New Substitute Teacher - Needing Help!

Discussion in 'General Education' started by TNSub, Apr 13, 2014.

  1. TNSub

    TNSub Rookie

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    Apr 13, 2014

    Hello everyone, I am a new substitute teacher in Tennessee!

    However, immediately, I have seemed to realize that the modern classroom works a bit differently than it did even less than a decade ago. I am under 30 years old and the entire school policy and teaching method of the 2000's is still fresh on my mind.

    Back just a number of years ago, teachers had strict policies in the classrooms. These were not designed to "be mean" to students, or cause stress - they were simply rules that allowed the teacher to have silence during roll call, ensure that no unsafe school guests were able to open the class door (teacher opened it only), and that the class had an overall volume level where announcements, phone calls, fire drills, teacher speeches, lesson plans, and rule announcements could always be heard the first time - this also worked to help the teacher always hear students if they had questions.

    Attention and respect in the classroom was achieved by rules such as "if you aren't in the seat when the bell rings, you're tardy", or "you have to use the restroom before the bell rings", or "you must raise your hand before getting out of your seat for any reason." (this also applied to talking during times that the teacher announced "silent class" if the class became too rowdy.) This applied to grades K-12, and I believe I grew up in an excellent structure because of these simple rules.

    However, if I am truly gauging today's classroom correctly, it seems that students are allowed to eat food in class if they voice they have a medical issue, that they are allowed to stay out of their seat if they have a medical issue, that they are allowed to go to the restroom any and multiple times if they have a medical issue, and the list goes on until every student seems to have an individual set of rules that seem to create classroom accidents and behavior that becomes extreme. Every medical condition should be accomodated, but the problem has been that specific lists of students with these needs have not always been present, and even so, there are times where a silent, seated, clean class is mandatory - if we are not allowed to require a class to be seated, silent, and clean all at one time (especially during times we feel there is extreme chaos and the class needs to have a settle down period), how can we prevent fights, unsafe situations, and most importantly, how can we ensure students are focused and learning?

    Since I am new, I try my best to accomodate all students' needs, and use extremely polite requests if it is extremely important for silence and seat-taking times (roll call), however, the behavior and "individual needs" seem to be extreme to the point that I am not able to gain a system in the classroom that helps to prevent unsafe situations. As of right now, I'm actually unsure if these "medical needs" are truly today's classroom policies, or if, by bizarre chance, an extremely large number of students have been pulling my leg! I realize (and am glad!) that this is not 1950 where a teacher can spank a student if they so much as look in the wrong direction - I am a BIG proponent of safety, kindness, a fun environment, and laughter - but as a substitute teacher, the truth is that I can't do my job correctly if every student has the right to eat ice cream cones, to dance and yell around class, to roam the halls, and are not allowed to be spoken to in a direct manner.

    At this point, I am truly wondering if today's classroom has evolved into a "free for all" when it comes to behavior that has a "medical association" or "equality association", or if rules, behavior systems, and classroom codes are still as strict as they were in the early 2000's - a time where if a student voiced that a medical condition allowed them to speak in uncontrollable volumes, partake in extreme amounts of food in class, or make several trips to the restroom, that they were sent to the nurse's office for those specific situations, or were taught in special needs classrooms, and a time where teacher's had a balanced level of authority in the classroom to both allow positive atmospheres and safe environments. With all of this, I am NOT talking about special needs classes.

    Even beyond that, I am wondering if today's classroom has changed to a point where a teacher can no longer directly tell a class that they need to be silent, all take seats, and work quietly. Virtually every classroom I have substituted in seems truly beyond shocked to hear a teacher announce that there are rules that must be followed by everyone, that everyone must have a seat, that everyone must be quiet during specific times. And though there are troublemakers in every classroom, even the best of students truly seem shocked to hear rules such as "we need to all stay in our seats and raise our hands" and rules that, to me, seem truly respectful and modern. The students even seem to believe that that over half of the student class can take random trips to the restroom because of current rights laws or "emergency situations", and these students seem to boast this openly and in an obviously sassy, mocking tone.

