When most substitute teachers think of classroom management, planning how to deal with disruptive students is frequently the first thing that comes to mind. Sometimes, focusing on Bathroom Bobby, Chatty Cathy, and Outburst Oscar, can demand so much of our preparation, that we neglect to focus on the first asset as a sub: preparedness.
On the days that have been absolute chaos, ask yourself: "how well did I know the system of the teacher that I'm subbing for?" Most often, we find out that we barely got to our assignment on time, or didn't bother to scan the room thoroughly before students arrived.
The first step in ensuring a smooth day of teaching requires us to be early! This goes beyond flipping through the lesson plan on the desk, and knowing where the pencil sharpener is located. The following is a quick list of essential things to know before you start your assignment:
-Where the students line up: Most subs just assume that the lesson plans will include this information. Wrong! During an emergency, many teachers forget to include this info. If this is the case, ask a neighboring teacher or the office staff. Without it, you'll look confused, and like sharks to blood, your students will smell your confusion.
-The seating chart: Make sure that kids aren't disrupting the routine of the day by swapping seats. Know where your students are assigned to sit, and they'll know they can't pull a fast on one you.
-Find the extra pencils: This is crucial if the absent teacher doesn't leave you pre-sharpened pencils or a routine to follow. Having a dozen pencils ready to go (even if you have to bring some from home) ensures less disruption at the sharpener, and allows more time to help students.
-Restroom locations: If you know how close the restrooms are, you'll know if a student is potentially abusing the privilege. This also lets you know if any restrooms are out of order, so that a backup location can be assigned if needed.
Of course, if your assignment is truly an emergency, you'll have zero plans. In this situation, you'll definitely need some extra time to go through the room for supplies and possibly even the teacher's guides for your lessons. It would also help to have a small class meeting at the beginning of the day to review the procedures for how the day operates.
Remember, being punctual is only one aspect of subbing, but preparedness will remind your students that their routine will be intact and that you are a confident and capable (temporary) replacement for their teacher.