Having had some difficulties with behavior management in my previous full-time teaching gigs, I knew the most important thing I could do going into subbing was to have a behavior management plan in place.
Get to know the building’s behavior management guidelines, and then the personal classroom management plan that the individual teacher that you sub for prefers to keep.
The first time I was called in (relatively last-minute) to sub for the very next day, so I didn’t have a lot of time to do prep work, but it is important to read up on the school and its mission statement and student population (general information you can usually find on their website).
When I was subbing, and also looking for employment at schools, I did look at reviews of schools, from a site like “Great Schools“, but I also took them with a grain of salt, like I would restaurant reviews for Yelp- sometimes they’re fake, sometimes blown out of proportion over something that’s not really an issue, having more to do with a person’s own problems the school is not responsible for, etc…but it was good to read those to get an idea of what people were rating the school.
To shorten the rest of the post, I’ll list a few tips I found useful in developing a rapport at schools you were going into, and to become an in-demand sub (nothing better than hearing “Oh ya, you’re a good sub, I’m going to request you!”:
- Be personable. You never know how often you’ll be back, and if you start coming back more and more often, it could indeed lead to a full-time gig down the road. Subbing is a great foot in the door to make connections. People will want you coming back if you make an effort to connect with those within the school, from the front desk, to administrators, to teachers you sub for and teachers in other classes, and of course! the students.
- Have a backup plan. Nowadays with such high academic demands it is unlikely you’ll just be sitting back and showing a movie as a sub (though it surely does still happen). But more often than not, I was following a lesson plan. Even with that, activities are likely to run short (as kids may be shy or you may not be going off on a tangent, for example), and you may need to improvise. Have a plan, whether it’s a brain break activity, or a getting to know you activity. Having stuff to do is important to keep students engaged and helps prevent misbehavior.
- Go the extra mile. Sometimes my backup plan was including a French song or dance, which I think was a real plus. The school secretary told me parents were raving about the sub who taught their kindergartener to count to ten in French! Going the extra mile subbing could mean adding your own flair to your coverage in the classroom, but it also extends beyond your assigned duties. If you have a free period or two, head to the office and see what you can do to help, or walk around the school and check out what’s going on.
- Leave a detailed report of the day. Leave excellent notes and better yet, make notes as you go through the day, as you may be overwhelmed at the end and forget some of it. One thing you can leave out? Don’t leave a tattle-tale list of misbehaviors. If there was something serious that involved disciplinary action or the office in some way, then do note that, but teachers know who is likely to misbehave and almost expect it. That’s why you’ll often see a list of helpers and students to look out for.
- Use the Sub Binder. Make sure you review the sub binder, if there is one, as it will contain valuable info to help you through the day. Normally if there’s going to be something like a planned fire drill, they will let you know. But make sure you read it and refer to it, or you’ll be like me on the day of the earthquake alarm I remembered most of the procedures but forgot to grab the bright orange hat and felt like a fool!
- Stay calm. Keep a cool composure as best you can (and sometimes- perhaps often at first- fake it ’til you make it!). Remember to take deep breaths. Subbing can be challenging, and in some parts of the day more than others (nerves at first, or right before lunch always seem to be the longest minutes!), but you will make it through, and with barring no major incidents, you will more than likely be asked back. You owe it to yourself to try and stay calm and remember to just do your best, but it is tough to come in and elicit the respect their everyday-teacher would get.
Just as you would if you were full-time teaching, make sure to care for yourself and your health and personal wellbeing. Get enough sleep, eat well (I do try and pack a lunch, but wouldn’t always be able to), and relax- you are fulfilling an important role and probably will be too hard on yourself. Enjoy your planning/grading-free evenings and get ready to answer another early-morning call, or if you get in good, you’ll get requested in advance which is nice. Yay for subbing! I had a better time subbing than I did teaching in some ways 🙂