Just had my first classroom subbing assignment!

Discussion in 'Substitute Teachers' started by Tek, Mar 5, 2012.

  1. Tek

    Tek Comrade

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    Mar 5, 2012

    It was half-day 5th grade. My very FIRST classroom subbing assignment ever. Needless to say, I'll never forget it. Here are some reflections. I definitely learned a bit from today. You could tell how "green" I was... but I'm hoping I'll be a fast learner! I have to be...

    I came in 30 minutes early. I was at the teacher's desk and imagine my horror when there was... ABSOLUTELY NO LESSON PLAN!

    I looked for anything related to today... nothing. I had no idea where the teacher left off on language arts, math, spelling, anything. I was about to call the office, but thought I better be resourceful and just piece something together. After all, what was the office going to do? Come down and make up a lesson plan for me?

    So I saw 30 Halloween narratives the students had written on the desk from last October, ungraded. Randomly there. Great! One of my most memorable life experiences was Halloween 1994. It's a speech I've crafted and shared with over 500 people in the last 10 years and I've performed it (it's about 10-15 minutes long, depending on how much I decide to ham it up). I decided I could talk to them about their Halloween narratives, maybe observe the way each student began the piece of writing (and see as a class whether it was a good 'hook' or not) and then I could share my Halloween adventure.

    Of course, the reason behind this being that it's a 5th grade standard. Oral storytelling. I would go from modeling it to having students create their own timeline of an interesting event that happened in their life, explaining that the plot of a story is made up of events that happen in a sequence (beginning, middle and end), conflict, resolution and of course characters.

    Students would then practice in pairs then whole class using expression, body language, etc.

    I figured that would be good for them and cover a portion of the learning day.

    But then, 20 minutes before class began, the regular teacher walked in. He forgot about his half-day meeting and that he would have a sub. So he wrote me a quick half-day plan.

    Rookie Mistake #1: My class was lined up prior to first bell. They were 3rd in line. When the teacher in the 1st line called her students to walk to the classroom, I figured that was my cue to bring my kids in as well. It was a traffic jam, as the two classes were criss-crossing. One of my students said "What are you doing, you're causing us to bump into the other class. We were supposed to wait!" Oh, that was embarrassing. I'm new to this "movement game." I need to get this aspect down if I'm going to thrive as a teacher.

    I was off to a shaky start, but the morning was OK. The kids weren't too bad in terms of behavior. I gave a boy "the look" a couple times and I think it worked out OK. Of course, there were other boys who just didn't care. When that happened, I felt defenseless. I had to call a boy 3 times in his face before he would look at me.

    Rookie Mistake #2: I didn't bring extra material in to keep kids busy if the teacher's lesson plans are sparse. Before recess there were 10 minutes and I just didn't know what to do. I could have shared my Halloween story but without time for them to do one of their own it made no sense to share it. So I just gave them free time (for better or for worse). Most played on the computer. Note to self: come better prepared next time with a "bag of tricks" on how to fill up the rest of class time should work get finished early

    BTW, does anyone know of any good activities to eat up 10 minutes as a whole class? I did gather them in for the last 5 minutes and randomly selected students to spell out the week's new vocab words.

    Craziest note of the day, one of the students was innocently twirling his pencil. It flew out of his hands on accident and hit the girl next to him in her eye. She was in pain and I thought it was really bad. I was really scared. He obviously didn't mean it. It was just a freak accident. My first instinct was to take her to the office but I quickly remembered there's no excuse EVER to leave the students unattended by themselves, especially when you're the sub. So I had one of the "star students" walk her to the office.

    Thankfully, she came back like nothing ever happened. She appeared to be OK. Whew.

    We were in the library when the teacher came back from training. All in all, I was glad he showed up earlier than expected. I felt like I wanted a fresh start since I made some pretty glaring mistakes and it was just one of those days where you go, "Yeah, recycle bin."

    I did learn a lot, though. My focus needs to be on better preparation (i.e. bag of tricks) and learning how to navigate movement in and outside a classroom effectively. I guess that's just something you don't learn teaching after school classrooms (you rarely have to move them, they show up, you teach them, and then they leave to go home).

    Hopefully my next time in a classroom will be better!
     
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  3. Tek

    Tek Comrade

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    Mar 5, 2012

    PS- Not knowing the 30 students' names was personally frustrating. They didn't have name tags either. I'd feel so much more confident/in control if I knew which kids I were dealing with. Instead, I had to just constantly make eye contact and nod at those who raised their hands. I'm sure I'm not alone in this area of frustration. There's just no way to remember 30 names the first day. If you don't know their names, it's almost impossible to feel completely in control of the classroom. It's frustrating pulling out the "fair name sticks," calling out names and scanning the classroom for where that student is.

