There is no such thing as "just" the substitute teacher! Full-time classroom teachers depend on good substitute teachers to maintain the educational environment in their classroom when they cannot be there. While it may only be your class for a day, make that day count. There are several steps a substitute teacher can take to ensure a positive experience.
- Be prompt and be professional. In fact, be early! Allow yourself time to become familiar with the teacher's plans before the students arrive. Make sure you get there in time to find all needed supplies and materials and read over any unfamiliar content.
- Be a team-player. Introduce yourself to the teachers around you. They will be your neighbors for the day. They may be your lifeline in a tough situation!
- Be the teacher, not their buddy. Try to follow the classroom discipline plan that is in place to the best of your ability. Hopefully, rules and consequences will be included in the substitute lesson plans, or at least posted somewhere in the classroom. In maintaining an orderly classroom, be firm, but not harsh. Be consistent, but not condescending. Do not take a student's "debate bait." In other words, do not argue or defend your positions and decisions related to behavior and disipline.
- Have a back-up plan. Unfortunately, at times, you will show up in a classroom with no plans. Be ready for these situations with a plan of your own. Always carry a book for read-aloud. No matter the age, reading aloud to students is a great way to fill time. A collection of age-appropriate short stories is a good choice. After reading a selection, younger students can illustrate the main ideas or conflict in the story. Older students could work in groups to act out various scenes. Students could be asked to rewrite the ending or discuss how the story would be different if the qualities of one of the characters were to drastically change.
- Positive reinforcement helps. OK...some may call it bribes, but if it helps you get through the day effectively, use it! Take an inexpensive bag of wrapped candy or stickers from a dollar store to hand out when students are following directions well.