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Have a Successful and Peaceful Day Substituting Teaching

substitute teacher at peaceSubstitute teaching is a rewarding and tough job. You are thrown into a new environment with total strangers and expected to lead them through a successful day. Below are some simple guidelines that can help you maintain a peaceful, and ultimately fun environment.

Start the day calm

Students are tumbling out of parents' cars, off of buses, and into your classroom. They have already encountered mini-dramas at home and with peers before you lay eyes on them. Reset the mood by greeting them with a calm and quiet voice, giving them an immediate direction or task. It is helpful to have a brain teaser that they can work on individually and quietly while everyone makes their way to their seats. Then make your introductions and begin the day. Keep the mood cheerful, but continue the calm peacefulness you established in the beginning. 

Give them a road map

Students behave best when they know what is expected of them. Present them with the tasks of the day and what it should 'look like' and 'sound like'. Be brief but specific. These instructions are your fall back when you have to redirect behavior. This is the time to set out any special rewards, treats, or privileges that can be earned by good behavior; or to remind them of something they can look forward to in the day. 

Move, don't sit

A soft voice spoken within arm's length of a student is much more effective than a direction shouted from across the room. By walking to students you are connecting with them. Often times your mere presence near the students will help dissipate problems before they arise. Continue walking through the classroom as they work. 

When problems arise

First, do not take it personally. Students test boundaries with all teachers. Disruptions and misbehavior will occur in every classroom. Remind yourself of that, take a deep breath, and then calmly, but firmly, address the problem.  

Address the problem

To begin, approach the student that is the source of the problem. Identify the undesirable behavior, tell the student why that behavior is inappropriate or disruptive, and then give them a direct request for the appropriate behavior. Telling them exactly what you want helps them get back on task. Make sure to be very specific. For example: "Suzy, your talking is disturbing your classmates who are trying to concentrate, please continue your work silently."

Re-address the problem

If the misbehavior continues, repeat the request to help them redirect. Add a reminder of a privilege they will lose if the misbehavior continues. This works best when the main teacher has a system of rewards in place. If this is not the case, tell them that you will be writing a report for their teacher, or in extreme cases that you will have to send them to the principal. It is important to always follow through with consequences. For that reason, be careful about removing privileges or rewards. Once they are removed your bargaining power is gone. Threats can escalate a minor situation, ruining your day and the student's day. Do not pull out the big guns unless it is a big problem. Your goal as the substitute teacher is to guide the students in your care through a successful day, both academically and emotionally.

Dealing with misbehavior

Avoid shaming students in front of the class. This will lead to a larger disruption, as well as that student having a bad day. Often times the student that is the most disruptive is the one that feels the worst about himself. With a full classroom you may not have the time to check-in with that student, but you can give them eye contact, speak with them in a gentle, firm voice, and assist them to a more productive day. Misbehavior has many sources. Try to catch the simple ones: the student does not understand the instructions, or can not do the work and is embarrassed to admit it. As you walk around the class while they work, you will be able to notice some of these problems before they become disruptions. 

When you make a mistake

Admit your mistakes. Admitting a mistake is a sign of strength not weakness. Often times if you've made a blunder, someone else has noticed. Your reputation with the students, which directly links to the respect they will show for you, will strengthen if you are able to acknowledge an error, right it, and move back on track. 

Stay positive

Finally, encourageencourageencourage! A child that feels good about themselves is less likely to misbehave. Make sincere complements throughout the day, to specific children and the class in general. There should always be something good you can acknowledge. When confronted with acting out, stay positive, calm, and encourage the student back to good behavior. Remind them of something they did good earlier in the day. When your teaching day ends with a class of smiling students, you go home feeling good about yourself. 

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photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

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