    I simply do need some specific help if any teachers on this forum can tell me EXACTLY what the modern classroom is expected to behave as. Either the modern classroom has become a complete free-for-all in the name of medical laws, rights laws, and mannerism laws, or I must be the biggest fool in the school system.

    I have tried my best not to raise my voice to an overall classroom because I again am a new substitute and I'm not %100 sure of each little law that may come across in the classroom (I can't say that our local substitute hiring process and training is "detailed", to put it extremely kindly - County School System rules and documents have been my best resource), but when I have had to raise my voice, such as in times where student behavior is getting extreme to the point of fights and injury potentially breaking out between them, I have had to say, in loud tones "We need to have a seat and become silent, now. If we talk again during our time of silence, I will be writing down names for the teacher or calling an administrator."

    However, truth be told, it often seems like students are completely shocked to hear direct statements - it seems as though it's a normal occurance for each classroom to be a daily party. It seems as though that throwing paper around class, wrestling around, yelling, and "I'm the boss because a teacher can't tell me what to do" is normal behavior among students. Again, either that, or the students have been pulling my leg. I am truly very big on psychology and I do know when a student is trying to pull a leg, but these students seem absolutely shell-shocked to hear actual commands. Truly.

    Again, I do need an absolute gauge as to what level of control I can utilize in a classroom, and if situations arise, if I should simply send students to the nurse, office, alternative classroom, or other area to ensure that either the student has a chance to take care of medical needs, or otherwise, get in trouble by those professionals for fooling the substitute. Or, if I feel it is, without any percentage of a doubt, a "prank", then if I can give the command "not right now" if a student requests to eat ice cream, run around the class, or go to the bathroom multiple times. Or, if I feel a student is being sincere but that a teacher has not left detailed notes, if I should simply say "We need to go to the nurse's office for that activity."

    The last thing I simply want is for a student to skip class, a predator to be able to come into the class, for a fight to happen, for a student to get injured in class, for a "eat food/bathroom" excuse to spread like a wildfire, misplacing students, inaccurate roll calls, and other situations. In order to prevent all of that, as a substitute teacher who has no knowledge or history with any student, I do need control in the class - EQUAL control.

    If anyone can give me any pointers of what I can and cannot say or do, or if I am being way too lenient as it is (if I do sound like I am being completely fooled by my students, please say!), or if the classroom has become what some would call a complete circus, all in the name of rights, laws, and priveledges, please warn me too!

    Thank you so much!

    P.S. You may think I'm talking about K-5 with this thread... actually, I'm mainly talking about 6th-8th with this. I expect looser behavior with K-5: it's easier to maintain a class when you can build a history over the day with a single set of 15 students. But when you have a class of 6th-8th grade students who you only see for an hour, and the overall evaluation is that the behavior seems relative to what I've experienced in Kindergarden classes (or actually much more chaotic), it seems uncontrollable.

    I do realize that, especially late in the year, that teachers become lax on rules in the class, that the motto of "Once everyone gets the system, the rules loosen a bit near the end of the year.", but on a Substitute Day, I believe the students should know or expect the rules to be enforced for safety reasons. In a classroom, it's not just about education, just about equality, or just about safety. It's about all three, and shouldn't it be?

    I wanted to approach this job to bring a fun air to the classroom - I'm all for allowing students to "have a little fun" on a Sub day - but the behavior in the classes has been so downright extreme, choatic, and dangerous that I've had to adopt an extremely strong voice and stern rule system just to ensure that students do not fight or run out of the class! I'd have expected the students to be rather behaved simply because of the mindset that they do not know if a sub will be strict or fun! When I was in school, students would sit as quiet as a mouse until they figured out wether a sub will be nice or mean! Today's behavior seems as though students are told in advance that Subs, or teachers in general, have no power in the classroom!

    I hate to go on and on, but well, as it is, if I have to be the "mean teacher" just to prevent classroom injuries, if students in today's world just do not have any structure in the official teacher's daily classroom, then this isn't a career that I would enjoy. Believe it or not, I took this position because I care about students, because I want to put smiles on the faces of students who have bad home lives or are bullied in school (as I applied to both as a kid), and I wanted to create a happy classroom.

