How to be a good substitute teacher *for dummies*

Discussion in 'Substitute Teachers' started by ilvoelv, Dec 25, 2011.

  1. ilvoelv

    ilvoelv Rookie

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    Dec 25, 2011

    This whole scenario has led me to question myself and my abilities.. :unsure:Which is sad. Any tips for being a good substitute? Teachers input would be appreciate as well as do's & dont's.
     
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  3. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Virtuoso

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    Dec 25, 2011

    The one thing that had me invited back the most was my consistency in leaving notes for the teacher. I let him or her know what material was covered in each period, what I couldn't complete (being honest is tough important), and how each group of students behaved. Keeping the notes detailed but upbeat was something I found important to do, but not everyone wants to write a huge paragraph for each of six classes of thirty students.

    Writing these notes also served as my daily reflection of what worked and what I could do to improve my classroom management skills. To this day, I wish I had copied some of my teacher notes so I could watch my work and confidence improve. Subbing was very important to me as it taught me things I never learned in student teaching.
     
  4. webmistress

    webmistress Devotee

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    Dec 25, 2011

    As it relates to your other thread, I'll say do not engage in political/religious/racial/controversial conversations with students or don't even make statements on those issues unless it's part of the lesson. I never even let the kids know who I voted for though they asked over and over. Choose your words extremely carefully as if another adult(s) were in the room documenting everything you say.

    If a student makes a statement similar to what was said in your other thread, I would quickly "put out the fire." Steal their thunder and strip their power by basically saying "Okay, thanks, let's get back to the lesson." Don't give them any room to air their dirty laundry on your watch.
     
  5. Rebel1

    Rebel1 Connoisseur

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    Dec 25, 2011

    DO...
    -Follow the instructions left by the teacher to the MAX!
    -If in doubt, verify with the P or VP what is unclear abt instructions
    -Note down or initial everything you did and sign it at the end.
    -Be aware of the schedule and time frames to be followed.
    -Be yourself and make a BIG POSITIVE DIFFERENCE!
    -Be genuine, loving, and caring with your ACTIONS.:hugs:
    -BE FIRM and CONSISTENT.
    -Get involved with what the children do outside.
    -HAVE FUN! Make learning fun for the children and yourself!


    DON'T...
    -Stray away from the plan, because you think you can do it better.
    -Half-a$$ anything that needs to be done completely:D
    -Change anything that the teacher wanted done.
    -Complain about the children to other teachers.
    -MY BIGGEST ONE! Don't just stand around during outside time. I hate it because every school I have subbed at, I have noticed this.
    You see teachers standing around just talking away AND the children are not even being watched. It just makes ME SO :mad:!
    They are getting paid to watch the children BUT it just does not seem to be clear to some of them. Principals and VPs need to crack down on these teachers who are making a bad name for the rest.
    A parent shared this same pet peeve with me last week. It happened to her child. She went to pick up her child and she is sitting by herself at a bench,with blood on her head, and trying to hold the ice pack to it, and the teachers are at their corner, etc., nobody was even trying to help her child. SHE was so ticked off because she had complained about this before BUT nothing was done about it.
    -Gossip with other teachers or be nosey (sp?)
    -Raise your voice at any child OR say anything out of anger that you will regret later, AND might cost you your job.
    -Play favorites
    -Let them see you sweat!;)

    There's more BUT these are the BIGGIES for me.

    Rebel1

    -
     
  6. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Dec 26, 2011

    I'll share what's important to me, even though it repeats what others here have already said.

    Follow my plans. If you don't finish everything, that's okay, just please let me know.

    If you're giving a test, please don't allow students to consult any outside sources (books, notes, each other, you as the sub) unless I've specifically said that they can. Few things are worse than throwing out an exam grade because a sub allowed students to use their notes.

    If you're not sure about something, ask. I'll always leave a list of students who are trustworthy and can answer your questions honestly. If you prefer asking an adult, talk to the teacher next door.

