Post-hire Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why would someone want to be a substitute teacher?
  2. What is expected of substitute teachers? Will they have to grade papers and meet with the students' parents?
  3. What are the steps in becoming a substitute teacher?
  4. Why do I have to attend an "Orientation" session?
  5. Where can I find the information on qualifications, salary, and application procedures for substitute employment?
  6. What is the difference between substitute teachers and para-professional substitutes?
  7. Is any training available to the new substitute teacher?
  8. What grade levels or subjects can I teach as a substitute?
  9. Do substitutes have to teach at all the District schools?
  10. What is special education? Will I be able to substitute in classes with "special needs" children?
  11. Will the substitute teachers be treated with respect? Can they expect any support from the school staff?
  12. Where can I get additional information on becoming a full time, certified teacher?
  1. Are there any classes or training available to help me be a successful substitute teacher? Yes. NISD Human Resources provides both pre-service training for persons who have never taught children before and ongoing classes for all substitutes. Also, there are numerous resources and a few training classes available on-line. (See the Internet Resources section for more information.) Palo Alto College and San Antonio College also offer classes for substitute teachers and instructional assistants.

  2. After I substitute for a while, can I change the schools and subjects taught? Throughout the year, the substitute has the responsibility to keep current the information that is stored in the Substitute Office. This includes the current address which is where your paychecks are sent. And it also includes the schools you want to work at and the subjects you want to teach. None of this information can be changed through the SmartFind Express system. All changes should be made in writing and can either be mailed to the Substitute Office or e-mailed to Please keep all information current.

  3. I am having trouble with the SmartFind Express System. What do I do? First, refer to the instructions in Appendix "K" in the Substitute Teachers Handbook. Then make sure you are following the verbal prompts given by the system over the telephone. If you still have problems with the system, call the SmartFind Express Office at either 397-8606 or 397-8882.

  4. The SmartFind Express System denies me access, saying that "the PIN you have entered is incorrect." What's wrong? Most of the time when this occurs, the substitute is not using his social security number to gain access to the system OR he has failed to push the pound sign (#) after entering the social security number.

  5. What is a PIN number and why do I need it? SmartFind Express requires an Access ID and a PIN (Personal Identification Number) to use the system—similar to a username and password. Your access ID is your employee number and your PIN is a number you specify that only you know. The first time you use the system, you must first register over the phone by entering your access ID (without the 'e' or any leading zeros) followed by the "*" key. The system will then prompt you to enter your PIN. Initially, your PIN is set the same as your access ID, so enter your access ID again followed by the "*" key. If you forget your PIN, you will need to access SmartFind Express through the web and click on the link "Trouble Signing In." As long as you have an email address in your SmartFind Express profile, you will be able to receive an email with your PIN. Please do not share your PIN with anyone, not even your family. If you pre-arrange an assignment with a regular employee, you will just need to provide them with your access ID.

  6. Besides the PIN number, what else should the substitute always have with them? There are many items a good substitute may take with them to every substitute job. In addition, every substitute should also have available the NISD Substitute Teachers Handbook and a calendar for recording scheduled substitute jobs and checking for available future job openings.

  7. What should substitute teachers do if they have to cancel a job they have already accepted? Not a problem! Substitute teachers and their families get sick too. The important thing for the substitute to do is cancel the job as soon as possible so that the SmartFind Express System can begin finding another substitute for the job. A job can be canceled through the SmartFind Express System up until 6:00 a.m. on the day of the job. After that time, the substitute must contact the school directly.

  8. Substitutes must be evaluated the first three times they accept jobs in the District. Are the completed evaluations available to the substitute? Can additional copies of the evaluations be requested by the substitutes? The evaluations are available for viewing by substitutes in the Substitute Office. Additional information on NISD's substitute evaluation process is available in the Handbook.

  9. Since one of the basic assumptions schools have for substitute teacher is that they will follow the teachers' lesson plans, what do subs do if the teacher has left no lesson plans for the substitute? On rare occasions, a teacher may fail to leave lesson plans or leave plans that are inadequate for a substitute to carry out their duties as guest teacher. If this happens, the substitute should immediately SEEK HELP. Other teachers who teach the same grade level of subject matter will be able to assist the substitute. At the Elementary schools, grade level chairpersons can assist. At the High Schools, a department chairperson is always available for help. At the Middle School, Academic Team Leaders can assist the substitute with lesson plans and other instructional activities. In the unlikely event that none of these persons is available, the substitute should seek help from the office.

  10. Are there other sources of information on lesson plans I can use in preparing for a particular substitute teaching assignment? Yes, there are several internet sites you can visit that are very helpful in providing assistance in developing lesson plans. The Lesson Plans Page is particularly noteworthy. But remember that teachers expect you to follow their lesson plans whenever possible.

