Classroom Management Help For The Substitute Teacher (page 3)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Oct 14, 2011

Where Should I Sit/Stand?

One of the best things you can do to maintain order is to circulate while students are working independently. Show an interest in their work, commenting on what you see. Compliment handwriting and content. A good sub rarely sits at the teacher’s desk.

When giving a directed lesson, you should keep moving. Walk from side to side. Walk around and into the area occupied by the students’ desks. If you see someone daydreaming, get into his or her space.

How Do I Know if my Pacing is Right?

You should begin the day with a personal introduction. As soon as the introduction is complete, begin the lesson immediately. You need to get the day started so that the students can see that you are there to teach and accomplish the goals of the classroom teacher.

Once your academic day has begun, pacing is important. If you move too slowly, children get bored. If you move too quickly, you’ll lose some students. Even worse, you may finish with too much time to spare and then have time to fill—not a good thing!

Always pay attention to your students’ faces and their body language. Try to sense where they are. If they seem very interested in the topic at hand, stretch out the discussion. Continue an activity or discussion when interest is high. Conversely, if they are wiggling in their chairs and looking bored, you need to adjust your pace accordingly.

What are the Specific Grade-Level Challenges?

Each age group presents its own challenges. An experienced sub is ready for all of them. After a few weeks of subbing, you will see patterns begin to emerge, and you will prepare yourself accordingly.

  • Primary grades. Little ones are needy. Some will cry when they learn that their regular teacher is absent. You must be kind and nurturing in this environment. Reassure them that you are going to be their teacher for the day and that you promise Miss X will be back just as soon as she is feeling better. Compliment the class and tell them that Miss X must be a wonderful teacher to have such a great class. This calms them down and shows them that you are on their side. You are not the enemy!
  • Intermediate grades. This age group is used to having subs and may see today as an opportunity to have a day off! You can assure them that they will have a great day, but everyone must get the work done that Mr. Y has left for them. I always promise that we’ll do something special, but only after all work is completed. Be sure to have a story to read to them, an art project, or a quiet, organized game. 
  • Middle school. Dealing with older students is a special challenge and requires different techniques. As I noted earlier in this chapter, your first few minutes in the classroom are very important. Let the students know about your background and experience. Try to personalize your introduction by telling them something interesting about yourself, your family, or your career. You want them to see you as a person, not as an object. If possible, take the time to learn something about the content area that you will be teaching, if you have advance notice of the position for the day. Your knowledge of the subject matter gives you added credibility.

As the day progresses, try to learn the names of as many students as possible (this applies to all grade levels). When you begin to address the students by name, it’s likely that they will respond more readily to your requests and instructions.

When confronted with disruptive behavior, avoid direct confrontation but use body language and a clear, firm tone to establish control. It’s a good idea to use proximity to assist students with their tasks and to maintain order. Circulate throughout the classroom and be willing to help individuals.

Most schools use referrals. These are slips of paper used to write up an individual. The student is then given a detention, or a day in a special room where he or she will be monitored. Find out if your school has this system, and plan on using it as a last resort. But don’t threaten to use it if you do not plan on following through.

A student with nothing to do will find something to keep himself busy, and that something may be disruptive to the classroom. For that reason, be sure to have some extra work for those who are off task. If one or two students are particularly disruptive, hand them a worksheet and tell them they must complete it before returning to the group. Make it a fairly simple exercise so that they will be able to complete it in five or ten minutes. If possible, offer a small reward for successful completion of the work.

Finally, recognize that the peer group is by far the most important thing in the life of a teenager. Do not feel hurt if you seem invisible to these students. It’s not that they are rude or uncaring. They are consumed by their image, their friends, and their stature in the group. Learning about exponents is not the top priority when hormones are raging!

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