    Don't believe everything a student tells you, especially if it seems shady. I do not allow students to enter my classroom without a tardy pass, so if they tell you that I do, they're lying. I do not allow students to rifle through my desk, so if they tell you that I do, they're lying. I do not dismiss my classes early, so if they tell you that I do, they're lying. And so on....

    Treat my students with respect, even if they are being d-bags. Remember that they're kids; you're the adult. Their bad behavior doesn't grant you license to adopt bad behavior yourself. Along with this, I don't expect you to learn all my students' names, but please don't call them things like "You little Mexican kid" and "Out of Africa".

    Please don't leave the room a mess. Ask classes to clean up after themselves and make sure that they've done so before you dismiss them.

    When you hear that students are off task or when they try to engage you with inappropriate or off-topic questions or conversations, it's your responsibility to get them back on track. "What are you supposed to be doing right now?" ... "Are you doing that?"..."Please find yourself back on task." These are phrases I use daily, and you should start using them (or something like them) too.

    If all else fails, like in the event of a technology malfunction where my DVD doesn't play or a random incident where you have to hold my classes in another classroom and don't have access to my handouts or something, give them a study hall. They're in high school. They always have homework in at least one class, if they don't have that then they can read, and if they don't have a book they can journal (give them a topic or ask them to free write). Please don't waste the period with a social hour.
     
  7. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Dec 26, 2011

    Wonderful list, Caesar.
     
  8. ciounoi

    ciounoi Cohort

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    Dec 26, 2011

    I think Rebel1 hit it straight on. It's extremely important to enforce discipline... use the teacher's system if possible, make up your own if necessary. My favorite for early elementary kids was "We don't hit/whine/complain/not follow directions. I need you to sit in this chair until you're ready to listen." It really worked! :)

    I would add (for elementary):

    -Act like you know what you are doing, all the time, even if you don't. Come in early and get a handle on the room so you can fake knowing what you are doing.
    -Be aware that students are almost always very well behaved in the morning when you first see them because most are still sleepy. Don't take that as a sign that you have an easy day... they wake up and challenge you by about 930.
    -Show that you are happy to be there. Like Rebel1 said, enjoy what you are doing. I always got great feedback because of this.
     
  9. Special-t

    Special-t Connoisseur

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    Dec 26, 2011

    I leave very detailed plans for a reason. A sub won't be able to tell my students have special needs because they are not obvious. I realize that many subs are not experienced with learning disabilities and I try to plan opportunities that give my students chances to build confidence when working with a sub. It's a chance for them to succeed in an unfamiliar situation. Veering too far from the plans, or pushing my students to "try harder" does not work. They usually try as hard as they can with strangers so as not to let their challenges show.

    Please be aware that most districts use inclusion models and you may have a handful of kids with "invisible" special needs in your classroom.

    If you ask a student to read out loud and they refuse. Please don't make it a big deal.

    If you do have to show a movie, please do not let the students choose what to stream off Netflix. Only show PG movies, even though some of my students are 18. If a movie is labeled as not rated - NR, absolutely do not show it, even if it is described as family entertainment.

    Oh and, please don't assign things as homework unless I specify.
     
  10. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Dec 26, 2011

    From the perspective of a current sub:

    DO
    Arrive early so you can:
    ...look over the lesson plans for the day.
    ...become familiar with the content/assignment for the day's lesson.
    ...decide how you will teach the content, if asked to do so.
    ...find all the materials for the lesson/assignment.
    ...determine if the work should be collected at the end of the period or kept until the teacher returns.
    ...determine if you need to collect current homework and go over it before today's lesson.
    This will show the kids you KNOW what you are doing and today will be a regular class day instead of a social hour.

    Learn as many student names as possible. Students are much less apt to act out when you can call them by name. This is my #1 class mgt tool.

    Constantly circulate around the room while the kids are working. This is my #2 mgt tool, but only by a very slim margin.

    Stand outside the door of your room during class transition time. Other teachers will appreciate an extra set of eyes in the hallway and most kids WILL listen to any instructions you give them (WALK! being the reminder I use most often), even if you are "just the sub." ;)

    Collect classwork (if directed) and leave it organized by class for the teacher.