  11. How do substitutes prepare for the beginning of the day and what do they do when the students arrive in the classroom? Every successful substitute teacher will say that the key to effective substitute teaching is to arrive early. In addition to an early arrival, there are numerous steps the substitute should take to prepare for a successful day of teaching. Most of these can be found in the sections of the K-12 Handbook for Substitute Teachers, published by Utah State University, titled, "Checklists for Subs," and "Expectations of Subs." (The Handbook is available in all school libraries, in the Professional Library at the Northside Activity Center, and may be purchased on-line at )

  12. When substitute teachers have difficulty carrying out their duties, whether because of poor lesson plans or severe discipline problems, to whom can they turn for help? The first and best source for assistance is the school administrators. These professionals are responsible for providing substitutes with the resources and support they need to succeed as guest teachers in their schools. Only if repeated attempts to gain assistance from the school administrators have failed should the Substitute Office be contacted.

  13. Should substitutes allow students to visit the school nurse every time they ask to do so? What if they are faking an illness to get out of class? Substitutes should never deny a student's request to go to the nurse. It is the nurse's responsibility to determine whether or not a child is ill--not the substitute teacher's.

  14. What about restroom passes? Should substitutes let students go to the restroom every time they say they need to? Each grade level has its own schedule for bathroom visits and the students are aware of the "restroom routine." If a child expresses a need to go to the bathroom at times outside of the established routine, substitutes should not deny them their requests, but instead should allow the visits and leave a note for the regular teacher regarding the requests. The teacher can follow up with the student later to determine whether or not the unusual requests suggest a medical or behavioral problem.

  15. How are substitute teachers expected to handle discipline problems in the classroom? Simply stated, substitutes are expected to handle discipline in a firm but fair manner, with consistency and respect for the children and youth under their care. They should be able to separate the students' behaviors from the students themselves. The training provided by Human Resources (see #1 above) gives numerous strategies for dealing with a wide variety of "discipline problems." Many of these are also detailed in the "Student Disciplinary Scenarios" section of the K-12 Handbook for Substitute Teachers, published by Utah State University. The NISD Substitute Teachers Handbook stresses repeatedly that substitute teachers are never to use physical force with students. Nor should they shout at the students, insult them, or otherwise verbally attack the students. (See the Discipline section of NISD's Substitute Teacher Handbook or the website entitled, Discipline Help.)

  16. I sometimes get called to substitute for a special education teacher, but I'm not sure what to expect. Where can I get more information of special needs students and the classes and programs in which I might be working? The Substitute Teacher Handbook has some basic information about Special Education Programs and Campuses in Northside. You can also read more about all these topics in the District's Special Education website. And there is additional information on this site's Internet Resources page.

  17. I didn't sign up to substitute in a special education classroom. Why are there special education students in the regular classrooms? The philosophy and strategies of inclusion require that all students be educated in the "least restrictive environment" possible, so that special needs students are always included in the "regular" classroom to the fullest possible extent. Please read more about the topic of inclusion in the Special Education website.

  18. What is the legal liability of substitute teachers? In 2003, the Texas Legislature signed into law S.B. 930 which extended to substitute teachers the same qualified (limited) immunity from legal liability afforded the regular classroom teacher under State statute. This immunity is guaranteed as long as substitute teachers are using discretion and good judgment in carrying out the duties and responsibilities assigned to them, and do not use unnecessary force in disciplining students, However, this immunity from legal liability does not extend to injuries involving motor vehicles nor to violations of a student's Constitutionally protected rights. (Texas Education Code, Chapter 22, Subchapter B, Section 22.051--ammended) The No Child Left Behind Act also has a provision granting limited immunity to teachers acting in the scope of their duties and not using excessive force when disciplining students.

  19. Can substitute teachers share their religious beliefs with students in the classroom? Like other employees of the district, substitutes must maintain a posture of "neutrality" regarding religion in the classroom and in other activities and areas of the school. School employees shouldn't lead students in prayer or join them in any way other than to monitor their activities. As employees of a school district, substitutes are acting as "agents of the state" when carrying out their duties and are prohibited from advancing their own religious beliefs in the schools. For additional information on this topic, please click here.

  20. How do I continue working as a substitute from year to year? Is there anything I need to do at the start of a new year? Sometime near the end of each school year, a memo or an email is sent to all active substitute teachers instructing them what needs to be done to work again as a substitute the next year. The current procedures require the substitute to come by Human Resources at the date and time specified to get a new photo I.D. and Handbook, and to complete new paperwork for the next pay cycle.

  21. Where can I get additional information on becoming a full time, certified teacher? Try the teacher career exploration site at the Education Service Center, Region 20, titled, "If You Love It, Teach It." Another excellent source of information is the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) who has an extensive list of questions and answers at "How to Become a Teacher in Texas." In addition, you can contact your local college or university to get additional information on their programs of teacher certification. You may also click below for additional information.

  22. Who do I contact for information about my paycheck? You can contact the payroll office regarding any discrepancies you may discover in your paycheck at (210) 397-8675.