    But it seems that in today's times, that a class seems more like a "gang" and I simply don't know if I have the legal rights to control it. I simply don't know. I've even encountered groups of 10+ students who will say things such as "if you don't let us do this, we'll all say you were doing this, or this, or that." It doesn't help that during a single hour, I don't have enough time to write a full 10-page thesis on every single student who says a disrespectful word, especially when I do not know their names in advance, in the name of documentation. Again, I try to be pretty loose. But the situation seems extreme in each and every classroom, and I feel strongly, without a doubt, that either my administration has given me nowhere near enough instruction about discipline or behavior (or simply allowing the lack of it) or that it may not be a career I can enjoy.

    Again, please, please help!

    One more note, is that by large, it seems that classes in today's year operate with a "Absolutely no punishment, only reward." system where even middle school or high school classes operate using smiley face charts, behavior points, stickers, individual behavior assesments, ect ect, and being a substitute who is not long-term (only seeing each period once), I find it impossible to use these techniques as I am not on a name-by-name basis with the students or their teachers' systems. During the chaos of merely trying to avoid classroom injury and situations, I cannot stop by each student's desk and reward them with a personal rating every 5 minutes. That is simply something a teacher may build over months of work.

    Being a substitute, a class has to be controlled at large, with a focus on safety and structure. If it is absolutely against the law to tell a student or class that they have to remain seated and silent, or against policy to say phrases such as "if we don't take our seats, we're leaving names for the teacher/calling an administrator", then I'm unsure of how I'll be able to do my job!

    Only 10 years ago, classes were operated strictly. All classes. No matter what. There were policies in place that prevented physical touching, bullying or discrimination by the teacher, class skipping, and other serious claims, but beyond that, students were given things such as detention, write-ups, isolation time in the back of the class, extra homework, ect ect, things that students did not want. Even those policies would be generally difficult for a substitute, and many substitutes in my day sat on cell phones all day long. And even then, most students were behaved because the structures were already in place by a teacher.

    But, with myself being a truly professional minded substitute teacher who wants to educate, direct, and guide a class into safety and structure for the day, I cannot seem to gain control of a middle or high school class using "kindergarten talk" and reward systems. Truth be told, it's been an immense struggle just to prevent students from constantly, every single minute, throwing items, running from the class, getting into physical fights with each other, or preventing students from rushing to the desk to ask for bathroom passes 10 at a time. With incidents on this large a scale, I know for sure that this behavior is spilling over from the normal class - a structured class behaves at the beginning of the class, at least. A structured class behaves first then gets loose near the end. A class with no daily structure has students fighting before the class begins!

    My truly big rules are "remain seated", "use inside voices", "raise your hand if you need to get out of your seat", and "no bathroom games", and "absolute silence during roll call". That's really my top 5. If students follow that guide, they do not have the opportunity to punch, kick, yell, skip class, throw things, all that. Seats are great! Indoor voices are great! I do not believe I am being "discriminatory" or "insensitive" if I require that of my class for the day, but if classroom policy prevents me from requiring those rules, please, please let me know!
     
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  3. queenie

    queenie Groupie

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    Apr 13, 2014

    You are the adult in the classroom and have the freedom to enforce rules and procedures. If a teacher doesn't leave you a note about a specific student's needs, don't worry about it. In middle school you have the kids for less than an hour a day. If they are allowed to eat in class or go to the bathroom whenever they want they can wait until the next class where a regular teacher knows this. If you are in elementary school, you can ask the office or another teacher who would know. Once you get a reputation for believing everything students tell you, it's over ;)

    Also, if students are misbehaving, don't blame the teacher who is not there. You are the adult in the room. Kids typically act differently when their teacher is not in the room. Give 'em an inch, they'll take a mile. You have to let them know from the minute they walk in the room who is boss. :thumb:
     
  4. queenie

    queenie Groupie

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    Apr 13, 2014

    PS Don't ever give in to a threat like that. It's beyond ridiculous.
     
  5. oldstudent

    oldstudent Comrade

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    Apr 13, 2014

    I am no expert, but have subbed for almost 17 years, and will offer my two cents.

