CHAPTER 5 - DURING CLASS
The class room is the place where the Substitute blossoms. The Sub's attitude, attire, and ability flourish in front of the class room. Your very personality is put on display in front of students. The teaching methods are up to you today, and sometimes, the teaching plans are also of your choice. There are also some basic classroom suggestions and general rules that experienced Substitute Teachers have learned to help improve the classroom flow. Also, using these suggestions as guidelines, a Substitute Teacher improves the chances of being asked back to substitute teach again.
WHAT GOES ON BEHIND YOUR BACK IS AS IMPORTANT AS WHAT GOES ON UNDER YOUR NOSE
A Substitute Teacher should always be aware of what is happening with the activities of their students. This includes foreground activities, background activities, and activities not directly under your control, but still under your responsibility. You may want to devote more time to "watching" the student who left class to "go to the office", than any of the students in the classroom.
YOU WILL HAVE GOOD DAYS AND YOU WILL HAVE BAD DAYS
The same class that was so well-mannered and polite yesterday, can be obnoxious and impolite the next day. And, of course, there will be days when you will feel obnoxious and impolite, too. Despite these changes, you must exhibit the same behavior and conduct that you have in the past. The life of a student is unstable and ever-changing: the students don't need a Teacher who is the same.
TALK TO INDIVIDUAL STUDENTS BEFORE TALKING TO CLASS
There is always one student who wanders into class long before anyone else does. Speaking with this student is the best insurance a Teacher can get, and it is free for the taking. The two minutes that you spend speaking to this student can forewarn you of any problems that need to be dealt with. This student may tell of in-class rivalries between two students that often turn violent when there is a Substitute Teacher present. Or he may tell of one trick that students repeatedly play on Substitutes. The early Student may tell of an Assembly during third period that nobody has told you about, or how Joshua has epileptic seizures, but that the students know how to deal with the seizure.
NEVER LET THE STUDENTS SEE YOU SWEAT
Sweating can take on many forms: stuttering, looking off in the distance, when asked a tough question, staring, twitching, frantically searching for a piece of chalk, or the most blatant form of sweating - responding "I don't know" to a question asked by a student. Sweating is the sign of a person who has no control of the situation. If you show signs of this, students will see it and use it to their advantage.
DON'T SMILE UNTIL YOU ARE IN CONTROL
Smiling can often be mistaken by students as "sweating". Avoid this confusion by not smiling until the students are doing what they should be doing, and you are in control of the class room.
ESTABLISH ACCEPTABLE NOISE LEVEL
You have been given control of the class room: make it yours. The class will challenge this control and your first "standard" that students learn will be your noise level. Making your acceptable noise level known can take many forms: raising your eyes from the roll sheet to the student, simply saying, "Quiet", or by not allowing the class to proceed until the class is quiet. The first student in the class room will often be able to tell you the most effective form of discipline for the class. Use this to quiet the students when the noise level is too loud. Be sure to repeat this quieting procedure each time you deem it necessary.
ASK STUDENTS, "WHAT DO YOU THINK?" WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW
This not only allows you to get away with not knowing the material, but encourages the students towards finding the answer on their own. Students are quick to "test" Substitute Teachers to see if they are qualified to teach the class room subject. The best response to the students' challenge is to ask, "What do you think?". If they persist, instruct the student to "Look for the answer in the book", or "Go on to the next question."
GIVE THEM EVERY REASON TO INVITE YOU BACK TO TEACH AGAIN
"Them" are the absent Teacher, The Gatekeeper, The Administrators, and the Students. If "them" have trouble with you, it may decrease your chances of being asked back.
The students expect a Substitute Teacher to be professional. This means dressing, talking, and acting professionally. This rules out dressing in blue jeans and ripped tee-shirt, and cursing.
FOLLOW SCHOOL RULES
Different schools have different rules. It is your duty to know the different rules of each school. Know if eating in class is O.K.; if student smoking on campus is allowed; learn the location where the class goes in case of a fire drill (for every class you teach).
Being a Substitute Teacher and being flexible are one and the same. You must be willing to teach a Boy's P.E. Class, even though the Gatekeeper called you in to substitute for an Advanced Trigonometry Class. You must be flexible when your lunch break is cancelled because they need a stand-in security person for the noon-hour square dance contest that the Agriculture Department is sponsoring. If the Sub is not flexible, the school may have a hard time effectively utilizing the talents of this Substitute Teacher.
DON'T WAKE A SLEEPING STUDENT
A sleeping student is a blessing. Let this student sleep. There is a reason this student is sleeping, and chances are good that this reason has very little to do with you, so don't take a sleeping student personally. Waking this student will stop the flow of the class, and assuming you are successful in waking this student, the same student will learn very little, and may cause havoc in the class room. Consider a sleeping student a blessing, and let the student sleep.
MAKE THEM YOUR STUDENTS
Don't create a wall between the students and yourself. Be one with the students. This means that you and the students are "on the same side". This means that you laugh at the same jokes, know the same language, and together, will arrive at the same learnings. The students pick up on this attitude, and are more willing to learn from you once they become "your students".
THERE ARE NO KIDS IN YOUR CLASS, ONLY STUDENTS
The students in your class will be what ever you want them to be. If you call them "kids", they will act like kids. If you call them "Students", they will act much more mature.
TREAT STUDENTS WITH RESPECT
Treat students with respect. The popular saying "Contempt Breeds Contempt" also works the other way; "Respect Breeds Respect". This includes "hearing" every question, giving praise for student's work, and allowing all students to participate.
HAVE STUDENTS DO SOMETHING
A plan is very important! Having no plan is, in fact, giving students free reign of the class room, and this is never a good idea for a Substitute Teacher. For each class, an assignment should be written on the chalkboard. Tell students to work silently, and to complete the work in a given time limit. This assignment can be anything; past/present/future homework, student ideas, student experiences, handouts you brought with you, extra work not originally assigned, or other work that you find in the class room. Having students do something will give you a chance to take roll, get organized, and what ever else needs to be done.
WALK AROUND CLASS
You are the Captain of this Ship. Know what goes on aboard your ship. Be aware of any actions that may call for your intervention. Walking around class reminds students whose ship it is. Also, it will allow you to speak to the students, for both control and social purposes.
KEEP POINTED IN THE SAME DIRECTION
Continually pointing in the same direction will be appreciated by students, faculty, and Teachers alike. After tripping over your own shoelace during a student test, the classroom will laugh. Your redemption is to quietly shush the students and remind them that they are to be quiet during a test. This is your objective, stick to it. If your objective is to teach students how to conjugate Spanish Verbs, do this. Keep pointed towards the same goal all during class.
PLANT A SEED
You are growing things at the school where you are substituting. You are planting seeds of knowledge in the minds of students when teaching the subject that you majored in College. You are planting seeds of respectability in the minds of struggling students when you say they did a good job in class. You are planting seeds of goodwill when you help carry books for the girl in the wheelchair. You are planting seeds of objectivity when you point out new ways of looking at situations to students.
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