On any given day, approximately 274,000 substitute teachers serve in this
country's classrooms. By the time a student graduates from high school,
that person will have spent the equivalent of a full year being taught by
Topics to be covered:
One of the most
important aspects of becoming an effective substitute teacher is how you
view and portray yourself to students, staff and the community. Above
all, you need to consider yourself a professional. Remember, students
will encounter substitutes on a regular basis, and for that reason alone
you are a very important part of the educational process.
As a foundation of
professionalism, the National Education Association (NEA) adopted a Code
of Ethics of the Education Profession. It is based on the following
The educator strives
to help each student realize his or her potential as a worthy and
effective member of society. The educator therefore works to stimulate
the spirit of inquiry, the acquisition of knowledge and understanding,
and the thoughtful formulation of worthy goals.
profession is vested by the public with a trust and responsibility
requiring the highest ideals of professional service.
"I didn't always
follow this advice, and even at age twenty-seven I was being asked on
dates by high school boys. I was also informed by a school secretary
that there were teachers who did not want me to sub in their classrooms
because of the way that I dressed!" -Experienced substitute
are important, and, like it or not, the way you dress will make a
difference in how you are treated by students and staff. You may find
that many teachers dress very casually, but you need to remember that
they already have a relationship with their students. They are not
making a first impression, and they are not attempting to gain control
of a new classroom. As a substitute teacher, you are making a first
impression virtually every day.
It is especially
important for younger-looking substitute teachers to dress a bit more
conservatively. This helps establish you as the authority figure in the
classroom. Students will look at you as a teacher and not as a peer (and
hopefully treat you as such). As you can imagine, this is especially
important when you are subbing at the middle school or high school
Dress comfortably so
you can move around the classroom and building with ease.
Women will want to
avoid high heels, short skirts, low-cut tops and severely tight attire.
pantsuits are usually appropriate. Men may want to wear khaki or dress
pants, a button-down or polo shirt, and comfortable shoes. In most
cases, jeans, t-shirts and sandals are not a good idea for any
substitute. Regional differences and job assignment may influence your
style of attire.
General rules of conduct
You are to be attentive and present for the benefit of all students in
the classroom. The most crucial reason you are in the classroom is to
To accomplish that, your attention must be focused on the students at
Do not give an
assignment then sit down to read the newspaper or play on the
Do not walk out of
Do not make
Do not gossip
about classes or students. This rule applies whether you are in the
teachers' lounge at school or anywhere else. It is all right to ask
advice about how to deal with certain students or classes, but don't
let the conversation develop into one of complaining, ridiculing or
spreading innuendoes about students or staff.
political, religious, and social beliefs to yourself. You are there to
teach, not to proclaim your opinions or convert students to your way
of thinking. By sticking to the teacher's lesson plans, you should be
able to avoid these situations. If you find yourself in a class where
students ask about your beliefs, be respectful of their inquiries but
stick to the lesson at hand.
positive and enthusiastic. Although you are not there to become
friends with students, you do need to be pleasant with them and
demonstrate an interest in their assignment. Children are very quick
to pick up on your overall attitude, and you want them to be at least
cooperative if not deeply engaged.
Judgment Interaction With Students
professional barrier between you and students. You are the adult, the
teacher, and the professional; act like the expert - not like another
one of the "kids."
Keep the classroom
door open when talking with students.
Avoid any behavior
that could be misinterpreted when interacting with students.
Avoid leaving your
Use verbal praise
Avoid losing your
temper and avoid corporal punishment.
school-sponsored functions. Do NOT socialize with students.
Do NOT take
children home with you or transport them in your car alone or without
prior administrative approval.
Do NOT make
telephone calls or write notes of a personal nature to students.
and their cultural backgrounds.
Use only proper
humor (avoid sexual and racial jokes or humor).
(what you hear at school stays at school).
An overall consideration when substitute teaching is your legal
responsibility in the classroom and school.
The following are some legal responsibilities you should be aware of. An
understanding of these responsibilities will require some questioning on
your part as to specific school/district policies.
Students - The substitute teacher who has physical control of a
classroom has a duty to keep these children safe and orderly.
In many states, a teacher acts in loco parentis - in the place of a
parent - and is allowed to use his/ her judgment in a manner similar to
a parent. The standard is the reasonable -use of professional judgment
for the safety and orderly education of students.