    I also don't know how effective or recommended this is, but I have a habit of lightly touching students on the shoulder to help redirect them. There was one boy today who pulled back. It made me realize not all students appreciate this form of communication. Maybe it's something I need to scale back on?

    Finally, we talked about the Gold Rush. Since I was not immersed in Gold Rush recently, or had time to study the story, I found it rather difficult to connect to the students. I felt like I was doing it just to get it crossed off the "to-do" list. But I guess that's part of the territory that goes with subbing? Is there any way to help reduce or eliminate this feeling, or does it never go away when one is subbing?
     
  4. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    Mar 5, 2012

    Love the enthusiasm... something I sorta wished I did (in my first year subbing) was to keep a journal... since you seem to love to reflect, I think it might be right up your alley!

    It (journaling) does also lend itself to sub teaching, because as a sub, you do have time to reflect on your day.
     
  5. jen12

    jen12 Devotee

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    Mar 5, 2012

    Walking in from the line outside is different at every school. Some schools do it orderly, some do it in a pack. Since 5th can get so quickly out of control, I make them wait until every student is completely quiet before we walk in. I've actually made classes return if they talk on the way into class. It sets a tone right off.

    If you have ten minutes, you can always do a trivia quiz. Have them name cities in their state or states in the US or times tables or see how many presidents they can name as a class...that sort of thing. As long as they're not all shouting out answers, they tend to really enjoy that.

    As far as touching them goes, I wouldn't do it with older kids. I think it's fine with the really young ones who will come up and hug you, but all you need is for an older kid to make a scene and say you "hit him" and it will be a lot of trouble for you. While subbing, I'd stay away from physical contact.

    Sounds like you handled the bumps well. Congrats on getting through your first day!
     
  6. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    Mar 5, 2012

    Some 10 mintue ideas:

    Mad libs- I purchased a whole bunch of mad lib books.

    Write a sentence on the board and have a kid come up at a time to write the part of speech to a word.

    Password

    Around the world
     
  7. Tek

    Tek Comrade

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    Mar 6, 2012


    Thanks for the thoughts and encouragements, everyone. I guess it didn't go too badly, considering it was my first time ever. I'm probably just being hard on myself. I will certainly improve over time as I gain experience and more tools. Right now, I feel so green (i.e. rookie), haha.

    It's amazing how different "Triple A" baseball is from the "Major Leagues." I teach self-contained after school enrichment classes of no more than 12 students per class. I feel supremely comfortable in this setting (been doing it nearly 4 years now). Yesterday, I graduated to the Majors for one half-day, and felt overwhelmed by the transition. I think my biggest adjustment will be going from the size of 4-12 students to 25-35. That's a huge adjustment. I woke up feeling a bit down, so thank you for your encouragements. I think in hindsight we all realize we could have made some better decisions on our very first day. Well, onto the next day!
     
  8. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Mar 6, 2012

    Most subs use a seating chart in my school to call on students and know their names. If the teacher doesn't leave a seating chart, it doesn't take long to create a chart. Just quickly go table to table or down the rows and get names.

    Ten minute activities:

    Practice math facts
    Practice spelling words
    Practice vocabulary words
    Exercises in place
    Read a short story
    Pass a story (start a story and have the kids add to it)
    Correct sentences
     
  9. Zabeth

    Zabeth Rookie

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    Mar 6, 2012

    I have 3 x 5 cards in my bag of tricks and will often, with older kids, have them spend 5 minutes at the start of class writing their name on the front of the card and "Five Things You Should Know About Me" on the back. This sometimes helps in general with rapport (because I can learn a bit about them reading the cards during break), plus then I have a nametag that they keep on their desks.

    In my province (Ontario) touching any student at all is completely discouraged. I would refrain from touching kids.
     
  10. Tek

    Tek Comrade

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    Mar 7, 2012

    Love this idea!

    And yes, I think I'll stop placing my hand on students' shoulders to gently redirect them.

    BTW, I just received this piece of advice by someone

    ---

    I was told once by a teacher I was subbing for that the easiest way to get blackballed as a sub is to tell the office there aren't any plans. It just gets the teacher in trouble and they definitely won't call you back.

    YES - it is absolutely their job to provide the plans, but I've had instances where they've emailed it to a grade level coworker who has hand delivered it to me after I already searched for it in the room. They can also email it to the office manager, and just may not have it finished the minute you check in. In that case, you'll probably get a call from the office manager letting you know to come pick it up.

    The moral is: don't panic. If worst comes to worst, ask another teacher at that grade level what's going on. They'll likely have a lot more knowledge than the office anyway.


