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Old 12-25-2011, 10:18 AM
ilvoelv ilvoelv is offline
Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 17
How to be a good substitute teacher *for dummies*

This whole scenario has led me to question myself and my abilities.. 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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Old 12-25-2011, 10:27 AM
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catnfiddle catnfiddle is online now
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 6,307
Central Ohio
Online English Teacher
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.
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Old 12-25-2011, 08:15 PM
webmistress webmistress is offline
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 1,007
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.
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Old 12-25-2011, 09:59 PM
Rebel1 Rebel1 is offline
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 1,524
Originally Posted by ilvoelv View Post
This whole scenario has led me to question myself and my abilities.. Which is sad. Any tips for being a good substitute? Teachers input would be appreciate as well as do's & dont's.
-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.
-Get involved with what the children do outside.
-HAVE FUN! Make learning fun for the children and yourself!

-Stray away from the plan, because you think you can do it better.
-Half-a$$ anything that needs to be done completely
-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 !
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.


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Old 12-25-2011, 11:31 PM
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Caesar753 Caesar753 is online now
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 12,442
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.
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Old 12-26-2011, 04:39 AM
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MrsC MrsC is offline
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 11,896
Ontario, Canada
Grade 7
Wonderful list, Caesar.
It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop

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Old 12-26-2011, 06:52 AM
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ciounoi ciounoi is offline
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 593
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.
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Old 12-26-2011, 09:35 AM
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Special-t Special-t is offline
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 1,964
SPED 9-12
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.
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Old 12-26-2011, 11:05 AM
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Cerek Cerek is offline
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 3,108
North Carolina
Middle School Math Teacher
From the perspective of a current sub:

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.

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.
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Old 12-26-2011, 12:35 PM
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Linguist92021 Linguist92021 is offline
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 3,572
Central Valley of California
High School English (Alt. Ed.)
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. "
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