Classroom Management Skills for Substitute Teachers

Inside: Classroom management tips for substitute teachers

The possibility of entering a different classroom every day can be overwhelming. As a substitute teacher, you arrive to a classroom full of students that have different expectations depending on their full-time teacher’s rules and management. To have a successful guest teaching career, it’s important to practice these classroom management skills for a substitute teacher.

Build relationships first and fast.

It’s hard to really build community and get to know your students if you are only there for a day (or maybe even a class period in secondary). However, bring something to share about yourself and tell your story. Students buy-in and behave for people they like. You don’t have to be friends with your students, but start by connecting. Tell them about your experience and your family. Share something cool you know about the content they are studying. This can take less than five minutes and will cement you as a real person in your students’ minds.

substitute teacher quote

Know the general discipline plans for the school.

Know if the school uses an overall behavior plan like PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports) or Boystown Skills. You don’t have to be an expert, but asking a colleague or office staff member what the protocol is for certain behaviors will help guide your day. It also will allow you to know the expectations for common areas and classroom behaviors as well as how to address positive and negative behaviors that students may show.

Incentivize positive behavior.

Reinforce positive behaviors in the classroom by not only addressing when students misbehave, but leaving specific names and details in notes of students that go above and beyond expected behaviors. Tell the students that you will leave a name for the most helpful or kind student to report back to their teacher. You may also want to use substitute punch cards. The students will get their card punched when they behave for the substitute. You could share these with teachers that you sub for so they can use them again and again, or you may want to keep them when you sub in classrooms frequently. These are perfect for long term gigs as well! You can grab them for FREE by signing up for the free resource library or read more in the blog post below.

Be consistent.

Fair isn’t always equal, and some students may have different behavior expectations than others due to individualized education plans, 504 plans, or other needs. As a sub, the important thing to remember is to be consistent. If you are in a long term situation and get to know the kids better, you may be able to let the star student run errands without a pass, but in the beginning, make sure each child is held to the same standards and accountability for behavior. Read the teacher’s notes in regards for rules for using passes, eating snacks, electronic policies, and other rules. If the teacher does not provide you with this information, you may want to quickly check with a colleague. Students tend to misbehave when you are too strict or too lenient, so the best thing you do is just follow-through and stay consistent with your expectations.

be consistent as a substitute teacher

Using these classroom management skills for a substitute teacher will not only help your days go better, they will make you a more-requested, sought after sub! Try these skills in your classroom experience in order to have more worry-free days as a guest teacher.

Want more? Try The Substitute Teacher Resource Binder

Want to be a prepared substitute teacher? Be sure to check out the Substitute Teacher Resource Binder! It includes a full day of sub plans for K-6, a planner, tons of bonus activities, and more. Never be left without sub plans again!

Be prepared for substitute teaching with the Substitute Teacher Resource Binder! This bundle has absolutely everything you'll need for substitute teaching in Kindergarten through 6th grades!

You May Also Enjoy these Substitute Teaching Blog Posts

2 Responses

  1. I had such an awful substitute experience. I ignored a gut feeling and chose a substitute because others had said he did a good job as a one-day sub, and because I didn’t want to discriminate. He almost never responded to emails or texts and I worked over 15-20 hours/ week in the 6 weeks after my birth for no pay in order to do most of his job from home. Most of the time, he just told the students to look into google classroom and read his newspaper or chatted with students. I asked my dept. head and vice principal to help get another sub, but they were so overworked, it did not happen. I am not sure I can even handle the thought of going back to teaching now that I have a little one. Maybe teaching high school is just completely different than teaching other grades. I worked 50-60 hours a week up to 39 weeks pregnant, and was paid $36k a year as an emergency hire in a place that is very expensive to live. Now that I have my license, it would be better, though infant daycare is $1500/ month… I miss the students, though!

    1. I am so sorry you had such a horrible experience, Kari! All moms should definitely get those 6 weeks off with their babies 🙁

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