Due Care And Caution
- A teacher is required to exercise due care and caution for the safety
of the students in his/her charge. Essentially, this means acting
reasonably and with safety in mind, being able to explain circumstances
and your actions, as well as following school safety policies and
Release Of Children
- Due to possible restraints on who may have custody of a child,
children should not be allowed to leave the building during the school
day without express consent from the office.
Medication - Medication should only be administered by the school nurse
or other appropriate health personnel, not the classroom or substitute
teacher. If you know of medication requirements of a student, the health
professional should be notified.
Confidentiality - It
is unprofessional and against the law in many states to disclose
confidential information about your students. Generally, a substitute
teacher should avoid comments about individual students that convey
private information: grades, medical conditions, learning or discipline
Anecdotal Records -
Maintaining notes on particular incidents in the classroom can protect
you in problematic situations. If you feel that your actions might be
questioned, note the date and time, the individuals involved, the
choices for action considered, and the actions taken.
-The state of Virginia does not allow for the use of corporal
When sending a
student to the principal due to discipline matters, the substitute
teacher maintains the duties of supervision and due care for both the
individual child and the remainder of the class.
Proper action may be
detailed in the school policy or may require your independent sound
judgment. Possible actions include having another child accompany the
child, sending a child to bring someone from the office to intervene, or
having another teacher watch your class while you take the child to the
A teacher must also
consider the potential for problems in certain kinds of classes. Planned
activities in a physical education, science, shop, or home economics
class may be uncomfortable for the substitute teacher. In such cases,
the substitute teacher may choose to do an alternative activity which
they feel they can conduct safely.
The purpose of child
abuse reporting legislation is to protect the best interests of
children, offer protective services to prevent harm to children,
stabilize the home environment, preserve family life whenever possible,
and encourage cooperation among the states in dealing with the problem
of child abuse.
Any school employee
(including a substitute teacher) who knows or reasonably believes that a
child has been neglected, or physically or sexually abused, should
immediately notify the building principal.
is sexual harassment?
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or
physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
submission to such
conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of
a person's employment or a student's academic success
submission to or
rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for
employment or academic decisions affecting such individuals
unreasonably interferes with an individual's work or academic
performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working,
or learning, environment
are some examples of verbal, non-verbal, and physical sexual harassment?
The following are behaviors which could be viewed as sexual harassment
when they are unwelcome:
making cat calls at someone
comments about a person's clothing or body
jokes or stories
referring to an
adult woman or man as a hunk, doll, babe, or honey
about a person's personal sex life
out" a person who is not interested
attention to someone (staring, following)
expressions (winking, throwing kisses, licking)
giving gifts of a
standing close, or brushing up against a person, touching a person's
clothing, hair, or body
in a sexual manner around another person, hugging, kissing, patting,
Here are ten techniques that you can use in your classroom that will help
you achieve effective group management and control.
They have been adapted from an article called: “A Primer on Classroom
Discipline: Principles Old and New” by Thomas R. McDaniel, Phi Delta
Kappan, September 1986.
Be sure you have the
attention of everyone in your classroom before you start your lesson.
Don’t attempt to teach over the chatter of students who are not paying
Inexperienced teachers sometimes think that by beginning their lesson,
the class will settle down. The children will see that things are
underway now and it is time to go to work. Sometimes this works, but the
children are also going to think that you are willing to compete with
them, that you don’t mind talking while they talk, or that you are
willing to speak louder so that they can finish their conversation even
after you have started the lesson. They get the idea that you accept
their inattention and that it is permissible to talk while you are
presenting a lesson.
The focusing technique means that you will demand their attention before
you begin. It means that you will wait and not start until everyone has
settled down. Experienced teachers know that silence on their part is
very effective. They will punctuate their waiting by extending it 3 to 5
seconds after the classroom is completely quiet. Then they begin their
lesson using a quieter voice than normal.
A soft spoken teacher often has a calmer, quieter classroom than one
with a stronger voice. Her students sit still in order to hear what she
2. Direct Instruction
increases the level of excitement in the classroom. The technique of
direct instruction is to begin each class by telling the students
exactly what will be happening. The teacher outlines what he and the
students will be doing this period. He may set time limits for some
An effective way to
marry this technique with the first one is to include time at the end of
the period for students to do activities of their choosing. The teacher
may finish the description of the hour’s activities with: “And I think
we will have some time at the end of the period for you to chat with
your friends, go to the library, or catch up on work for other classes.”