    Leave good notes for the teacher about how the day went. I write a brief summary of the material covered and behavior of each class period.

    Have a back-up plan in case kids finish the assignment early. In our district, kids should always have a library book with them to read if they finish their regular work. I've also allowed kids to draw, as long as they do it quietly. I also keep a list of riddles, puzzles and other "time-fillers" to use at the end of a class, if needed.

    Make sure the room is clean and all equipment and switches are turned OFF before you leave.

    DON'T
    Substitute your OWN plans for the teachers. The teacher left the plans for a reason. That is what they want their class to do that day, so stick to the plans as closely as possible.

    Listen to the kids when they say "Mr(s) Regular Teacher let's us do X". Chances are, Mr(s) Regular Teacher does NOT allow that at all. Teachers will usually leave a list of students you CAN trust to give you a straight answer, if you need it.

    Let kids go to the bathroom, library, etc the first time they ask. I know this is controversial, but you can always say "Not yet" rather than "No". That let's them know they CAN go if they really need to, but will have to ask again a few minutes later. If they DO have to go, they will come back. If they don't really have to go, they usually won't ask a second time.

    Let kids work together on the assignment unless the teacher has said they can do so.

    Let kids sidetrack you with off-topic comments, questions or actions. Remind them of the work they are supposed to be doing and direct them back to doing that.

    Rifle through the teacher's desk for things and absolutely don't let kids do it. Tape and staples are usually on the desk already and kids are supposed to bring their own pencils and paper.

    Lose your cool with the kids or let them see you sweat. No matter what happens, remain as calm and "in control" as possible. When the kids see they can't get you rattled, they will usually settle down pretty quickly. Sometimes, it IS necessary to raise your voice to get the attention of the class. That doesn't mean you have to yell or scream. There is a big difference between the two (at least for me). Generally, though, my most effective technique for a class that is too loud is to stop talking at all and sit on a stool or lean against the front of the desk. That let's them know right away they have pushed a bit too far. When they stop talking, I use an even quieter tone of voice than normal to remind them of the behavior I expect from them.
     
  11. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Aficionado

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    Dec 26, 2011

    Lots of great advice given already. If I had to choose and pick the most important tip, it would be to get really good at classroom management and classroom control.

    I think that was the single factor that I quickly became the favorite at all the middle schools and juvenile detention facilities I subbed at.

    You have about 5 minutes to establish your authority and get some kind of a relationship with your class. I never hoped to get a bond going, because it is very difficult to achieve in one day (even in one week), but I have learned that as soon as the students saw that I was a sub who commanded attention, I earned their respect right away. Because they respected me, they were more likely to do what I asked them to do. Of course there are always a few students who will challenge you, and every classroom is different, so in some cases controlling them was harder, and challenging students sometimes outnumbered the cooperating ones, but that's just part of the job.

    Only after you have control, you can teach whatever plans were left, enrich them, stray from them, whatever :) make it fun, make it exciting, make it boring, it's up to you. But if the students are not listening to you, you don't have these options.

    One teacher told me: "All I ask of all subs are the following: don't let them kill you. Don't let them kill each other. Don't let them tear the room up. "
     
  12. jen12

    jen12 Devotee

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    Dec 27, 2011

    I'll have to read back and see what scenario you're talking about that shook your confidence, but I've found that you only get good at subbing by subbing.

    *If you have a good lesson plan left for you, stick with it. I find that that helps with classroom management more than anything. Once you deviate, the kids start getting antsy. Kids are happiest and best behaved when they know what to expect and they follow their regular schedule.

    *Stay away from personal statements. I've found that kids from about 5th grade and up will try to pepper you with personal questions. Some of it is legitimate curiosity, but some of it is intended to get you off topic and waste time so they don't have to do work. I also quelch any and all discussions about whether Santa Claus is real, what Jesus has done or who is running for office. Kids are mostly parroting their parents on these topics and I don't need to hear adult arguments coming out of children's mouths. Neither does anyone passing by the door who may take it out of context.

