Amazing Classroom Management for Substitute Teachers

Inside: Strategies for classroom management for substitute teachers

The possibility of entering a different classroom every day can be overwhelming. As a substitute teacher, you arrive at 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 strategies for classroom management for substitute teachers.

substitute teacher with students- Classroom Management for Substitute Teachers

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). My first tip for classroom management for substitute teachers is to bring something to share about yourself and tell your story. Students buy in and behave for people they like. 

You aren’t trying to be friends with your students but you should start by connecting with them. Tell them about your experience and your family. Share something cool you know about the content they are studying. Do it quickly, less than five minutes so that you can get into the lesson plans for the day but doing so will cement you as a real person in your students’ minds.

Know the general discipline plans for the school and the classroom

I have found that classroom management for substitute teachers goes much smoother when they are aware of the systems already in place.

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.

Then, when you get into the classroom, review the teacher’s rules and expectations (they are likely hanging around the classroom). Ask students to repeat the behavior expectations to you to make sure you are all on the same page. By following the teacher’s expectations you will keep things consistent for the kids, which will help the day run smoothly.

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 cards 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 in my shop or read more in the blog post below.

Or bring my Word of the Day Substitute Teacher Reward Toolkit. You pick a word and print off the individual letters. As students show positive behaviors throughout the school day, they earn letters. If they spell out the entire word, they get a reward at the end of the day or class period, in secondary schools.

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 to 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.

Move around the classroom

This is probably my biggest classroom management for substitute teachers (or classroom teachers) tip. 

Don’t just come into the classroom, sit at the teacher’s desk and stay there the whole time. Move around the classroom.  It will help you to see what is going on and check on both on and off-task students. Students will also feel more comfortable asking you questions because they don’t have to get out of their seats and walk all the way to the front of the classroom. 

Proximity is a teacher’s greatest classroom management tool. TeachHub has a great blog post about tips for proximity control.

Using these skills will help you with classroom management for substitute teachers not only to help your days go better but will also 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!

Classroom management for substitute teachers can be daunting but follow these tips and you will do great!

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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