    Unfortunately, it is not always possible to know what the expectations are for the students in any classroom because teachers vary greatly in what they tolerate and what bothers them.

    When I have been in a classroom at the same time as the teacher, students have sometimes been loud with lots of movement, and the teacher does not seem to care. I even had one teacher tell me she likes a loud classroom. When this is the case, there is no way they will become model citizens just for you.

    I recently had a class where the teachers daughter was also a student. This was one of the noisiest classrooms at this school. I threatened a couple referrals, and asked her daughter if the class was always like this. She said they are usually even louder.

    Conversely, I worked in another classroom where students were working on laptops engaging in quiet relevant conversation.

    The teacher, who was on campus, walked in and yelled "WHY IS EVERYONE TALKING!" This teacher complained about me to the principal and superintendent for poor management skills.
     
  6. oldstudent

    oldstudent Comrade

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    Apr 13, 2014

    I therefore suggest that you check with the office manager for a discipline procedure if it is not in your plan or posted on the classroom wall.

    I always make it point, especially in grades 5-8, to let students know that I will try to give them each a grade for their behavior and focus, and that I will write their name down if they are well focused, and that I will continue to check them off throughout the day, or period.

    This is also a good way to learn names when there is no chart.

    I never tell them I will write their name down for poor behavior, but those who do not do well are noted in my report.

    if I catch them eating or getting up, I will make a comment such as " So I take it your teacher allows you to eat in the class and get up whenever you want."


    They will usually say "no", and the behavior stops. Sometimes, they will say "yes". Then I will respond " OK, I just need to note who is doing it and who says it is OK so I can make a report of it."

    In some cases, it truly is ok.
    In either case, if any behavior is distracting the class in some way, then the student needs to go elsewhere, either to another class or the office.
    it their behavior arouses my suspicion, but does not distract the class, I will not remove the student or write a referral, but I will note the details of it.
     
  7. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    Apr 13, 2014

    I... don't think that is the sort of question you should ever ask to a teacher's child...
     
  8. LisaLisa

    LisaLisa Companion

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    Apr 13, 2014

    I used to get comments like that from my students when I subbed and when I was a new teacher in gen ed classes. My standard response was, "I need to see it in writing." The issue was typically dropped after that.
    I remember subbing one class where a student had cancer and apparently had poor behavior as a side effect of the chemo drugs. He also had frequent absences but was present that day. They told me about this in the office when I signed in.I was intimidated and terrified that I would make a mistake and not get called for a future job. He had obnoxious behavior and got away with it to some extent.
    I work with special needs students now. Some are on medications that impact their moods and behaviors. That does not change the expectations I have for their behavior in class, medications or not.
     
  9. oldstudent

    oldstudent Comrade

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    I generally agree, but I have been acquainted with both of them over the last couple years, so I didn't think anything of it.
    I had just never subbed in this class.
     
  10. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Apr 13, 2014

    Normally you will have very few students with medical issues, maybe 1-2 / class on average.
    These medical issues must be documented, so you would find them in the sub folder given to you by the office, or in the notes and lesson plans given left by the teacher.

    I've seen sub folders from the office having the child's picture, stating the condition he has and that he's allowed to eact a small snack, etc.
    You might have a note from the teacher (where it's not really a diagnosed condition) that the child may use the restroom if he needs.

    If you have 10+ students in a class of 30 telling you they have a medical issue, chances are they're lying. (maybe not all of them but some of them)
     
  11. Milsey

    Milsey Habitué

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    Apr 13, 2014

    It seems you second guess yourself a lot. Students sense you are indecisive - punish some acts but not others - and so they act up.

    So have a bathroom policy. Don't let them go at the beginning of class. Wait till you take attendance. If a student is gone for more than 15 minutes, call the office to report it missing.

    Have a punishment policy. Do attendance using the seating chart to see who the troublemakers are. Insist on everyone in his-her right seat. Have a system of escalating consequences. One dot beside your name is a warning, two is a write up, etc.

    Have a rewards system. Middle School kids do not get enough praise sometimes. Acknowledge those who participate, stay on task and are respectful with a prize. I used to buy a big pack of lollipops.