    *Assure the students that you are a "real" teacher. I was thrown for a loop recently (after doing this for more than two years, I thought I couldn't be surprised) when a class of third graders was shocked when I said something about being a teacher. "You're a teacher?" When I asked what they thought I was, they said "a sub." Clearly they're under the impression that a "sub" is some other life form. I explained that the only difference between their teacher and a substitute teacher is that their teacher teaches their class each and every day. A sub teaches all the grades in all the schools and travels to a different place each day. If you let a class know that you've 'been there-done that' they're a little more hesitant to try to test you. Particularly the older kids.

    *I've gotten a lot of positive comments about my organization. Since I generally go for elementary assignments, there may be five or six different papers from each student to leave for the teacher. I just paperclip each topic together (math, science, writing, etc...) and leave in a stack on the teacher's desk with the note on top. If it's a multiple day assignment, I just grab a blank sheet of paper and write "Monday's Work" "Tuesday's Work" and use them to separate the days.

    *Find an attention-getting signal to stop the chatter. I use "if you can hear my voice, clap one time." It usually works. There are also a couple of schools that have school-wide call and response systems for this.

    *Make the kids responsible for their space. Have them clean the floor at the end of the day, or even throughout the day if necessary. It's their space, they're the ones dropping paper, pencil shavings and pens on the floor. They need to pick it up. Not you, the custodian or their teacher when she returns the next day.

    Subbing is hard. Some days are harder than others and it's very intimidating to start, but you'll find a groove. You'll find that certain things work for you and you'll stick with those things. It takes time. I think you can see just from this thread that there are differing expectations and demands and you'll never be able to please all the people all the time. Just do your best. If it helps, keep a journal each day and write down for yourself what you attempted and what worked and what tanked.

    Good luck!
     
  13. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Dec 27, 2011

    Good advice, Jen (as well as everyone else).

    You're comment about students thinking a sub is a "different life form" caught my attention. Couldn't help get a chuckle out of that. :lol: It IS true, though, most kids think subs are not "real" teachers (some teachers seem to think that too, but that's another thread ;) ).

    Earlier this year, I was subbing for a 6th grade math teacher. Some of the students in one of the afternoon classes tried the normal routine of asking lots of questions at the same time to get me distracted or rattled. I answered the relevant questions and redirected the non-relevant inquiries back to the task at hand, all in a calm and even tone of voice. One student in the back raised her hand and even said "You seem awfully calm, Mr. Cerek." I just smiled and said "This isn't the first time I've done this."

    When you show the kids they can't get under your skin or get you distracted, they generally stop trying and start focusing on the assignment they are supposed to do.
     
  14. subczy

    subczy Rookie

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    Jan 24, 2012

    Just weighing in

    Greats lists and advice...

    My priorities -

    * Safety - this comes first and in most cases is not that big of an issue. I follow the behavior plan posted in the room or the general one for the dist. I do have basics of my own if no plan is in place.
    * The Plans - I follow them to the best of my ability as written. If I change anything I note what I changed,w hat I changed it to, and why.
    * the note - I always leave a note that states lesson notes, behavior, and my contact information. If the dist gives you a form use that.
    * Enjoy my day - Subbing pays so little. If I don't enjoy my day what is the point. I can go to a job I hate and make WAY more money elsewhere. If I am happy the kids feel it and respond to it. they can tell when we care about them.

    If you do get to stay in this dist perhaps you can ask to observe a few classes at different levels before you return to subbing. I am sure the P can set you up with which teachers would be good to observe for the specific areas of improvement you need to work on. Even though I have been doing this for awhile I try at least twice a year to observe another teacher (just ask them if I can my friends usually) to keep up on my skills and reflection. Please update us on how your meeting went. It is somethign anyof us might have to deal with and you'd help us a lot by sharing.
     
  15. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Aficionado

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    Feb 4, 2012

    A lot of subs don't know this, or don't really think about it, but teachers do talk. In bigger schools the word may just get around among certain teachers / grade levels, in other settings they might discuss subs in meetings.
    When I subbed, I mostly went to middle schools. In my daughter's school I know for fact that several teachers discussed me, and recommended me to each other. One teacher even said that I had a very good reputation in the school.