    ---

    Yeah, that was my sense, and that's why I decided not to call the office when I walked in the classroom and saw no lesson plans. I didn't want to make the regular teacher I was subbing for look bad, and I figured the office wouldn't be able to run down and write something up for me. It was my first classroom assignment ever. Worst came to worst, it was a half-day and I figure I could be resourceful enough to eat up 3 hours. I must say, the Halloween narrative-oral speech idea really gave me some legs to stand on. If I didn't have that, I would have seriously not known what to do at all...

    Thankfully, I held off on calling the office, and 10 minutes later, the regular teacher walked in... simply forgot he called in a sub and he quickly jotted down my assignment for the half day.

    I'm sure in hindsight he appreciated me not calling the office. In fact, I remember telling him instead of PE could I do the Halloween oral speech activity, and he seemed stunned/pleased at my eagerness and resourcefulness. He said "Sure!"

    But he came back before PE was scheduled and so I never got to it.

    All in all, it definitely could have been a worse day! I'm just glad I didn't call the office, that the regular teacher came in class in the nick of time, and that the girl who got poked in the eye with the pencil wasn't badly injured. I told the regular teacher this when he came back. Hopefully he reminded her to tell her parents to take her to the doctor just for precautionary measures.
     
  11. Oregon Sub Girl

    Oregon Sub Girl Rookie

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    Mar 7, 2012

    Great enthusiasm and great reflecting! I always make a seating chart for classes I don't know (usually on a sticky note so it's easy to carry). It's really quick and makes a huge difference. I have found that with really young grades (mostly kindergarten) they aren't sitting at their seats very often, so I jot down the color of their shirt or their hair color or something. This helps a ton in learning their names. Love the notecard idea with older grades, I'm going to start trying that.

    I love the Halloween oral story, that's a great lesson plan to have in mind if you ever need it. Most classes have a very routine schedule (particularly in the morning) so if you can somehow find that out, you're usually set. The neighboring teachers can give you at least the framework to go on and then you can just fill in.

    10-minute filler ideas:
    Silent Reading (they should all have a book)
    Working on unfinished work (if they have any, feel this out first)
    Spelling word practice
    Around the world is always fun
    Depending on the class and how good they've been, I sometimes reward them with a game of Heads Up Seven Up or another structured game.

    Hope this helps, way to go on your first day. It only gets easier and easier.
     
  12. oldstudent

    oldstudent Comrade

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    Mar 19, 2012

    I have learned that in almost 15 years of subbing, that it is a rare event when sub plans do not show up.

    It happened once this year, but this was the first time in a couple years.

    One of my favorite extensive fillers( for elementary) is for students to partner up and prepare an oral and written book report to be selected from the books in the class. Most classrooms have over a hundred to choose from.

    I have the students read a book together, and report on the characters, the setting, the plot, and whether or not they would reccommend the book to the rest of the class, and why or why not.

    They take turns coming up to give an oral report.

    I have also had them write an essay on someone in the class or school that is a good friend, and what qualities they have that make them a good friend.
     
  13. Tek

    Tek Comrade

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    Apr 2, 2012

    Had my 2nd elementary classroom sub assignment this past Friday! Once again, it was half-day. Maybe my next job will be a full day. I did half day morning 5th grade for my 1st job. My 2nd job was half day afternoon 3rd grade.

    I came into the office at 11 AM as requested. I received the classroom key and walked in. Mrs. J had her kids sitting up front in the carpet area as a student was sharing a posterboard. She came to share with me her lesson plans from 11 AM-2 PM. As she was sharing the 3rd graders were getting louder and louder. I could see she was trying to focus on telling me what to do, but after a student yelled "SHUT UP!" she turned around. "EXCUSE ME! Do we use that kind of language? *pause* Everyone, get back up and go back to your seats. Right now. Read quietly."

    I was thinking to myself "Good grief... help me Lord" lol

    From 11 AM to lunch time (12:10) she wanted me to help them do a measurement cut-and-paste activity dealing with inches/CM to feet to yards/meters to miles/KM. I helped them with that. They were talking a lot but I allowed them to talk and encouraged them to help each other especially those who ask for help. A couple times it did get TOO loud where I clapped to get their attention before telling them to bring down the volume.

    One boy ("B") I had to constantly re-direct. He just couldn't do work. He would sit and space out. He would bother the girl sitting next to him. He would cut SO slow that he barely cuts one little square in around 5-8 minutes. I came over, asked him if he needed help, suggested he focus on cutting out these parts first, and even did the "I expect X to be done when I come back and check in 5 minutes."

    When I came back, he barely finished 1/5 of what I was asking. It was frustrating. Does anyone have any effective tips on how to get "stragglers" to finish their tasks on better time? I tried encouragement and check up tricks, but he didn't seem to care.

