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Tips for Taking Over a Classroom

Taking Over Partway Through the School Year


Taking over a classroom halfway through the year can be a challenging experience for many reasons. Teachers stepping into this situation often find themselves faced with situations that they would not normally need to deal with if they had started teaching the class from day one. The purpose of this article is to look through many of these challenges and provide teachers with tips and strategies to help them survive and thrive in their new classroom.

Difference in Classroom Management Techniques

Each teacher has a unique way that they deal with classroom management and discipline issues. Therefore, when you start teaching part way through the year, students will have grown accustomed to the previous teacher's discipline policies. The challenge arises when your methods differ greatly from your predecessor's. For example, if the teacher you are replacing was very lax in enforcing their discipline plan, you might find that it is difficult to begin strictly enforcing your own. While students recognize you as a different teacher, they might balk at the idea of having to follow rules that are different or were not previously enforced. Therefore, you need to make sure that you are very clear from day one about your expectations. Post your classroom rules and your discipline policy. Explain to the students that you view this as the 'first day of school' and that you are going to start fresh with them. You can also explain that this is a benefit because they are starting out fresh with you too. You should send a note home to parents explaining your policies so that they have accurate information at hand. If you know that there is a specific discipline problem that you have to deal with, call the parents right away and begin to form a solution. Staying on top of discipline problems will be very helpful in this situation.

Difference in Policies

In addition to the way you deal with discipline problems, you will also have different classroom procedure policies than the previous teacher. You might have a different system for taking attendance or dealing with tardies. You might have a specific way that you have students find out about their make up work or turn in their homework for you to grade. Sometimes, students will fail to follow your policies or even take issue with these changes. The key to success here is to make sure that you are well organized before your first day and that you are very clear on what you expect your students to do. If you have a specific spot for them to turn in their homework, explain the system to them and then reinforce it daily for a couple of weeks. Further, make sure that you consistently follow through on your own policies. With all this said, realize that you might take over a class and find that they methods they were using were superior to your own. Don't be afraid to steal and use those methods in future classes.

Difficulties in Connecting With Students

If you are taking over a class halfway through the year, the students will have spent approximately 75 hours with the previous teacher. Many of those students will have grown close to or at the very least connected with the other teacher. Your entry into the class might be viewed with skepticism or, in some rare cases, outright hostility. You need to realize that this has very little to do with you and more to do with how much students value routines and day-to-day consistency. Keep your chin up and make sure that you approach each class period as a chance to build your own connections with students. Also realize that you might not be able to connect with everyone as you might if you had taught from day one. Also, make sure that you see the class as your own. Do not think of it as someone else's class that you are teaching.

Gaps in Learning From Previous Teacher

The last issue is a delicate one. This happens when you start teaching a class and realize that the students have not been taught everything they need to know according to the state or national standards. For example, you might be teaching Chemistry and realize that the students have not been taught about how the periodic table is organized. This gap could have serious consequences for future assignments and classes. Curriculum issues often happen when substitutes have been teaching for some time in the class. You have to decide whether the information is important enough to go back and cover and if you have the time to devote to it. You might want to discuss these gaps with your fellow teachers and even the administration to come up with ideas to go back and cover this information. It is best not to bad mouth the previous teacher as this is not only unprofessional, but students will also repeat what you have said.
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