Substitution doesn’t have to mean second best.

Don’t look for the pitfalls, look for the destination…

When did you last have to stand in for someone?  When I was teaching full-time, covering a lesson for a colleague was par for the course.   Taking over from someone else at work, at networking events or when giving presentations can bring similar challenges.

What not to do as a substitute

As a teacher, it’s fun to experience being taught by others.  I try to visit the gym as often as I can, and I favour classes rather than working out on my own.  It’s probably my conditioning!  One class this week  was taught by someone else, because our regular teacher was away.  What a difference! Silent, solemn, no buzzy chat at the end and not many smiles during, either.  It was obvious why.  The substitute was solemn and without “buzz” and there was a distinct lack of rapport.

The result?  Well I certainly didn’t enjoy myself as much I usually do.  I found my concentration going, and I was irritated by the stand-in’s lack of enthusiasm and poorly-rehearsed routine.  I hardly broke sweat, so I obviously wasn’t putting my all into it, and around me I could see others  just going through the motions.   I also wondered about the mindset of the teacher.

What do you do when you have to take over from someone else?  Do you try to do things their way, or yours?  Walking into an unfamiliar class can be daunting, so why not flip it? Look at it as an opportunity to make a name for yourself,  stamp your mark and leave a lasting (good) impression!  How could you psych yourself up to be an outstanding substitute?

Tips for successful substitution – build your resilience

  • relax (yes, really!) Try a few deep breaths in for a count of 5 and out for a count of 7.  This helps control the adrenaline rush (although a little adrenaline can be good)
  • smile!  Sounds obvious, but no-one wants to see a human Eeyore walk in.  Most people will smile back if you smile at them; it helps build rapport and will help you relax too.
  • be a great version of yourself.  Remember the last time you were brilliant at something: how it looked and felt, and recreate that feeling inside as you walk in.
  • activate your sense of humour.   Use humour to engage and build rapport.  If something goes wrong, laugh about it and move on.
  • be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t do.  There’s no point in trying to be an expert in something you’re not, and faking knowledge is fraught with pitfalls and stressful for you.  Accept yourself for what you are.
  • have a tried and tested “rabbit” you can pull out of a “hat” at some point.  It could be a favourite phrase, saying, nugget of information, clever activity or trick that you can use at a crucial point to ensure everyone begs for your return!  This will do wonders for your confidence, and reinforce your belief that you are brilliant at what you do. (Which, of course, you are!)

Enjoy your next opportunity as a substitute!




About Marianna Beckwith