It's 10am. There are at least three different conversations openly taking place, one kid is sitting on top of his desk, another keeps asking to go to the bathroom, each time taking two others who didn't ask, and you're pretty sure that a spitball just hit the wall behind you. All you can picture in your mind is the look on the principal's face when he opens the door to check on how things are going.
Rule number one: whatever you do, don't lose your temper, yell (it won't faze them), or cry. Take a deep breath. All you need is a little classroom management.
For all of the joys and perks to being a substitute teacher, there are some challenges. One of those is the fact that you're on your own, without even half of the support that you would like and, to be honest, deserve. Let's face it, you're solely responsible for that classroom of students.
Perhaps the largest key to classroom management is preparation.
Dead time is trouble time. Keep the students busy. Go to the dollar store, look online, visit your local bookstore for grade appropriate workbooks and puzzle books. Copy the sheets you like and organize them into folders by grade. When the program that the regular teacher left runs out, if they left any at all, then pull out what you've got.
Arrive to school early to familiarize yourself with the campus. Kids can sense insecurity and fear. They can also sense when you're confident and will more easily follow your lead.
Commendation can go a long way. A pat on the back can provide the feedback to keep kids moving in the right direction. And a well-behaved kid is a kid on your side. Take all the help you can get.
For the inevitable challenging ringleader in class, separate them from the others, cutting off their effect on, and feedback from, the rest of the class. Look them in the eye, let them know you don't want to embarrass them in front of the class, but that you're disappointed with their behavior.
Kids will typically act out when they don't know what to expect. So take some time to explain your own classroom rules as well as the consequences for not following them. Also, write out for all to see your schedule for the day. Remember, keep the time filled with activity, perhaps leaving the last 15 minutes of the day for free time as a reward.
With a little preparation, creativity, and a deep breath, you can have the confidence it takes to manage your classroom as a substitute teacher.