Advice for Substitutes

Discussion in 'General Education Archives' started by AngelEyes, Oct 5, 2006.

  1. AngelEyes

    AngelEyes Rookie

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    Oct 5, 2006

    Advice for Substitutes?

    Hello, everyone. I'm new to this site and I wondered if some of you seasoned veterans might offer some advice for a soon-to-be substitute teacher...I should begin subbing within the next few weeks.

    I have found that my biggest hurdle during student teaching was classroom management (discipline, in particular). This is obviously not a good problem to have when you're a sub!:eek: So I'd appreciate any advice on getting and maintaining control of a class who is not used to me (I'll be subbing from K-8th grade!) and any advice about subbing in general--what are some ways I can most help a teacher in her absence, and what are some things I need to know? PLUS, if any of you have subbed before, do you have any ideas for what to do with the different age groups when there aren't any plans left for me?

    ANY advice is greatly appreciated!
     
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  3. BronxTigger

    BronxTigger Rookie

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    Oct 5, 2006

    I subbed for a few months K-8.

    -Use bribes ("rewards"). Stickers are good for younger students. Pretzels and Skittles are also well-liked across many grades. I use Skittles a lot (my "magic pebbles") with my regular class, now that I have one of my own. I will give out only one at a time, when I see them doing the right thing. You usually only have to give out a few at a time for it to be effective. When you see things start to head towards the out of control stage, whip them out and start giving them to the kids doing the right thing.

    -Insist they stay seated. If they need something, they raise their hand. A vast majority of your problems will be avoided by making sure they are in their seats.

    -Keep them busy. Yes, use busy work if you must. Just keep them busy with something!

    -Don't assume you will have lesson plans provided. Keep a set of materials for your use that you take with you each day, for a variety of grade levels. Keep in mind a school might call you for one assignment, then change the assignment when you arrive. Make sure you have stuff to use for any grade level.

    -Playdoh is a good reward for kids who have had a good day/part of the day for young students. For older kids, the promise of chat time (5 min) at the end of the period if they worked well was a good reward.

    -Subbing is a good way to practice your discipline and management techniques. Because you start fresh each day, if something didn't work the day before, you get a whole clean slate the next day! I had a very tough time student teaching, but after a few weeks of subbing I had regained confidence and actually had teachers calling me to sub again because I did a nice job with their class.

    Just be firm, and start the day out right. If you don't like how they enter in the morning, take them back outside/in the hall to try again. It will speak volumes about how much you will tolerate in terms of behavior.
     
  4. Suburban Gal

    Suburban Gal (formerly Elizabeth) Banned

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    Oct 5, 2006

    CONGRATS ON SUBBING! :cool:

    I think one of the best things you can do to help a teacher in his or her absence is follow the lesson plans to a T. They'll really appreciate it if you do because your job as a Substitute Teacher is to pick up where they left off and ensure no break in the continuation of material.

    As for no sub plans, I really wouldn't worry a whole lot about that because 99.9% of the time they're really good about leaving them. However, if it does rise that they don't leave you any layed out plans then try to look for the planner to see if you can find out what's going on and where you should be picking up from. If you can't find that, then you just wing it. There's a lot of good sub and new teacher books out there for you to get some ideas from.

    By the way, welcome to A to Z Teacher Stuff! :cool:
     
  5. BronxTigger

    BronxTigger Rookie

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    Oct 6, 2006

    I guess it depends on where you are subbing. When I subbed in Denver, I rarely had no plans. When I subbed in NYC, I NEVER had plans left for me, and there were never any plans left to guess at where they were at.

    But I do agree...if plans are left, you should follow them as much as you can, and leave notes for the teacher about what you got done/weren't able to complete.
     
  6. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    Subs really need to follow my lesson plans and take the time to READ the information in my sub plan book. I have everything they need there, right down to the management program and seating charts with the kids' pictures.

    I usually know ahead of time when I'll be out, so I make sure to write everything on the board for the kids--just like every day--so they are still on a schedule. I also have the daily expectations posted daily, so there is never a question over what they should be doing.

    Please leave detailed notes as well. I like knowing how things went, whether they got finished with the assignment, and who acted up. I really hate notes that say, "Did work." and "Class was bad."

    We're instructed NOT to leave busy work or non-instructional videos for the subs. I always leave something related to what we're actually doing, yet something that the kids can do with minimal assistance from the teacher.

    I didn't like the sub I had the other day. She was rude to the kids, and one told me that she said, "Well that story sucked" after they finished the story I'd left for them. I was in the building that day, so I checked up on them from time to time.
     