    Being consistent will make your life a lot easier. Students will respect you and see you as the authority figure in the room.
     
  12. missrebecca

    missrebecca Comrade

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    Apr 13, 2014

    I subbed for about a year, K-8th grade, and it can be tough to adjust to each different classroom. It sounds like you really care about doing a great job. You deserve a pat on the back! :)

    I agree with telling the kids you need to "see it in writing." Just say that their teacher didn't tell YOU they could do X, Y, and Z, and even if they normally can do it, today is an exception.

    As a sub, everything ultimately comes down to YOUR judgment. Think about whether letting the kids do something will cause more harm than good. Remember that in those upper grades, students are very well-equipped to test your authority. And as the saying goes, "give them an inch, and they'll take a mile."

    It is OK to not be completely polite as a substitute teacher. You are the adult, and if students are not behaving, call them out on the inappropriate behavior and follow through with consequences (e.g. time out, being sent to another classroom, loss of fun privileges, being sent to the office, etc). It is OK to raise your voice if you have to. You should not be constantly yelling at students, of course, but sometimes it is necessary to quiet a room or establish authority when students are being extremely inappropriate.

    Also, keep in mind that even though students may be behaving badly for you, they might be angels around their teacher. Sometimes the classroom routines don't transfer over when the teacher is gone, so even the loudest classrooms may truly be used to a rigid routine. I think it's best to treat every class with high expectations.
     
  13. TNSub

    TNSub Rookie

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    Apr 13, 2014

    Just to give an example of my style, in one period of 7th grade Math, a random student passed a wind that must have been the strongest scent any human being has ever made. It was seriously downright lethal. It spread through the class like a toxic fume.

    Right away, the students started hollering and laughing, and the scent was so strong that I actually had to turn my head and face my desk as though I was busy doing something. It became so strong that I actually had to put a folder in front of my mouth to keep the students from seeing that I was laughing my butt off.

    Finally the students saw that I was about in tears because I was silently so red in the face and giggling to myself, though I did not start laughing until the students had already said several truly funny things. I was keeping an eye out and making sure no one looked embarrassed or hurt - everyone was having a good time. And when they saw that I couldn't help but laugh along with them, it caused them to laugh even more.

    And I loved the moment. That's what I enjoy. I love it when I can be included in the class joke, and I love for the students to know that I'm not some mean, robotic, emotionless substitute. I love an atmosphere where respect and structure is given, but that beyond that, we can all find a good laugh. I believe the humanity of a teacher really helps pull in respect.

    It just seems that 99% of the time, that students want nothing to do with a light-hearted, truly fun atmosphere. It seems that teens no longer want to be teens; for some reason, it seems that students are either so spoiled (I hate to say that word) or troubled that they constantly want to literally fight with or completely ignore a teacher instead.

    Truly, my only big rules really are for a class to remain seated at all times - it's big for me because of sheer safety and organization, and to use indoor voices. Other than that, cell phones, dress code, chatting, joking, all that, it comes second, as long as everyone is seated. I'd surely think that students would feel appreciative that I'm pretty loose, at least until roll call is done. But it seems as though my rules are seen as military-style compared to what the classrooms now are adjusted to... and I'm utterly confused by it. I went into this believing I was probably the nicest sub any of them would get!

    What's worse is that when the first-of-the-period bell rings, I'll walk completely around the class asking the class to sit down and quiet down, which never works, and when I suddenly have to get rather frank, such as flickering the classroom lights and saying "We need to have a seat and calm down, now, or we're calling Mrs. So-And-So.", some of the good students who couldn't even HEAR me giving polite requests over the insane noise get upset, and believe I'm mean.

    And yes, there are fantastic students in every class. Actually, 1/4th of the students in every class I've taught are so wound up about being perfectionist that it's almost saddening. I sure wouldn't mind if they loosened up a little, I'd rather them giggle than seeing them feel desperate, alone, and defeated in comparison to the wild students. But 3/4ths of the class students now seem to act like a sheer street gang (the area is quite poverty ridden), and it's truly these types of students that I don't know how to relate to and control.