The teacher is more
willing to wait for class attention when he knows there is extra time to
meet his goals and objectives. The students soon realize that the more
time the teacher waits for their attention, the less free time they have
at the end of the hour.
The key to this
principle is to circulate. Get up and get around the room. While your
students are working, make the rounds. Check on their progress.
An effective teacher will make a pass through the whole room about two
minutes after the students have started a written assignment. She checks
that each student has started, that the children are on the correct
page, and that everyone has put their names on their papers. The delay
is important. She wants her students to have a problem or two finished
so she can check that answers are correctly labeled or in complete
sentences. She provides individualized instruction as needed.
Students who are not
yet quite on task will be quick to get going as they see her approach.
Those that were distracted or slow to get started can be nudged along.
The teacher does not interrupt the class or try to make general
announcements unless she notices that several students have difficulty
with the same thing. The teacher uses a quiet voice and her students
appreciate her personal and positive attention.
McDaniel tells us of
a saying that goes “Values are caught, not taught.” Teachers who are
courteous, prompt, enthusiastic, in control, patient and organized
provide examples for their students through their own behavior. The “do
as I say, not as I do” teachers send mixed messages that confuse
students and invite misbehavior.
If you want students to use quiet voices in your classroom while they
work, you too will use a quiet, but assertive voice as you move through
the room helping youngsters.
A standard item in
the classroom of the 1950’s was the clerk’s bell. A shiny nickel bell
sat on the teacher’s desk. With one tap of the button on top he had
everyone’s attention. Teachers have shown a lot of ingenuity over the
years in making use of non-verbal cues in the classroom. Some flip light
switches. Others keep clickers in their pockets.
Non-verbal cues can also be facial expressions, body posture and hand
signals. Care should be given in choosing the types of cues you use in
your classroom. Take time to explain what you want the students to do
when you use your cues.
Most students are
sent to the principal’s office as a result of confrontational
escalation. The teacher has called them on a lesser offense, but in the
moments that follow, the student and the teacher are swept up in a
verbal maelstrom. Much of this can be avoided when the teacher’s
intervention is quiet and calm.
An effective teacher
will take care that the student is not rewarded for misbehavior by
becoming the focus of attention. She monitors the activity in her
classroom, moving around the room. She anticipates problems before they
occur. Her approach to a misbehaving student is inconspicuous. Others in
the class are not distracted.
While lecturing to
her class this teacher makes effective use of name-dropping. If she sees
a student talking or off task, she simply drops the youngster’s name
into her dialogue in a natural way. “And you see, David, we carry the
one to the tens column.” David hears his name and is drawn back on task.
The rest of the class doesn’t seem to notice.
7. Assertive Discipline
This is traditional
limit setting authoritarianism. When executed as presented by Lee Canter
(who has made this form a discipline one of the most widely known and
practiced) it will include a good mix of praise. This is high profile
discipline. The teacher is the boss and no child has the right to
interfere with the learning of any student. Clear rules are laid out and
8. Assertive I-Messages
A component of
Assertive Discipline, these I-Messages are statements that the teacher
uses when confronting a student who is misbehaving. They are intended to
be clear descriptions of what the student is suppose to do. The teacher
who makes good use of this technique will focus the child’s attention
first and foremost on the behavior he wants, not on the misbehavior. “I
want you to...” or “I need you to...” or “I expect you to...”
teacher may incorrectly try “I want you to stop...” only to discover
that this usually triggers confrontation and denial. The focus is on the
misbehavior and the student is quick to retort: “I wasn’t doing
anything!” or “It wasn’t my fault...” or “Since when is there a rule
against...” and escalation has begun.
These I-messages are
expressions of our feelings. Thomas Gordon, creator of Teacher
Effectiveness Training (TET), tells us to structure these messages in
three parts. First, include a description of the child’s behavior. “When
you talk while I talk...” Second, relate the effect this behavior has on
the teacher. “...I have to stop my teaching...” And third, let the
student know the feeling that it generates in the teacher. “...which
distracted by a student who was constantly talking while he tried to
teach, once made this powerful expression of feelings: “I cannot imagine
what I have done to you that I do not deserve the respect from you that
I get from the others in this class. If I have been rude to you or
inconsiderate in any way, please let me know. I feel as though I have
somehow offended you and now you are unwilling to show me respect.” The
student did not talk during his lectures again for many weeks.