  7. vsimpkins

    vsimpkins Comrade

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    Oct 6, 2006

    I have taught for 7 years in 1st and 2nd grades (resigned for personal reasons) and I have been subbing for 3 years now and waiting to be hired again. I am currently doing a long term sub position til March '07.
    The best advice I can give you is to have a form "A Note From the Sub" preferably done on the computer so you can make changes as needed. I can PM one to you if you'd like, just let me know.
    I also would bring anything for primary and upper grades for the season. I subscribe to Enchanted Learning, Mailbox and Edhelper. So I have resources available to get extra work. I also would have rewards (starbursts, jolly ranchers, stickers, etc.) and with upper grade to get them motivated start passing out rewards when your looking for answers or anything to do with a discussion. It's amazing how they get excited over something so simple. I have had a couple bad evaluations, but the students have a lot to do with this. Some teachers just let the class have no structure or classroom management and they do what they want. Another time I had a parent in the class and they made comments to the teacher that I was not respectful to the class, I was being respectful to the class and I had some students that were blurting out to me how to say students names. I now ask parents to leave the room when I am there subbing. You'll find that some schools are very political and so are the parents. I don't go back to those schools that I feel uncomfortable with. Everyday is a new experience and enjoy the kids. I have also heard about subs that take all the work for the day and pass it all out to the students to complete that day. That is not good teaching skill to do.
     
  8. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Oct 6, 2006

    Please be careful with the rewards as a sub. We had one sub in our school who would bring a large pail with suckers, the sticky hand things, plastic toys, rubber balls, etc, and apparantly they were handed out just for showing up to class, because nothing ever seemed to get done. The next day, I would spend the morning confiscating these treats (you can imagine the hands stuck in girls' hair, balls bouncing across the room...) I liked whoever posted about Skittles-small, eatable, and cheap.

    kcjo
     
  9. Bubbet20

    Bubbet20 New Member

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    Oct 6, 2006

    I've been able to sub a few times recently myself. I take a list of activities with me that I can pull out if necessary. The time I have the most trouble with the students is during transitions so try to fill that time with some sort of activity. Some examples follow...
    -In line have students review spelling words have them go down the line giving one letter in the word.
    -share weekend/holiday plans.
    -tell riddles/jokes
    -have each student tell something they've learned today
    -asks students to name a noun that starts with "A" or a verb that starts with "C" etc.
    -play simon says
    -have students pay the person next to them a genuine compliment Hope this helps!
     
  10. Suburban Gal

    Suburban Gal (formerly Elizabeth) Banned

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    Oct 6, 2006

    Guess so.
     
  11. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    Oct 6, 2006

    Welcome to A to Z! I moved your post so that you can get more responses. Good luck!
     
  12. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Oct 6, 2006

    I was thinking the same thing, depends where you sub. I don't think I've ever seen a lesson planner in my room.
     
  13. Shane Steinmetz

    Shane Steinmetz Rookie

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    Oct 6, 2006

    Amen!

    It's very irritating to have parents and other staff members in the room monitoring your every move as you run the classroom. That's not to say that you'd have anything to hide, but parents and other staff members -- who are used to having the regular teacher run the room -- have a tendency to become highly judgemental of a stranger running the room for the day.

    Staff members aren't always that bad, as they sometimes understand the challenges of being a substitute being thrust into a new environment every day.

    However, the parents often don't think about this. They're more interested in your performance and how you're affecting the classroom and children, which is perfectly understandable. Unfortunately -- in my experience, at least -- they don't take into consideration that you aren't familiar with the class and are simply doing your best.

    Parents and administrators also have a tendency to walk in at the wrong times, too. If you've had an otherwise good day and arrive at some hectic point in the day where the class gets rowdy, THAT'S when someone from the outside will decide to walk in and ask how you're doing.

    AngelEyes, after a while, you'll develop your own technique of dealing with the students. There's all kinds of manuals, classroom workshops, and other useful tools available to you to give you tips on maintaining a positive relationship with the students. Here's one way to look at it...

    There's three minds that you can use when you're in the classroom. There's the "adult" mind, the "child" mind, and the "human" mind.

    The "adult" mind --

    • runs the classroom with the reasoning that since the person's an adult, that is reason enough for students to do what she says.
    • doesn't tolerate talking back or arguing.
    • tells others that they are "immature," "have a chip on the shoulder," "needs to grow up" (other propaganda like that) instead of using actual details that could be the basis to solve a problem.
    • has a bias in favor of herself and her colleagues when deciding the solution to a problem.

    The "child" mind --

    • reacts with hostility to authority simply to defy authority, or to pursue some selfish objective.
    • dismisses a serious discussion or serious advice as gibberish because it's lengthy, boring, or not what he wants to hear.
    • treats an attempt at an open discussion as an offensive manuever.
    • is determined to further himself and his own plans without considering the serious impact of his actions on his peers and others.

