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Substitute woes



I've been subbing this semester in all grades, mostly special ed. and reading classes. I've been in a few middle school and high school classes where the structure is so loose, it's been hard to teach. Students talk to each other when I'm trying to teach, their desks are in a circle so they are looking at each other instead of me, I don't know their names so it's hard to call on them during the lesson and hard to get their attention when they're being disruptive, and so on, and so on. As a sub, I can't rearrange the desks and change the class routine. I go over the lesson plans before the day starts, but inevitably there are important things left out of the plans. I think students use that to their advantage and it ends up undermining my authority with them. In one middle school class that I'm going to be in for a week, I've decided to give them a few minutes at the beginning of the class for a "class meeting" where they can say something about their day, make an announcement, or ask someone a question. I'm going to set up guidelines for it, but I'm afraid they might not follow my guidelines and will just keep talking even when I start class. But that class is made up of mostly hispanic students and I'm white, and they are friends, so I'm thinking this might be a way to get their respect without them seeing me as trying to rule over them. I need some ideas for ways to get older students' attention during class, to get them to stop talking, and to manage the classroom better as a substitute teacher, considering I have to follow the teacher's prescribed plans. Any suggestions?


Senior Member
law down the law

As a sub, you are their teacher for the day. Do not come in with the "just a sub" attitude, or that's how you will be treated by the students. You need to come in, state your expectations, and tell them what they're going to accomplish that day.

Their race and your race means nothing. Don't worry about being the white teacher trying to rule over them. You are a teacher and they are students. Your job is to tell them what to do. If they don't listen, use proximity control, warnings, separation, etc. Nothing is perfect, but it needs to be tried. I usually keep them a minute or two into the passing period if they haven't cooperated. Don't keep them longer than 2 minutes, because they do need to get to their next class, but cut down some of their free time. They hate that.

The class meeting idea is good, but I would do it at the end of the period. It can be a reward they can earn. You also won't have to worry about it getting out of hand and preventing you from starting class.

Good luck.