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The Do’s and Don’ts of Classroom Management

As a substitute, you face the unknown every day. When you’re not sure what subject or grade level you may be teaching tomorrow, it helps to follow some basic rules to keep the class’s lesson plan flowing smoothly. If you’re just starting out as a substitute teacher, it may be useful to learn the do’s and don’ts of classroom management in order to make your job and your life a little bit easier!

DO get there early

Most schools already require their substitutes to arrive 30 minutes early for their assignments. There’s a good reason for that! Take those extra 30 minutes to familiarize yourself with the layout of the school. Find the main office and get any important documents or phone numbers you may need. Locate your classroom and check if the teacher has left you any lesson plans or instructions. With all this time and preparation, you can feel confident going into your first class.

DON’T rush out at the end

When that bell rings, don’t be the first one out the door. Again, most schools require substitutes to stay for 30 minutes after their assignments as well. Use this time to tidy the classroom so that it looks the same or even better than how you found it. The teacher you are filling in for will appreciate your efforts and may even be more likely to request you next time.

If you still have time after a quick clean-up, stop by the teacher’s lounge or front office and introduce yourself to other teachers and administrators. Casual networking efforts can go a long way in getting asked back or even being offered a full-time position, if that is your goal.

DO be confident

Never let them see you sweat. Your students will sense any fear or nervousness that you bring into the classroom. Leave any doubts you may have in the hallway and be sure to command the room as soon as you step through the door. If you need some help in this area, check out some great tips for building your self-confidence.

And remember, you’re never “just the sub.” A 2014 study by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that during a student’s 13 years of primary and secondary education, 6 percent of all time spent in the classroom will be with a substitute teacher. This time, which is equivalent to just a month less than a full school year, can be managed well, and substitute teachers can have a substantial impact on their students.

DON’T lose your temper

Most of the time, getting mad and yelling won’t solve anything. If the class clown gives you trouble or you start to feel like you’re herding cats, take a deep breath and step back from the situation. In most cases, it helps to take individual students aside to resolve conflicts. If you really need to, don’t be afraid to call the office for back up.

In any situation, do not raise your voice. Remember that you are the adult and always act professionally. An outburst, no matter the cause, will get back to the teacher or administration and could significantly decrease your chances of getting asked back.

DO learn students’ names

One of the first things you do with your class is take attendance. Use this opportunity to connect the face to the name. If you get to the class early and there’s not a seating chart, take the time to make one if that will help you. Using student’s names throughout the class will help you build connections with them more quickly. Knowing their names will also allow you to leave a more accurate report for the teacher that you’re filling in for.

DON’T try to be their friend

It is always nice when you have a class that likes you, but that should never be your ultimate goal for the day. You’re there as a professional to perform the duties of the students’ everyday teacher. Be firm from the moment you walk into the classroom and set your rules and expectations for the day.

Always be polite and kind with the students. However, if you come off as too friendly and lax, some students could try to take advantage of this perceived weakness and misbehave. Praise good behavior and keep a sharp eye out for disruptions to prevent them from getting out of hand.

DO have a back-up plan

If you exhaust the teacher’s lesson plan and still have five or ten minutes left of class, don’t panic! Check out these quick time fillers, such as 20 Questions or the Around the World game that can easily be adapted to most subjects. Another teacher suggests showing the class videos that relate to the lesson or creating fun structured conversations that help the class to think about the subject matter in a new way.

DON’T get flustered if your plans go awry

“It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong.” Approach each class assignment with a flexible mindset and be prepared to have a back-up plan for your back-up plan. When your plans don’t work out, it’s best to focus on keeping your students busy and take a few deep breaths. Don’t lose confidence in your teaching abilities just because you hit a bump in the road.

DO leave notes for the teacher

When a teacher returns after an absence, they probably would like to know what went on in their classroom! Make a note of what you covered, what parts of the lesson plan you couldn’t get to, which students were helpful, and what incidents may have occurred. You can even download these free While You Were Out templates that cover all your bases and add a personal touch to the communication between the teacher and you.

DON’T be negative

Keep your report positive even if the class you covered was less than ideal. Teachers already know who the troublemakers are in class and don’t necessarily need you to inform them of that fact. Report any major incidents but mostly focus on the positive experiences and what you were able to accomplish with the class.

Make sure you keep all interactions with other teachers and staff professional and friendly as well. If you spend time in the teacher’s lounge or the office, use the time to learn more about the school and make connections rather than gossip about your misbehaving class.

When you’re a substitute teacher, you can never know exactly how your day is going to unfold. With some structure and guidelines, you can be a little more confident facing any challenges the day brings. Did we miss anything? Contact us at (856) 406-6015 or with your classroom management tips!