Substitute Teacher Questions (page 2)
The following questions will be answered in this article:
- What’s the best way to take students to an assembly?
- How can I be sure I won’t lose my temper?
- What should I wear?
- What if students say, “We like you better”?
- What should I do when students finish class assignments early?
- Is there a better approach than yelling?
- What should I do when a student says, “I don’t get it”?
What’s the Best Way to Take Students to an Assembly?
The last time I subbed, we had a student assembly. I wasn’t sure how to proceed from the classroom to the auditorium, where we were supposed to sit, or what behavior standards were expected of the students. As a consequence, I was really confused and nervous. To make matters worse, my students behaved poorly, and I suspect it was because I was not the regular teacher.
If I can’t control the students’ behavior in a public setting, I look bad in front of the other teachers. Are there any tricks to ensuring good behavior during assemblies?
Carlene in Detroit
There are specific things you can do to improve behavior for assemblies. Just as with all good teaching, you must be prepared and set clear expectations.
When you read your plans and see that an assembly is scheduled, call aside a special helper. Ask him or her what the normal routine is for proceeding to the auditorium and where your class should sit. If there is time, ask a grade partner these same questions for added insight. Ask what the subject matter will be. Now you’ll have the information you need.
Tell the class in advance what time you’ll be leaving for the assembly, and tell them what the content of the program will be. You might ask them what they already know on the topic as well as what new things they think they might learn.
Review your rules and expectations for assembly behavior. Tell your class that you expect them to walk quietly in line and that they must sit next to someone who will not “get them in trouble.” Mention that you may find it necessary to change some seats if you see some people talking to one another.
Use proximity to help you monitor behavior. Use a special look or hand motion that you have explained earlier as a warning system. Finally, if someone is out of control, take that student off to the side and have that student sit near you and away from the others until he or she demonstrates the ability to return to the group.
How Can I Be Sure I Won’t Lose My Temper?
I’m generally mild mannered, but every once in a while something sets me off and I lose it. Obviously, I never want that to happen in the classroom, but I came dangerously close this afternoon.
I was teaching middle school reading, working with students who struggle academically. I tried hard to keep them involved in the lesson, but it was obvious they weren’t terribly interested in the work—especially when a sub was teaching them.
I simply could not hold their attention. As they began to act out, I began to become frustrated and then angry. At one point I yelled and then I pleaded. Even I could sense that I sounded pathetic!
Adam in Los Angeles
Every sub has had days like yours. You are not alone, and you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. There are days when you just can’t seem to gain control, no matter what you do.
Please remember one thing—no matter what happens in that room, no matter how angry you feel, do not lose your temper. Once you do, you are no longer in control. Be aware that you are the authority figure in the classroom and your actions set the tone for the entire day.
When classroom behavior begins to deteriorate, try to focus on the few students who are cooperating. Praise them. Change your voice intonation. Tell the class that when work is completed you have a fun activity planned.
Then try to isolate the source of disruption. Usually one or two students are the culprits. Rather than punishing the whole class, take aside the cause of the problem, look him right in the eye, and ask him to get to work now. Tell him this is his one and only warning. If he continues to act out, give him a referral or a detention or send him to the office with a note. This will show the others that you are serious. Sometimes you need to make an example of one student to get everyone’s attention and to gain control.
What Should I Wear?
I find it difficult to decide what to wear the morning of a subbing job. One day I was told that I would be teaching middle school science. I put on a knee-length skirt, white blouse, and high heels, which was very appropriate for my given assignment. I knew that dressing professionally would help me earn respect.
When I got to the office, the assistant principal told me that there had been a change and I would be the PE teacher for the day. Help!
Given the way I was dressed, I was very uncomfortable and looked ridiculous. I had to take off my shoes and walk around barefoot in the gym for the last period because my feet hurt so much.
Diana in Connecticut
You were correct in your choice of clothing for middle school science. A professional look goes a long way in creating an appropriate image and gaining respect. But as a sub, you must be ready for anything.
Keep “emergency” clothing in the trunk of your car. A pair of sneakers, a whistle, a knit shirt with a collar, and shorts or casual slacks will always work if you need to be a PE teacher for a day or if you are suddenly assigned to go on a field trip.
Your comfort is important. If you plan to wear high heels, put a pair of flats in your bag of tricks for the end of the day. Keep a sweater in your car in case the classroom is cold.
But remember that casual clothes are only appropriate when the assignment dictates them. Always dress like a professional. It does wonders for your sense of confidence.
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