How to be a Great Sub

When you are a new yoga teacher, subbing classes is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door. You gain experience through teaching, you meet new students, and you show the studio/gym staff that you are available to teach. I have seen and experienced first-hand the opportunities that come from being a great sub. However, not everyone is a great sub. Being an exemplary sub takes several steps. Here are some things that I have done or seen done by teachers who make excellent subs:

  1. Presence – Let teachers know that you are able to sub for them. Pick a handful of teachers that teach a style you can teach, at times that you are available, and at a studio that you can get to easily. Show up to their class, give them your business card with contact info, and follow up with them. Do this regularly. Make it a habit to show up to their class consistently so you are always fresh in their mind. Also, get to know the managers and front desk staff where you want to sub. Say hi and catch up with them when you take class. Remind them that you are able to sub. There are some circumstances where subs need to be found last minute. They are more likely to call you if they have seen you and talked to you recently.
  2. Availability – In order to be asked to sub, you have to be available when asked. This means clearing up your schedule as much as possible so that you can take opportunities. Obviously you can’t take every opportunity, but take as many as you can. As mentioned above, there are times when subs are called last minute. If you are able to sub in those instances, you will be “saving the day” and you will probably be asked to sub often.
  3. Response Time – If you get emailed or called to sub, answer as quickly as possible. As a teacher, when I email for subs, I want to find them within 24 hours. I don’t want to spend days looking for subs. The class almost always goes to the person who says yes first. Even if you cannot sub, reply as soon as possible letting the teacher know that you are not available, but thank you for asking. I always appreciate when someone tells me that they are not available so that I can move on to the next person. If I never receive a reply from someone, I take them off my sub list for good. *Note: Some teachers and managers do specifically ask to only reply to their email if you CAN sub. If that is the case, do not reply if you are not able to sub. However, in all other cases I would recommend replying ASAP.*
  4. Prepare – Always be prepared to sub a class. Have a clean yoga outfit in your car. Have several prepared and practiced sequences for different level classes in a notebook that you can reference before teaching. Have a few playlists ready (if you sub classes with music). If you are asked to sub in advance, go to the teachers’ class at least once before you sub. See the pace and level of their class and get to know their students. The teacher may even introduce you to the students, which is always helpful.
  5. Announce and Promote – Like it or not, social media presence is huge for yoga teachers. It gives your students a way to connect with you outside the classroom and it’s a way for you to let them know when you are teaching. It also shows other teachers what kind of classes you teach. I have seen a sub of mine have their friends and teacher peers show up to class because they announced that they were teaching. Keep your teaching posts professional and clear with times and locations of your classes.
  6. Be on Time – Which means 15 minutes early. Give yourself enough time to get to the location 15 minutes early so that you have time to get ready for class. Say hi to the front desk staff, use the bathroom, set up the room (props, lights, temperature, music), and greet the students. Introduce yourself, ask about injuries, and start class on time. And, end class on time. Straighten up the room (props, lights, temperature) before you leave. Give yourself 10-15 minutes after class to chat with students and the studio staff. This makes a huge difference.
  7. Teach a Great Class – This goes without saying, but teach the best class that you can. Since you have hopefully taken their class prior to subbing, teach to the same pace and level that the regular teacher teaches at. You do NOT need to copy them or try to be them. You are your own teacher and you should teach true to yourself. But keeping things similar as far as the rhythm of the class and the temperature of the room helps the students to warm up to you more.
  8. Ask for Feedback – When I was a new teacher, I felt weird about asking for feedback from students. However, I can tell you that it is a way to get your name out to the studio staff and can lead to other offers. After you have finished teaching your awesome class, tell the students your name again. Let them know when their regular teacher will be back. Promote any workshops or trainings that you know that teacher might have coming up. THEN, ask them to share feedback about your class with the front desk staff, manager, and the teacher you are subbing for. If there are comment cards, ask them to fill them out. Let them know that their comments are appreciated and will help you grow. *Note: Do NOT try to steal these students for your own classes. This is really important. When you are subbing for another teacher, you are there to support them. If a student comes up to you and directly asks you when and where you teach, of course you can tell them. But please don’t announce to the whole class your teaching schedule, especially if it is at a different location.*
  9. Follow Up – This is something that most subs miss out on, but it is an extremely nice touch. Follow up with the teacher that you subbed for with a quick email. Thank them for the chance to sub and let them know how it went. Keep it short and sweet. Gratitude is a humble and kind gesture and it is noticed and remembered. Better yet, you can go to their class again and thank them in person. It will make you stand out to that teacher and they will likely call on you again.