1. Education

Classroom Management Tips for Substitute Teachers


Substitute teachers are faced with the difficult task of dealing with students they have little to no information about each day at work. They do not know if they are walking into a friendly or hostile environment. They might enter a class full of students willing to learn or one where the majority of the students just do not care. Therefore, they need to have a lot of tools in their arsenal that they can use to help them deal with any situation. The following classroom management tips provide specific ideas that substitutes can use to stay in control. Note: Many of these items were inspired by information from Mr. Sturgeon's Substitute Teaching site.

1. Talk to Students Before Class Starts

Substitute Teacher helping young student working on laptop
Thomas Barwick/ Iconica/ Getty Images
Stand at the door and talk to students as they arrive in the class. Get to know a few of them individually before you begin the lesson. This is also a great way to get an impression of how students will react to your presence. In addition, you might find out useful information such as school assemblies that you might not have been informed about.

2. Act As the One In Control

Students are excellent judges of character. They can tell if you do not feel confident. Enter the class as the teacher for the day, and act accordingly. If something is not going as planned or your whiteboard markers are out of ink, you will need to wing it. Don't get frantic or nervous. Transition to the next activity or come up with an alternative solution like using an overhead projector. If worse comes to worse, pull out an activity that you have prepared in case issues like this have arisen.

More Information: Battling Nerves and Anxiety

3. Don't Get Too Friendly Too Quickly

While you don't need to stop yourself from smiling or being kind to students, you should avoid too much friendliness when class starts. First impressions are really important for students who can quickly take advantage of any perceived weaknesses. This then leads to further disruptions as the class progresses. Get the class started and the lesson rolling, then relax a little. Remember, substituting is not a student popularity contest.

4. Stay on Top of Discipline from the First Moment

You must stay present and involved in classroom management and discipline from the first moment of the day. When the bell rings, get the students to quiet down as you take roll. You might have to stop the roll taking process a number of times to quiet the students again, but they will quickly understand your expectations. Then, as class continues, be aware of everything that is going on in the class. Stop disruptions when they are small to keep them from escalating. The quicker and less obtrusive these interventions are, the better.

More Information: Top 10 Tips for Successful Classroom Management and Discipline

5. Avoid Confrontations as Much as Possible

If, despite your best efforts, a confrontational student causes a major disruption in class, it is important to keep your cool. Don’t lose your temper, raise your voice, or get other students involved. This can lead to a situation where a student feels that they have to ‘save face’. If possible, pull the student to one side to deal with the situation. If the situation is truly something beyond your control, call the office for assistance. However, this should only be done in the rarest of circumstances.

6. Believe That All Students Can Succeed

Even though you might never teach a particular class of students again, it is important that you hold a belief that every student can be successful. You must respect the students that you teach. It also doesn't hurt if you actually like kids. While you are their teacher, act as one. Give effective praise where it is due, make sure that students feel like you are 'on their side' and that you truly believe in them. Students will pick up on your underlying attitude towards them so make sure it is a positive one.

7. Keep the Students Busy

Follow the lesson plan left by the teacher. However, if the plan leaves a lot of free time in class, the teacher did not leave a plan at all, have mini-lessons ready to go. An idle class is one that is ripe for disruption. If worse comes to worse, pick up a book of lateral thinking puzzles to pull out when necessary. More Information: Ideas for Substitute Teachers With No Lesson Plans

8. Have a Referral At Your Disposal

Fill in some of the information on a discipline referral so that if you need to use it, it will be easy to complete in the middle of class. If students start to get really disruptive, pull it out and show it to the students. Explain that you will use it if necessary. Sometimes, this might be enough to calm the situation. However, if you can not resolve a discipline problem in your classroom, go ahead and fill it out.
  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Secondary Education
  4. Teacher Resources
  5. Substitute Teacher
  6. Classroom Management Tips for Substitute Teachers

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.