    The "human" mind --

    • goes to reasonable lengths to make his or her intentions clear and acts with the consideration of what others think or feel, but firmly maintains his or her stance when once he or she is certain that the right choice has been made.
    • is always open to the possibility that he or she has made a mistakes or acted wrong, and is always willing to discuss it with others.
    • considers the actions and object of a situation instead of allowing his or her emotional perception of a person affect his or her thinking.
    • cares about what is right rather than who is right, and will take responsibility for, learn from, and improve from mistakes that have been made.

    Think from the human mind whenever you can. You were a student at one point, too. Reverse the roles and take the student's state of mind.

    Think, "How would I have perceived this, how would I have reacted, and why?"

    Many instances are clear-cut and dry -- students blatantly violating rules, working off-task, or doing something else they shouldn't be doing. They may get mad at you for disciplining them, but after they cool down, they'll understand the reasoning for it and figure that they DID violate a rule, after all -- even if they don't want to say it out loud.

    The three minds really come into play when you find yourself at conflict with another student's personality, or when some exchange of words has resulted in a misunderstanding. It may not be a rule violation, and it may not be poor academic performance, but you'll find that it can still be problematic.

    For example, I was running a high school class sometime last month when I caught a girl using a computer for recreational purposes. I asked her to close out of the program. I tried to make it seem less imposing by telling her that I knew she was in the classroom because of her past performance, and I did not want her to fall behind further -- I wanted her to use her time to the fullest.

    Unfortunately, she took that as rudeness and started going off on me about how her regular teacher treated the students "like people." The discussion later got into how she didn't like substitutes that were "all high and mighty," and how she knew how old I was and all this other crap.

    (I understand now why she took it as rudness; it was probably the way I worded my thought. But, I was so nervous because of the situation with the students that I didn't formulate the words in my mind in the best manner.)

    Well, sometime during the conversation -- during which I was becoming increasingly upset -- I instinctively referred to her as "young lady." She scoffed and said that she was only a few years younger than I was. I snapped at her that if she acted her age, I wouldn't call her that.

    I was furious, so I used the popular method of "winning" an argument that most adults from generation W use when they are unwilling or unable to talk the discussion out -- I just started picking on her age and implied immaturity!

    Now, that made me feel better, but it didn't bring her any closer to realizing that this was all happening because she was violating a simple rule. Instead of letting what she was saying get to me, becoming emotional about it, and resorting to the "adult" voice, I should've just maintained my stance that she was simply in the wrong for violating a rule.. and that's that. She's certainly entitled to her opinion about how she thinks I'm running the classroom, just like I am... but facts are facts. If you can get past the emotions and everything else fluttering around in your mind and stick to the facts, you'll help to maintain the human voice.

    It's a balancing act for me, sometimes. I'm preaching all about using a "human" voice, but the truth is that saving face matters to me, too. It's just a matter of acting and speaking in a manner that doesn't hurt or condescend the students while also staying firm over what are actually very simple issues. I just can't let them walk all over me at the same time.

    So, basically, remember what you felt and thought as a student, and mix that in with your obligations as a teacher. Don't get so caught up in the authority and power of being a teacher that you forget that your students are human, as well, and need to know why they have to do things and need to be treated with care and respect. But also realize that there are other parts of their humanity -- the need to disrupt, socialize destructively, and the like -- that have to be dealt with appropriately.

    Despite everything I just said, I guess it just comes down to you and your personal experiences. Everything I just said has been shaped by my own personal experiences, and the advice and knowledge may differ from what's in your reality, since you may experience different situations and students.

    After a while, you'll figure out that the only other challenge you really have to worry about are the staff and administration you work with... and the full-time teachers you substitute for.

    Most teachers and schools realize that substitutes do their best, and realize the pressure and challenges they face. Among all of this, though, there are some full-time teachers that -- for some reason or another -- are unreasonably picky about what their substitutes do.

    I once substitute taught for a language arts class in a middle school. The teacher had clear lesson plans and had us do worksheets and textbook work. We didn't finish everything, and I was a little uncertain about who finished what. (Or something like that; I've had so many other classes since then that the memory is fading.) I actually spoke to her at the end of the day about what we did and apologized up and down for not finishing everything. She kept telling me to "relax" and not to worry.

    I told her about myself. She said that she's had student teachers, interns, and all kinds of people work with her for many, many years. She just told me to relax, that she intentionally overplanned, and that she was just glad I was there. She assured me that everything was fine.

