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Substitute, Not Submissive: Maintaining Discipline in the Classroom

For substitute teachers, maintaining classroom discipline can be quite challenging. You haven't had days and weeks to build a rapport with the students, and you don't have the same kind of institutional respect that the students give to permanent teachers. The students are constantly trying to play tricks on you, from switching names and seats to trying to get out of having to do assignments. But maintain discipline you must, so here are some tips and tricks:

Keep the troublemakers busy. When you first start teaching, make a mental note of which students seem to be especially disruptive or rambunctious. Rely on them for any busywork or extra duties such as handing out papers, collecting homework, writing on the chalkboard, etc. This minimizes their ability to make your job more difficult, which will reduce your stress levels by a massive amount.

Be confident. If you look, sound, and act professionally, you will give off an air of self-control and students will realize that attempting to mess with you is a losing endeavor. Be careful when implementing this technique, however, because false confidence is an even more tempting target than a lack of confidence in the first place.

Avoid direct confrontation. Troublemakers love nothing more than getting you entangled in a direct argument. As the saying goes, "beware arguing with a fool, lest he drag you down to his level and beat you with experience." Remember, you don't have to respond to every concern that students bring up; if you feel that you don't have time to discuss something, or that discussing it would significantly disrupt the class, tell the student or students with the concern (or who are just trying to goad you) that you will be happy to discuss it after class.

Students can be difficult, certainly, but ultimately that is part of what makes substitute teaching so rewarding. You get to model appropriate behavior and help give them structure, all the while teaching them what they need to know to grow up to be responsible adults.

What tips do you have on maintaining classroom discipline?

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