Whether you’re a first time substitute teacher or an old pro, substitute teachers often face the difficulty of entering a school and classroom environment they are unfamiliar with. You may have little to no information about the classroom schedule, set up or the students you are charged to teach. These strategies will assist you to be successful in your assignments:
- Meet and Greet. Stand at the door or in the hallway and talk to students as they arrive to class. By striking up conversation you will develop the start of a trusting relationship and glean valuable information you can use later. You will also be able to assess the pulse of the class and the impression students have of your presence in their teacher’s absence. You will likely learn events students are looking forward to (or not looking forward to) that day.
- Be Predictable. By following the daily schedule and lesson plans left for you as closely as possible, you will be creating a predictable environment which feels safe for students. Significant change and disruption in a schedule can be frustrating and play havoc on a child’s social and emotional day increasing the likelihood of disruptive behaviors.
- Never Let them See you Sweat. Despite your best efforts there may be a confrontational student or a major disruption in your class. Always keep cool. Be careful not to lose your temper, raise your voice, or make statements you cannot enforce. If the situation is not too serious humor often can diffuse it. Other successful strategies include a time out, a talk with a peer or having the child write the events down. If the situation is beyond your control call the office for assistance.
- Praise the Horde. Research shows that praise is effective in motivating both learning and behavior. Praise indicates teacher approval of expectations and informs the student about the quality of their work. Specifically, describing noteworthy achievement has a greater effect than general statements. For example, instead of saying “good job”, say “you’ve been very attentive the last 10 minutes,” or “excellent, you’ve found the solution to the problem; how did you do it?” Always praise achievement and effort, never ability.
- Bring a Bag of Tricks. Many successful substitute teachers say they come to class prepared with developmentally appropriate games, puzzles, riddles, mental arithmetic tricks, read alouds, and community building activates that teach and motivate. Finding such activities that match your style can be a fun treasure hunt on the internet. One weekly source for such ideas is the National Education Association’s e-newsletter Works4Me.
Visit us soon for our next edition of There is No Substitute for a Great Substitute when we focus on strategies for subbing at the start of the school year.