Substitute Teacher Training

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 a substitute. 

Topics to be covered:


General rules of conduct

Rule #1.
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 ensure safety.
To accomplish that, your attention must be focused on the students at all times.

This means:

Rule #2.

Rule #3.

Rule #4.

Rule #5.

Exercising Professional Judgment Interaction With Students

Legal Aspects

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.

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 office.

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.

What is sexual harassment?

Definition: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

What 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: 




Classroom Management

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.

1. Focusing

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 attention.

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 says.

2. Direct Instruction

Uncertainty 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 tasks.

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.

3. Monitoring

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.

4. Modeling

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.

5. Non-Verbal Cuing

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.

6. Low-Profile Intervention

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 consistently enforced.

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...”

The inexperienced 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.

9. Humanistic I-Messages

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 frustrates me.”

A teacher, 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

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.

Special Education

What are the needs of the special education students in your classroom?

Discipline Practices

  1. Treat all pupils with fairness, impartiality, and responsible fairness.

  2. Be alert -- spot potential behavior problems in the early stages and take action before the situation
    gets out of hand.

  3. Remember that some pupils will test a substitute teacher to determine what behavior limits are.
    Teachers must take a firm stand when the limits are reached.

  4. Stress to students that they must assume some responsibility for their own actions.

  5. If possible, try to speak privately with pupils who cause problems. This may be done in the school
    corridor or quietly at the teachers desk.

  6. Try to avoid reaching an impasse with a student and allow him or her to save face if possible.

  7. Seek administrative assistance when necessary but do not lean too heavily on the principal to
    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.

  8. Watch attention spans. It is important to know when to change activities, speed up or slow down.

  9. Do not leave the class unattended unless there is a real emergency.

  10. Sometimes pupils will encourage certain activities or procedures which vary from regular teacher's
    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 routine.

The Daily Routine

Prior to Entering the Classroom

In the Classroom Before School

Throughout the Day

At the End of Each Class Period

At the End of the Day:


Substitute Teachers are expected to:


11 Techniques for Better Classroom Discipline 
Substitute Teacher Handbook 5th Edition - Utah State University

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Last update: Tuesday, June 28, 2016 04:19 PM