through your doors.

Contributing Expert Author

Samantha Reeves, M.A.

Samantha has over 25 years of experience in the field of child development. She has worked in all manner of professions as they relate to children including beginning her career as a floater teacher with 3 units, to a multisite center
regional director, and most recently, a professor in the Child and Adolescent Studies department at CSUF.

Samantha earned her B.S. at Cal State Fullerton in the same department she would later instruct in. She has a M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University where she focused her research on attachment theory and attachment related disorders.

Samantha lives in Anaheim Hills with her husband and 4 children. She recently made the decision to put her teaching career on pause to stay home with her kids, but plans to return to the classroom in some format in the future.

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