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How to Attract and Support Virtual Substitute Teachers

September 30, 2021   •   Insights

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More school districts across the U.S. are looking for subs to fill virtual teaching positions. Issues related to the COVID-19 virus, a rapidly growing gig economy, and a nationwide shortage of qualified subs are contributing to an increased demand for substitute teachers who can thrive in virtual classrooms.

Although virtual and hybrid learning have been used by colleges for years, shutdowns caused by last year’s COVID-19 pandemic led to virtual or hybrid classrooms across numerous elementary, middle, and high schools in the U.S. And anyone who's spent time in the classroom can tell you that virtual teaching is a whole different ball game from in-classroom teaching. 

Now, the 2021 Delta variant is causing even more schools to look into virtual or hybrid learning options for their students.

What’s unique about virtual substitute teaching jobs?

Online or virtual learning can be a big adjustment for traditional teachers. It’s no secret that children and young adults have short attention spans. The lesson plans and curriculum of virtual substitute teachers must be even more intentional and strategic, eliminating nonessential information or anything that wastes valuable learning time. 

Remote learning presents many new challenges, especially when assignments and lessons are carried out in real time. Virtual substitute teachers must have the ability to operate virtual learning technology. They should also be adaptable and technologically efficient, with the flexibility to change the nature of a lesson plan if they notice that what they’re doing isn’t working.

How can you attract and retain virtual substitute teachers?

If your district is looking to employ more virtual substitutes, there are a variety of things you can do:

Give them the information they need.

According to a recent Red Rover survey of 800+ substitutes, having information up front has a big impact on whether or not subs want to accept an assignment. At the top of the list? In addition to subject area/grade (63 percent), 60 percent of subs want info on the proximity of the school and 55 percent want info on the school environment—both of which are impacted when an assignment is virtual.

Providing subs with the information they need in one central location will put them at ease before they accept a virtual substitute teaching job and make them more likely to return to your district. 

Communicate frequently with your virtual substitute teachers.

Communicating with and understanding the needs and preferences of virtual subs is key to attracting, engaging, and retaining a thriving substitute pool. Here are a few ideas:

  • Help subs feel prepared when they enter the classroom—even when it’s a virtual one. Nearly half of all subs in our survey said “technical information” is critical to starting their day on the right foot.
  • Send your substitutes notifications of available virtual gigs in real time through text messaging and mobile alerts. Substitutes prefer these methods over robocalls by more than 4-to-1! 
  • Touch base with virtual subs frequently; ask for feedback following any virtual teaching gig to understand what you can improve. 
  • Offer subs incentives, rewards, and opportunities to learn. Use substitute training programs such as those offered by STEDI.org and Substantial Classrooms to improve job-related skills based on the needs of your district. Encourage your virtual subs. Even if they’re not physically present in the classroom, their contribution still matters. Show them appreciation often, or consider creating virtual rewards to recognize subbing achievements. 
Streamline your application and hiring process.

Do your recruiting and hiring methods match the virtual nature of the job? As we’ve all learned by now, unusual times call for creative solutions. 

  • Make it easier for virtual substitute teachers to apply online or contact your district directly when virtual gigs become available. 
  • Consider hosting virtual open houses for substitute teachers.
  • Reach out to retired staff members or local college students who may like the flexibility of online teaching jobs. 
  • Tap into social media by posting job openings on sites including Facebook and LinkedIn. 

Once they’re hired, provide quick, efficient orientations and training that’s useful and informative. Avoid wasting virtual substitute teachers’ time, but be available to answer any questions they may have.

Stay informed!

Education is rapidly changing. Learn how to navigate the growing substitute shortage, increase fill rates, and more by subscribing to Red Rover’s blog.

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