    Where I am (small school) the topic of subs actually comes up in meetings. When I was subbing here (3 schools in district), the P openly asked the teachers who were the best subs, and there was a whole discussion about it. That's partly how I got my LTS position.

    We were just in a meeting this Wednesday, and discussed subs. We have a new feature in Aesop, we can designate 5 subs as our favorite, and they'd be notified when we enter our absences. There is one sub whom I really really liked at first, but she's not very popular right now: she played a video on youtube to every single class she had. This video clip was made by a student who got released (from our lock up), made a rap about our school, in which he talked trash about 4 teachers, and named every single officer. The language obviously was not appropriate, but this sub thought this was funny. No one likes her now, because apparently she just wants to be cool.
    Yet, one teacher said she's doing a good job, we might want to favorite her. Another teacher said that this same sub completely ignored her plans. Chances are, most teachers wouldn't request her.
    This is how easy it is to make a good or bad reputation.
     
  16. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Feb 4, 2012

    Yes, teachers and even P's discuss which subs are good and which ones are not. I've subbed in almost every middle and high school in my district. Each school does have their own "set" of subs they call the most, but if they ever get a really bad sub, you can bet the secretaries or P's call their colleagues at the other schools to let them know about it.

    A staff member at one school was telling me about a sub that decided to start making comments about her to the class one day. This staff member isn't a teacher but she definitely makes it part of her job to help keep the kids in line and they show her the same respect they show the teachers and the P. So this sub decides to make some "funny" comments about the staff member acting like she is in charge and bossing kids around. What the sub did NOT know is that the staff member's DAUGHTER was one of the students in the class.

    Needless to say, that ended his subbing career in the district.
     
  17. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Aficionado

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    Feb 4, 2012

    The worst sub I ever heard of was this guy:
    he was subbing in an ESL class. I student taught one of those classes, and to be honest, they were extremely difficult to handle, even for teachers with yeeeaaaars of experience. You had to be extremely strict with an iron fist, yet give them exciting and interesting plans, and then maybe you had a chance :) i had bad days, ok days and some good days.

    So this guys decided to take the lesson plan the teacher left him, and put it on the docucam. he told the students to do it. !!! :)
    These students were very low English proficiency (have been int the country for less than 2 years), but it didn't matter, the lesson plans are for the sub, not the students!
    Of course that didn't work, the kids got extremely rowdy, because they had nothing to do and could tell the sub was weak :). He called in the AP in the classroom, and as she walked in, he grabbed his stuff and walked out !!
    I have heard this story firsthand from the AP, because they asked me to take over the rest of the day, since they had no sub.
    I don't know how this guy survived until then with these 'strategies'.
     
  18. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Feb 4, 2012

    It does make you wonder sometimes.

    One day, a classmate of mine (from the certification class for Substitute Teachers) and I were subbing in the same school. During my "planning period", I walked down the hall past his classroom. The students were doing some kind of worksheet and the sub was sitting at the desk reading the weekly newspaper. :eek:hmy: I can't remember if he actually had his feet propped up on the desk, but it doesn't really matter. I couldn't believe it.

    The really crazy part is that he actually got a job in the district the following year and was put in charge of the ISS program at one of the high schools. I don't think that lasted a second year, though.
     
  19. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Feb 4, 2012

    Truthfully, there are a lot worse things for a sub to be doing. I personally wouldn't mind if a sub in my classroom were reading while the students were working independently, as long as everything remained under control.
     
  20. JustMe

    JustMe Guru

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    Feb 4, 2012

    Yeah, reading the paper is at the bottom of my offenses list.
     
  21. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    Feb 4, 2012

    Stray from my plans?!?!? To me this is saying that you don't have to follow the plans I have left. I hope this isn't what you mean. I try to leave detailed plans for a reason. I know my class best. Sometimes doing things differently sets the sub up for a difficult day. Or if you choose to do a different activity in place of the one I left, it may be a repeat of what we had done the day before or it may be what I'm planning to do the next day. Please, follow my plans as written.
     

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