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How to Use Humor to Be a Great Substitute Teacher

If you're a new sub, you may feel a little nervous about starting. However, there's one substitute teacher tool that simply can't be beat when it comes to engaging a class and reaching them as people: humor. Humor breaks through the awkward barrier between sub and student and help you become a great substitute teacher.

Do Your Research

The day before your class, take at least an hour to research pop culture topics relevant to your students. Flip on the television and watch a few minutes of Nickelodeon or check out online forums dedicated to pop culture. This should give you a basic idea on what your students will find funny.

However, you need to make sure you pitch your humor to an appropriate age level. For example, Spongebob Squarepants references just won't fly with most 12th graders.

Preparing Jokes Before Class

Wake up a few hours earlier than normal on class day and perform a few simple relaxation techniques. This will help clear your mind and get you relaxed for class. More importantly, it will give you a few moments to brainstorm a few joke ideas. Write them down on index cards and take them with you to class. Subtly refer to the index cards when necessary.

Know When to Use It

Although humor engages your students and keeps them interested in what you have to say, too much is distracting. Surely, you had a substitute teacher that constantly cracked jokes and never took anything seriously. While she was undoubtedly a lot of fun, you probably learned little to nothing from her.

Use humor during the following situations:

  • During your personal introduction
  • Before and after lessons
  • Just before lunch or recess (if elementary)
  • During student arguments (to break the tension)
  • At the end of the day
  • When you catch a student not paying attention

Humor during that last moment is particularly useful: saying something funny can catch a dozing student off-guard and pull them back into your lecture. However, never mock the student or make fun of their lack of attention.

Clearly, humor is one of the most powerful connection tools for a substitute teacher. Take these simple steps into consideration next time you sub. Do you have any great examples of humor helping you as a sub? If you do, please share them with us. We'd love to hear from you!


students-in-class-with-teacher-reading by Ilmicrofono Oggiono

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