A Substitute Teacher’s Mini Handbook

I sort of fell into teaching. I was looking for a temporary job with flexible days to sort of supplement the household income when I was given the idea to become a substitute teacher. I can’t imagine a job with more flexibility than that. I applied, interviewed, got the job and was sent to a three day training program (this was in South Carolina).

I fell in love with substitute teaching, and firmly believe that anyone considering going into teaching should work at least a year as a substitute teacher first, it does throw you headfirst into the pit, but it also lets you know if you have what it takes. It also lets you figure out which areas and grades are best for you. I had thought that I would enjoy teaching elementary school�oh not a chance after subbing a few times at the elementary level. Kindergarten was the worse�parents�.know that elementary teachers are a special breed especially kindergarten teachers. I have never zipped, snapped, unbuckled, rebuckled, tied, unknotted, etc more times in my entire life than I did in one day as a kindergarten substitute�now I know what nap time is really for!

I found out very quickly that it was the middle and high school levels that I was the most at home with and mainly stuck with those jobs. As much as I loved it there were many things that I had to figure out on my own along the way that would have been a wonderful help back then. The following are just a couple basic tips to get you started in the classroom. Some of these may sound simple, but having been on both sides of the fence, subbing and teaching, I have seen these things over-looked many times.

  • Greet the students at the door not at the desk. It is amazing the difference that makes on the entire tone of the classroom.
  • Don’t talk over the studentsâÂ?¦.wait for them to pay attention to you. I would always start by standing quietly in front of the room and glance around at all the students. After a couple min. (no more than two or three) if they were still talking I would pointedly look at the clock or my watch and then walk to the board and write the time class was supposed to start on it. This tactic does a few things; for one it lets you gadge where your class problems if any are atâÂ?¦they always give themselves away earlyâÂ?¦it also knocks the students off guard and the front row will always notice what you are doing and tell the rest of the students to be quietâÂ?¦they are all curious creatures. Now within three to four minutes, without saying a word you have effectively gotten the class’s attention. In the rare case that this does not work – run screaming out of the room-ok that is not really necessary, but you do need to assert yourself immediately then. Firmly, but not loudly demand their attention and be prepared to have to deal out consequences if they refuse to meet that challenge.
  • That brings me to presentation. You are not there to be friends with these kids so don’t go in there trying to make friends. The nice subs get eaten alive first. Be firm, be consistent and be fair and always always make sure that you can follow through with any consequence that you put on the table for them. They will respect you for it. I have had many students beg their teachers to ask for me to subâÂ?¦the same ones I have sent to the office or written referrals for. They knew the consequence was deserved and that I would have give the same one to any other student who behaved in the same way.
  • Do not ever let the students have a free- for-all day. Teachers put time and thought into lessons plans and unless you want to be the substitute that always gets to watch the first part of a movieâÂ?¦six times a dayâÂ?¦.follow the lesson plans as they are written not how you wish they were written. If there are no lesson plans you should already have a back up plan in mind before you leave your house. Here are a few suggestions:
    ***Check out a movie from the schools media center.
    ***Have age-appropriate games, puzzles, word searches, mini projects such as making puppets (yes high school kids love that too), sudoku puzzles are great, etc.
  • Last but not leastâÂ?¦leave good, accurate notes from the day. “Class was loud but ok” is not what a teacher wants to read. “Samantha was out of her seat constantly. Joe, Paul, Tyler and Amy were talking. Kim was very helpful” Those are things a teacher can work with when they return to the classroom. There is no worse feeling than having to discipline/lecture an entire class when you know that only about five were causing the problem but have no names written to back up your gut feeling. Leaving notes on what was completed and not completed are also important as it saves the teacher from having to spend time figuring out what was accomplished in class.

WAIT�I lied, one last thing. Thank you for being a great substitute.

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