    I went into this believing I could relate to them, even the worst of them, and earn respect. I went into this believing that even the rowdiest, most misbehaving student would love to spend a day with a Sub who laughs at jokes and isn't going to explode if a student yells out a curse word or passes notes. When I was in school, the class clowns loved it when they could make a teacher laugh - they did not do what they did to earn anger or negativity. My student body was respectful like that. The worst of the worst were still downright fun to be around.

    As long as the behavior is inclusive and generally positive, I can twist almost anything into respect and a great atmosphere. But it's truly the realization that the student body has become so extremely disrespectful to adults in general, just to do it, that I'm almost sure this isn't the position for me. I mean, I went into this thinking I could relate to even the most troubled student, and wanting to. I can't stand it when I can't address the class with positivity and make everyone smile. Don't the students want that anymore???

    I just don't want my students to be mean and disrespectful, and for me, disrespectful is a pretty big stretch. As long as I'm included in the misbehavior, I can steer anything the right way, and plain out giggle my butt off in the process. But I just dislike the absolute wall of attitude, chaos, and negativity that the students seem to put up toward a substitute teacher, before the sub even speaks one word, and on top of that, there seems to be no rule structure in place in these classes, both on the directorial end (information given to the subs) and the behavior end. It's become more of a challenge than I could have ever dreamed possible.

    Tomorrow, however, I've taken the day off, and I'm going to ask an administrator at a local school if I can sit and observe one of the teachers' classes for the day. It's really become the last straw if I hope to gain any real tools. I really need to know for sure just what tones I can use, which commands, and what techniques I can use. And I plain need a little pinpoint help here and there.

    It's just sad because this really was a complete dream job for me - it was something I've wanted for years on end. I really wanted it to be fun, I really wanted the students to enjoy the days I subbed. I mean, in my Elementary Volunteer work, I had countless students who'd run up to me and say things such as "I wish you were my parent, you're so nice." or "I've counted down every day until you help in our class again!", the students were just absolutely shocked at how nice I was (and well, they were great students!), and I really wanted to enjoy the same spin on positivity in MS and HS, but it plain out couldn't be more opposite.

    Wish me luck! I don't want to sound like a irresponsible sub who doesn't know when to give in the towel, but I'm giving it one more chance and if it isn't a good day, I think that'll be all she wrote. I sincerely wish that my local area had paid positions for aids and emotional guides in the classroom - it'd be fine with me to earn $7.25 an hour if I could simply help in a classroom all day long. These classrooms need it. Sadly, from what I know, the position doesn't exist.

    Here's to truly hoping I simply had a couple of extremely bad days... and with observing a MS or HS teacher for the day (I've mainly worked with ES teachers in my volunteer training), that I can really get a gauge on the confidence I need in the classroom. Everyone is right, the last thing I need to do in class is doubt myself!
     
  14. TurquoiseDaisy

    TurquoiseDaisy New Member

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    May 14, 2014

    Thank you! I am a new sub and have only chosen to accept jobs in the younger grades. I have been fearful about the behavior of the students in grades 4 and up. This is very helpful. Please post more ideas!
     
  15. TurquoiseDaisy

    TurquoiseDaisy New Member

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    May 14, 2014

    Thank you! I am a new sub and have only chosen to accept jobs in the younger grades. I have been fearful about the behavior of the students in grades 4 and up. This is very helpful. Please post more ideas!
     
  16. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

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    May 16, 2014

    I start every class going over my expectations and bathroom procedures. Since I'm elementary this is only done in the morning. My big 4 are 1) Follow directions quickly. 2) Raise your hand for permission to speak (it's a respect issue). 3) Restroom policy I need them to follow (safety issue if there is a fire drill or something). 4) Make smart choices. I always tell the kids a note will be left for the teacher complete with what happened during the day including behavior. Since I've started going over my rules at the start of each day, things have gone much more smoothly. Kids (for the most part) have stopped telling me what they are allowed to do, and if anyone says "That's not what Ms. XYZ let's us do" I tell them I'm not her and this is what I expect. Be ready to back up your words in a firm but kind manner. Being kind doesn't equate to being a doormat.
     

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