10. Positive Discipline
Use classroom rules
that describe the behaviors you want instead of listing things the
students cannot do. Instead of “no-running in the room,” use “move
through the building in an orderly manner.” Instead of “no fighting,“
use “settle conflicts appropriately.” Instead of “no gum chewing,” use
“leave gum at home.” Refer to your rules as expectations. Let your
students know this is how you expect them to behave in your classroom.
Make ample use of
praise. When you see good behavior, acknowledge it. This can be done
verbally, of course, but it doesn’t have to be. A nod, a smile or a
“thumbs up” will reinforce the behavior.
What are the needs of the special education students in your classroom?
Treat all pupils
with fairness, impartiality, and responsible fairness.
Be alert -- spot
potential behavior problems in the early stages and take action before
gets out of hand.
Remember that some
pupils will test a substitute teacher to determine what behavior limits
Teachers must take a firm stand when the limits are reached.
Stress to students
that they must assume some responsibility for their own actions.
If possible, try to
speak privately with pupils who cause problems. This may be done in the
corridor or quietly at the teachers desk.
Try to avoid
reaching an impasse with a student and allow him or her to save face if
assistance when necessary but do not lean too heavily on the principal
handle discipline problems. When you call in the principal or send a
student to the office, you are
asking someone outside your classroom to discipline a student for
behavior inside your classroom.
spans. It is important to know when to change activities, speed up or
Do not leave the
class unattended unless there is a real emergency.
will encourage certain activities or procedures which vary from regular
routine. If such a situation arises, be pleasant but firm as to how
things are going to be done that
day. Try to adhere as closely as possible to regular teacher's normal
The Daily Routine
First of all, arrive
on time, which probably means at least one-half hour before the first
class is scheduled to begin. You should check in with the principal or
secretary and sign in on the sign-in sheet that is available at many
Second, always dress
professionally. A Phoenix teacher says, "I dress to the 'T' as a
substitute teacher. The kids hold the door for me. One on each side!
That's pretty scary and wonderful that they are influenced so easily by
appearance. My daughter's been on her job for only two weeks and she
says they hold the door for her, also."
Third, follow the
teacher's lesson plan as given to you. Most all teachers are responsible
and want their students to learn. You are expected to carry on with the
Prior to Entering the Classroom
Report to the
Obtain any keys
that might be necessary.
Ask about student
passes and special procedures.
Ask if there will
be any extra duties associated with the permanent teacher's
Ask about any
special school-wide activities planned for the day.
Find out how to
refer a student to the office.
Find out how to
report students who are tardy or absent.
Find the locations
of restrooms and the teachers' lounge.
Ask the names of
the teachers on both sides of your classroom and if possible,
introduce yourself to them.
Ask if any
students have medical problems.
the Classroom Before School
classroom with confidence.
Write your name
(as you wish to be addressed by the students) on the board.
expectations, or rules, if any are posted.
Locate the school
Read through the
lesson plans left by the permanent teacher.
Locate the books,
papers, and materials which will be needed throughout the
Study the seating
charts. If you can't find any, get ready to make your own.
When the bell
rings, stand in the doorway and greet students as they enter the
Throughout the Day
Greet the students
at the door and get them involved in a learning activity
Carry out the
lesson plans and assigned duties to the best of your
the materials in in the classroom to fill extra time, enhance
activities, or supplement sketchy lesson plans as needed.
Be fair and carry
out the rewards and consequences you establish.
Be positive and
respectful in your interactions with students and school
the End of Each Class Period
Make sure that all
classroom sets are accounted for.
to recall projects and topics they have studied that day.
Remind students of
straighten and clean the area around their desks.
the End of the Day:
Write a brief
report about your day and leave it for the permanent
the papers turned in by the students.
turn off lights and equipment, and make sure the room is in good order
before you lock the door.
Turn in keys and
any money collected at the office.
Check to see if
you will be needed again the next day.
Jot down a few
notes to yourself about what was accomplished, how things went, and
ways to improve.
Substitute Teachers are expected to:
11 Techniques for Better Classroom
Substitute Teacher Handbook 5th Edition - Utah State University