Attendance and the Morning Routine for Substitute Teacher (page 4)
Routine is very important for younger children. A change in routine immediately increases classroom instability, and instability is not what a sub wants early in the day.
If you decide to modify the morning routine, tell the children that you will try to do things the right way, but sometimes you may change things “just a little.” Ask them if that is okay and solicit their help in teaching you the normal procedure. They may feel a bit uneasy, but your request for help will make them feel like “big shots.” Before long, smiles will begin to appear and the whole class will be on your side! You’re working together as a team.
What’s the Best Way to Take Attendance?
Taking attendance can be a real struggle because you don’t know the students’ names, and it is your very first opportunity to look incompetent. The teacher’s plans should tell you how attendance is accomplished in this classroom, but often you’re given no guidance. If your school uses attendance folders or notebooks, they will likely be on the teacher’s desk or in the teacher’s mailbox, in or near the school office.
The best way to be sure you get it right is to ask a special helper to assist you with this task. Choose a child who seems to be quiet and well-behaved. He or she can actually take attendance for you as the children arrive or just tell you who is absent. I have found this to be the most effective method when you don’t know the names of the children.
If you decide to call out each child’s name, be careful. If you mispronounce a name, it can be potentially disruptive, causing laughter and embarrassment for you and the student. If you have any doubt, ask the student (addressing him or her using the first name and last initial) to clarify the proper pronunciation.
Lunch count is usually part of the morning routine. Be sure to have your special helper do this record keeping as well.
Many school systems have gone to computerized record keeping. Check with office staff or with a grade-level partner in order to be consistent when performing computerized record keeping for attendance.
If you’re subbing in a middle school or high school, attendance is taken in the homeroom before students proceed to their first period classes. In this situation, simply polling the students by name is all that is required. Alternatively, you can ask one responsible student to tell you who is absent that day.
When Should I Introduce Myself?
Immediately after you take attendance, introduce yourself. The way you do this is very important and can make or break your day.
How Should I Manage the Morning Routine?
I believe that the success of your day as a substitute teacher begins the minute you walk into the classroom. The success with which you manage the classroom morning routine will have much to do with the success of your day as a whole. In primary grades, the morning routine typically encompasses attendance and lunch count, the morning meeting, calendar activities, before-school work, a journal entry, and a problem of the day. Be sure that the students complete these before other school tasks.
By making yourself aware of the morning routine, you set the tone for the day—that this is a normal school day and that normal work and work habits apply. As a consequence, your day will flow more smoothly.
How Should I Handle Extraordinary Events, Such as Fire Drills?
There are events that occur during the day that are not part of the normal routine. Among the most common are fire drills, student assemblies, and special dismissals.
Try to familiarize yourself with fire-drill procedures. The students should be able to tell you where they usually exit, but it is important to be sure about this procedure. Fire-drill exit information should be posted somewhere in the room or included in a substitute folder. If not, the teacher next door will help you. Always bring a class list with you when you exit the school for a fire drill. This will allow you to determine whether any students are missing.
A special assembly is a welcome diversion during the school day. An announcement will be made on the public address system, and you’ll have to line up your class. It’s a good idea to follow the lead of the neighboring teacher. When you arrive at the auditorium, ask the students where they usually sit. After the program, classes normally return to their rooms in a predefined sequence. Try to determine when it’s your turn to leave.
Once you’ve returned, you have a wonderful opportunity for discussion and possibly a quick lesson as a follow-up to the program. In the primary grades, you can ask the children to draw pictures and write about their favorite parts of the program. They can write thank-you notes to the presenter. Students in upper grades can write essays on the content or what part of the assembly was the most interesting to them. They can do some research on the subject in the computer lab. Use the assembly as a springboard for further learning.
It’s likely that the assembly will create minor scheduling problems for you. You’ll have to adjust the time line for the remainder of the day to ensure that you get most of the assigned work accomplished. If this cannot be done, be sure to include a comment about the assembly in your teacher note.
Sometimes, after an assembly, parents want to take their children home. In order to protect the students and to avoid being ensnared in a legal action, schools have very strict procedures that must be followed when a parent arrives to take a child home early. Clearance from the office is crucial for any early dismissal. Do not allow a parent to walk into your classroom and tell you he or she is taking the child to the dentist. Permission must be obtained from the school office. When in doubt, call the office for clearance. Never dismiss a child without approval from someone in the administration.
Proper handling of the morning routine can make or break your day as a sub. Be sure you follow these guidelines:
- When you arrive at school, stop in the office and find the mailbox of the teacher that you will be subbing for that day. It’s likely that an attendance folder or notebook is in the mailbox. Bring it and other mail to the teacher’s desk.
- Be sure to follow the morning routine as closely as possible, particularly in primary grades. This gives the students a feeling of stability and sets the tone for the rest of the day.
- Find a special helper to work with you on the attendance. Ask your helper to write down the names of the absent students on a separate piece of paper or tell you who is absent. If your helper cannot do this, find another child. Usually your instinct will guide you in making the correct choice. Then transfer the information into the attendance book yourself. Upper grades are more self-sufficient, and a trusted helper can take the attendance for you.
- Prepare for extraordinary events (e.g., fire drills) before they happen. Be sure you know the procedure to follow.
I’ve found that it’s difficult to recover from a bad start when you’re a sub. That’s why the morning routine is so important. Learn to perform it well, and your subbing day will go more smoothly.
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