1. If you don't know the students' names:
- pay specific attention when doing attendance
- make sure students have some sort of required written work. Then, insist they have their names on it. I just casually walk around looking at the names when I need them. By calling them by name they know I can write down problem students so they tend to behave more. Also, if they have already been problematic I can easily mark down who it was. Conversely I can give specific praise to students as well.
2. If a class is being a bit rough overall:
- mark each student's paper with a star or a sticker if they are working hard and following directions. I announce that I will be doing this to show the teacher which students were using their time wisely and following directions. I do this even with high school students. It saves the time of writing lots of names. Also, if students were behaving poorly but then really get it together they can earn the sticker later in the period.
3. Pick your battles. I can't emphasize this enough!
- know the culture of the school. If a rule is really emphasized by administration make sure you follow it. After all you may want to be hired there at some point and I've had principals come in multiple times to observe while I subbed (whether to see me or the inclusion teacher in the room I'm unsure). If something is no big deal to other teachers don't make it a big deal as a sub.
- present things as a choice: "You can stay in this room and do xyz OR you can not do xyz and go to the office. I'll let you take a minute to decide." I've had students choose both but more often than not they groan, follow the direction and are fine the rest of the class.
4. Show your expertise.
- Introduce yourself and be generous with your description of experience. Students can tell if you're not confident or unexperienced- FAKE IT if you are. The first time I subbed I hadn't done anything other than student teaching. However I left out the "student" part and just said, "I taught 10th and 12th grade in such and such a city."
5. Have some fun.
- Get to know the kids, try to learn as many names as possible so as you keep coming back to the same school you know your students. Bring some cheap small incentives- I bring bookmarks I get in the one spot at Target. They're great when I have small groups in elementary school or if I see someone reading a book without a bookmark. It makes me seem extra nice and the kids really appreciate it. I play instrumental music in the background whenever possible. It's my thing. Have a thing. Here's a link to the playlist I use... Background Music For Teaching. It is on youtube so sometimes you have to skip over commercials.
- Even if the sub plan just has you handing out a worksheet go over the directions, define any terms or ask the students to. Show that you are there to teach and they are there to learn. I have had so many students say to me, "Wow, you really took the time to teach us, the other sub just sat on her phone." They tell their teachers, and their teachers now call me first because they know they can leave more substantial work. Frankly, I'd get bored if I didn't try to teach. Walk around the class, spot check answers, stay involved.
What tips or tricks do you use?
*Edited to Add* See my follow up post with MORE tips for Substitutes HERE.
Thanks for reading,