    Those are the teachers you want to substitute for. If, on the other hand, you encounter teachers that start nit-picking at what you're doing and exert more effort on discussing and critiquing what you did wrong instead of thanking you for being there and working with what you did right, RUN. Treat them like the black plague. Teachers that treat substitutes like subordinates beneath them don't have any business creating an absence.

    Especially the ones that treat the substitutes like they are dependent on the teachers for some reason. This job pays me about one dollar and fifty cents more than my other job at McDonald's on the weekends, and Walmart, the mall, and various other restaurants and retail outlets (which pay at a level equal to or greater than what I make as a sub) are open to me. I didn't sign up to a list of "people that need jobs"; I signed up to a list of "people that can cover for others that need the help."

    Don't worry, AngelEyes. An older, experienced teacher I worked with several days ago told me how there are no snake handlers that have never been bitten. The more schools you substitute at, the more bumps along the road you may find -- but that's just a greater opportunity to learn. You'll figure it out. :)
     
  14. vsimpkins

    vsimpkins Comrade

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    Oct 6, 2006

    I like the advice and information you have discussed. You seem like a real down to earth substitute/teacher. I agree with your experience and advice from your sources. Are you working as a sub or do you have your own classroom now?
     
  15. souptunuts

    souptunuts Rookie

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    Oct 7, 2006

    I never hear a lot about other teachers in the same grade helping the sub if there are no plans or if you aren't clear on plans. You can definitely ask them; most will poke their head in and ask if you need anything.

    I don't bring any extra teaching things because most plans 99.9 percent are done. When I teach 3rd or 4th, I sometimes bring these 2 crazy scholastic books called something like The Big Book of Everything Gross and Super Gross Jokes. I will let the kids look at them if the teacher left any open free time on the plans.


    Here are a few other pointers

    -arrive half hour early
    -read through entire lesson plan and sub folder
    -as you read, survey the desk to see if the materials are there so you don't have to look for them later. If they aren't, look in a couple other places and then ask another teacher

    -look carefully at the time allotted for each item. Think about what you might leave out if you run short on time. Usually I will leave out a worksheet if I have to. Most of the classes have silent read time for 15 minutes, I don't cut that out.

    -read anything she left on classroom discipline and follow it to a T from the beginning of the day.

    -Don't be too chatty with the kiddos the minute they get in the door.
    -When they come in make sure they follow the normal routine and make sure you ask them if anyone has any notes from home or anything to turn in.

    -Follow the lesson plans! The biggest thing will be keeping the kids on task. I've noticed that if I walk around and comment on "who is on fire" or "who is cooking" they love it! I combine this with the fact that "I am going to be watching for Star Students who are on task and doing their best and I will leave that list for Ms McTeacher."

    -Call BOGUS on all those bathroom and water trips.
    -Don't let them use marker unless it specifically says they can

    -Never ask something to the whole group like "does anyone know where Ms McTeacher keeps the..." "when do you all usually ...." Oh my gosh, they all go crazy in an instant. Rather, ask one student by name to come up to your desk and ask that one person. (if only I could remember to do this all the time)

    -Keep a note for yourself during the day so you don't forget anything at the end of the day.
    - check the teachers mailbox (or send a child if ok) for anything that may need to go home

    -Leave plenty of time for pack up at the end of the day. Usually teachers tell you to start having them pack up about 15 minutes early. I used to think I could do it in less but it really gets chaotic especially when they all start asking you things or telling you they need to go here or there

    -Make sure the kids clean up good and straighten their desks or tables
    -Clean the board off nice

    -leave a detailed note. I never have enough room on the forms people use so I just use blank paper.
     
  16. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 7, 2006

    I'm not a "sub", but in our high school we do cover each other's classes when someone is out. One or two ideas:

    -- transitions can be murder. Keep an eye on them, try to minimize if at all possible. Rushing the kids through transitions can sometimes help.

    -- the kids who "need" the bathroom: Try telling them they CAN go (I never say outright "no"... a kid who does need to go will be a problem either way in that situation.) But I do tell them that they'll need to make up the time after school. The emergency frequently disappears.

    --try lowering your voice to get their attention. Or go to wherever the homework is written and add just a little without saying a word.
     
  17. Shane Steinmetz

    Shane Steinmetz Rookie

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    Oct 9, 2006

    Thank you! I try to think realistically, but I understand that the full-time teacher has their own comfort zone and needs, as well. I just want to maintain a balance.

    I'm just working as a substitute.

    My.. .. degree... .. doesn't qualify me to be a full-time teacher. I have to get something more advanced.

    However, as a substitute, I've already learned a lot. I know exactly how I will treat my substitutes if I ever become a full-time teacher. If I ever become a full-time teacher, I'll be sure to come back to this discussion board and post about my experiences with substitutes. I hope I don't contradict what I write now..
     

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