Jim Stewart Allen is a standup comedian from Tacoma, Washington. He has also been a substitute teacher for the past three years and loves it. As a part of our Why Would Anyone Want to Become a Teacher? series, we asked Jim a few questions to try to figure out why he does what he does. 


That’s a good question. Well, a bad sub just gets nothing done. An average sub will get most done but makes no impact on the rest of the year. A great sub will come in, get everything done at the bare minimum, and can establish their presence in a quick amount of time so that the students are super engaged. A great sub will be requested back simply because the next day the kids told their teacher that they had an excellent day.  


I have a lot of tricks to establish myself, and that’s important because you sometimes don’t have second chances with a class. I read the room and determine how the class culture is so that I can make it work. A great sub will make sure that:  

  1. The kids have a great day. This needs no explanation. 
  2. They get all of the work done. When I started subbing I could only manage to get students to complete around 70 percent of their work (it’s actually very difficult). Now it’s 100 percent. 
  3. A note is left for the teacher. Convey that you actually got to know this class and that you enjoyed your day. Be honest. Don’t sugar coat it, but keep positive. It might have been bad because you’re just a guest teacher. But, when you’re a great sub, you have to look at yourself and ask yourself what you may have done wrong. 
  4. When the teacher gets back, their room exactly the same as when they left. If the kids are talking about the sub and all of the work got done, that was a great day.


Teachers don’t know much about subbing in general. 

Preparation: They all have completely different ways that they leave plans for substitutes. Some teachers leave me bullet points: do this first, this next, and so on. Others will be very detailed and specific. I’ve had both types for the same school and grade. Which do I prefer? I like the bullet points. This is what you want me to do and I get it done in the way that’s best for my teaching style. I understand when teachers want their class to be taught in a specific way, but I prefer the freedom of bullets. 

The right sub matters: If you take the time to get the right subs, the kids will get to know them and it will make it so that the substitute is more in the mix. When new substitutes do an activity in a different way from the classroom teacher, kids will always say “oh you’re doing it the wrong way.” The ideal situation for the sub is that the kids know that you are their teacher’s choice and that you is trusted to get the job done. 

Teachers can choose their own subs. Teachers know me and have me as “their guy.” It’s such a relief for them, because they can relax knowing that things are going to be okay. Teaching is stressful, because even when you’re sick you have to make up lesson plans. If you can find a sub that can make it work no matter what, you’re golden. 


Take 5 minutes to prime your students about the substitute teacher. Remind them that:

  • Your substitute will be a different person than your regular teacher
  • Things will be changed a little, but that’s okay. 
  • Let’s make sure you’re being respectful. 
  • At the end of the day, your substitute teacher is doing the same things I’m doing: trying to get you guys to learn. 

This would make it a lot easier for me. Make the kids comfortable and have high expectations for them and the day that you are off. Try to use your substitute as new life in the classroom – they can invigorate the class. 

If you think your substitute did a good job, find them in the database. Collect their number and Facebook and ask them to come back!

Thank you so much, Jim, for the interview and all you do for students and teachers!

Yeah, this was fun! There’s so much more I have to say about this that I’ll have to contribute an article!

We appreciate your following this series and visiting educationrickshaw.com. Feel free to comment below on the titular question: Why did you become a teacher? What have your experiences been like so far? We love to hear your thoughts, and will always try to respond to your comments. 



11 thoughts on “Why Would Anyone Want to Become a Teacher – My Interview with a Substitute Teacher

      1. Hey, Mr. Benjamin. It would be great if you could write something for the series. I think it’s especially interesting your transition from working in McDonald’s to working as a teacher. I’m thinking of a title like,
        From Fast Food to the Classroom, or something along those lines. Are you still interested in contributing a post?



      2. Hi Zach.
        I would love to contribute. I’m assuming that it’s fine I’m based in the UK?
        If you’ve Twitter, add me on there. It’ll be easier to communicate 🤣 @MrBenHamilton.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I subbed for about six years. I finally stopped when I realized that as a sub, I would never have complete control of the class or how I wanted to teach the lessons. I became frustrated at kids always telling me …that’s not how so and so does it….the pre-sub prep is great advice. Classes should know things will be different than when their regular teacher is there. Mostly, I stopped because it wasn’t fulfilling for me. The pay in our district is terrible. I would arrive early and go home late. I actually prepped for sub assignments before hand. The system (here at least) is more focused on behavior management than on content or engaging youth in a desire to learn. I am happier not being a sub. I am glad there are subs, like you, who still can go in and care about what they do. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very true. I substitute teach currently and am professionally certified in the Tampa area. I hope to find a full-time position next year. I took up subbing about a year ago (we had a cupcakerie) my husband got cancer, and I decided to supplement it with my adjunct position with adults. For the $11. 25 an hour, I am expected to be the perfect disciplinarian and whatever. If some schools decided they don’t like something about the way I performed my job, they call Kelly and they tell me. I am really looking forward to getting hired as I don’t like the current system. My husband’s health is better and stabilized, so I am in a better position to look for a job .I also was one of those subs who prepare, enter early, try to leave the room better and do the best I can. I don’t find it fullfilling either but I did enjoy reading this article.


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