    Closer to noon, some students finished and began reading quietly, while a few did some AR tests on the computer. Some started getting out of their seats to mingle with friends across the room. I did my best to nip that in the butt ASAP. 5 minutes before lunch ended I did a read aloud of Flat Stanley. The kids were very well behaved for this 5 minute segment. Even B -- the boy who refused to work diligently on his measurement activity. They seemed to be great listeners at that point in time.

    As I was reading Flat Stanley, the book actually used the word measurement! What were the odds. We had a nice small teachable moment there.

    Then I had the kids line up for lunch.

    During lunch the 3rd grade subs (it was a professional development afternoon for the 3rd grade teachers last Friday) congregated to discuss our rotation PE afternoon activities. It was nice talking to other subs... good mixture of young (like me) and one veteran sub who used to teach full time a long time ago.

    Lunch bell rings and I pick up my kids. My job was to get them to clean up their area and line up quietly. This is where things got chaotic and I felt a little frustrated I wasn't able to get them to do what I wanted in a more efficient manner.

    As they waited in line at the playground, I told them they were going to go in, sit down, clean up, pack up and be ready to be called to PE.

    I don't know if I should have said that in the classroom instead. Is it better to give instructions at the playground lunch line, or should you wait until you have them all sitting down in the classoom?

    Nonetheless, they came in, loudly, I might add, and were slow/casual to clean up. So I did the clap signal again to quiet them down, and reminded them of what to do. I stood by the door waiting to see tables ready to be called to line up.

    This is where it broke down.

    No one seemed to be in a rush to pack up. They were talking for the most part. One table I called to line up. No other table though seemed motivated to be 2nd. At one point, B and another boy were standing and horseplaying. I had to break that up fast. I kept saying things like "Quiet down" and "Pick up the trash around your area" and "I'm waiting" and "Who else is ready to go to PE?"

    But what should have taken 1-2 minutes seemed to go on for 8-10 minutes. I was a bit horrified to be honest. I stood at the door with one table of kids waiting, and felt a little helpless at the chaos. Well, it wasn't TOO crazy, but it certainly wasn't efficient.

    Finally, I grabbed a yellow padsheet and a pen, and I firmly said "Alright, I'm going to write down the names of those students who are not following instructions."

    Amazingly, everyone grew quiet. Even B, the student who gave me the most trouble! I hated to resort to do that (i.e, threatening punishment), but at that point I just wanted them to clean up, pipe down and be ready to go to PE.

    I still don't like what I did, but it worked. Better than nothing, right?

    By the way, when I came back to the classroom to leave notes for Mrs. J, I noticed there were still some pieces of paper on the ground. I picked it up. I find I have to get better at making sure the floor is clean 100% before letting the kids go. I think I am far too easily satisfied if they pick up MOST. But I should not settle for anything less than 100%. This is something I must be mindful of going forward. I basically need to run a tighter ship.

    At the end of the day, I spoke for 10 minutes with the veteran sub, sharing with her my experience. She gave me some great tips. She said 3rd graders are very loyal to their classroom and will test anyone new who comes into their classroom. They were clearly testing me, that's for sure! She also said they usually cooperate for the silliest things like stickers, table points, or raffle prizes. And she said above all else, less talk more action.

    Telling them to quiet down isn't nearly as effectively as grabbing a pad and pencil as I did -- they need to see a tangible action in most cases. As soon as I had the pad and pencil, the kids all became quiet. Before that, I guess they figured I couldn't memorize who was misbehaving and who wasn't. As soon as I picked up the pen though, they were worried.

    Less talk, more action.

    Don't get me wrong, I felt I had a good day. I liked being with them for the most part. They taught me a lot about substituting! At the end of the day one of the boys said to me "I hope you sub for us again." I genuinely hope I do, too.

    Any advice for 3rd grade classroom management from a sub's POV that isn't so 'punishment threatening' oriented? I like to believe kids are inherently good and want to do good, but I'm now understanding discipline is also a needed tool to teach them.

    I keep thinking "Well I'm just the sub... when I'm a "real teacher" my class will behave differently..." but I understand that kind of thinking can be a little faulty as I want to develop good habits, not bad ones. Any feedback or help would be appreciated!

    On a final note, I can't wait to sub for 4th grade. I've done 5th and 3rd so far. I've seen how 5 can have some attitude issues and 3 some are still quite dependent not unlike a 2nd grader. I wonder if 4 is a nice balance of the good from 3rd grade and the good from 5th grade. I'm sure in most cases it's a mixture as always though...
     
  14. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Apr 2, 2012

    I think it's probably best just to instruct them to go in quietly and sit down. Then once they're in, you can tell them to clean up, and pack up and then to be ready.
     

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