Tips For Substitute Teachers

Substitute teachers! I know you’re out there and researching how to make the best of your time in this job. I’ve been subbing on and off for three years now and am here to share some of my tips with you. 

Bring your own classroom management strategy and make it positive. Stickers (yes, even for high school kids) can be a huge tool. 

Let the kids tell you something about themselves, it puts them at ease and builds a great bond. 

Tell the class stories about yourself, let them see the personal side of you too. 

If time allows, show them some of your cool hobbies or talents, like how to solve a Rubix cube. If you need to find ways to fill time, teach them your hobby.

Arrive early to read lesson plans and become familiar with the classroom and school. 

Greet kids at the door.

Know the newest technology for the age groups. Video games, social media, etc. and try to find ways to use it in your lesson.  It helps connect with kids. 

If you find a teacher you particularly liked subbing for, leave your contact info and availability so they can contact you if they need another sub. Teachers would rather leave their students with someone they have gotten to know in the past than with a brand new sub who doesn’t know them yet. 

Relax. You’ve got this. 

Good luck substitute teaching! It’s so much fun! 

What tips do you have for substitute teachers? 

Kids Become What You Tell Them They Are

I cannot tell you how many sub jobs I’ve walked into where the students blatantly say, “We are a bad class, it’s okay if you get frustrated with us, we’re the worst class in the whole school.” 

This is the most heartbreaking thing to hear come out of these students’ mouths. 

Kids become what you tell them they are. 

If you’re telling them how chatty, disruptive, and disrespectful they are, these attributes will remain on their mind and will not go away. 

If you tell them how respectful, helpful, and kind they are, I promise you they will live up to this standard you have set. I know, because I witnessed it. 

I did a long-term substitute teaching job in a first-grade classroom. Right away I had teachers saying under their breath to me, “Oh. You have that class? Good luck, they are the worst class in the whole school.” With this being my first real teaching job outside of graduating, it did not reassure me in any way. 

After observing this class a few times before I took over full time, I saw exactly what they meant. They were disrespectful, there was always side talking, someone was always out of their seat, and expectations were never met. The students even talked about how bad of a class they were because they were hearing it from teachers across the whole school. They believed it. I was grateful that I had time to witness this and process what was going on before my first day because I went in with a game plan that I truly believe helped shape our 8 weeks together. 

“Class, today is our first day together and we need to start it with the most important things first. Everyone come gather at the rug, I have some news for you.” 

They quickly took their place at the rug, everyone intrigued by what I was about to tell them. 

“Now, we all know your teacher is gone to have her baby for the next few weeks and I am here to teach you while she is gone. BUT, I want to tell you about the conversation your principal had with me when he called to ask if I would teach your class. Do you know what he told me?” 

“Yeah, that our class SUCKS.” A student yelled out. 

There it was. Not even five minutes into the day and they were already down on themselves for having the worst behavior.

I was determined to fix it. 

“No, actually, he said the opposite. He told me how kind, how respectful, and how fun you all are. He told me this classroom is a happy space and that I would be the luckiest teacher in the world to spend a few months with you.” 

Looks of shock covered their faces. I just went against everything they were ever told, who were they supposed to believe now? I continued to go on and on about how excellent of a class they were and how much potential they had. After a while, a little, shy voice popped up and said, “One lunch lady said we are a very nice class, so maybe it’s true.” 

A small smile grew on my face because it was working. Slowly, they would believe me. I knew it. 

It took time, lots of time. And it took a lot of reminding as well. I would walk them into P.E. or music and say out loud to the specialty teacher, “Have you met this class yet? They are the BEST class in the whole entire school. They are so respectful, so responsible, and are always ready to learn. They will be so good for you today!” 

I was shot a lot of confused looks at first, but it was incredibly helpful for my students to witness me talk so highly of them in front of other adults. It also became beneficial for other adults as well. As we would walk the halls of the school they would pass by my quietly lined up class and say, “Wow! Look how respectful these students are as they walk these halls! They are the best class!” 

I focused on their good behaviors and those shone through. 

I told them over and over how helpful, kind, and respectful they were and they started to not only believe it but act that way as well. 

I showed other teachers in the school just how great my class could be. 

A once rowdy, disrespectful class became an example to others throughout the school. 

Every single class and student out there has the potential to be amazing if you foster it and allow it. Look for the good and you’ll find more and more of it every single day. 

What’s The Deal With Puppets In The Classroom?

Puppets have a special place in the classroom of littles. Using a puppet in teaching may feel like another item to worry about or check off your ever-growing to-do list, however, when used correctly, they can be powerful to students. It’s as if you have a second teacher in the classroom, a separate being with separate ideas is what they see it as. Puppets to students are magical, even when they are old enough to know better of what they are and how they work, their little brains work in the way that they look at that inanimate object as an animate object with its own thoughts and feelings, even if they are all indirectly coming from you as the puppeteer. 

Tips for using a puppet in the classroom: 

  • Use him as an example of good behaviors you want students to model.
  • Use him as an example of common problems in the classroom such as trouble with a math problem. Later, when students run into the same problem, a great reminder for them would be how the puppet solved the problem. 
  • Use him as a new storyteller in the classroom. 
  • Let the puppet introduce new topics such as persuasive writing or reading non-fiction. 
  • Let the students use the puppet as a writing audience. 
  • Turn it into an art project and allow the students to create their own puppets. 

Puppets have a big place in the classroom, whether he or she becomes a part of the classroom, or they are simply used in dramatic play for storytelling. The best part of puppets is that they can be as complicated and expensive as your limits allow, but also as simple as a sock with buttons glued on. They don’t care about the complexity of it, they just care about the magic behind it.

Do you use puppets in the classroom? What benefits do you see? 

My Favorite Positive Reinforcement Strategies In The Classroom

You can read countless research studies on a positive environment and how using these positive reinforcement strategies can help you see better behavior in kids, spouses, pets, co-workers and more. When it comes down to it, those who are properly praised for a task will statistically try harder and do better the next time it is expected of them. 

Creating a positive classroom culture starts with a simple positive comment toward your students. Here are a few of my favorite positive reinforcement ideas I came up with while teaching. 

A cheerio or other cereal placed on the desks of students who are following directions. 

Tally points on the board for groups that were working together or following directions, that ended up amounting to no reward other than “winning” against other groups. 

Little stickers for students showing correct behaviors. 

High-fives to those following directions. Oprah style worked best for us- “Johnny gets a high-five, Amelia gets a high-five, Andrew gets a high-five! Awesome job on following directions!” It’s amazing what kids will do for a simple high-five and a little public praise. 

Simple and subtle compliments to students working hard. 

We put a money economy system in place with coins. It’s fun to see the hard work first graders will put into cleaning up the floor at the end of the day when a plastic nickel is on the line. 

My favorite way by far was telling the class every single day what an amazing group of students they are. They become what you tell them they are- So tell them they are great and eventually they are going to believe you. I have more thoughts on this later, stayed tuned for another blog post regarding this. 

Praising positive behaviors yields productive results. It has been researched, it’s science. And on top of that, I’ve witnessed first-hand how well it works, not only with my students, but my children, and even, MY DOG. 

How have you made your classroom a positive place? 

What Substitute Teachers Wish Teachers Knew

Recently I wrote an open note to teachers from their subs. I’ve spent multiple school years substitute teaching in classrooms when full-time teaching wasn’t a possibility for me. After being in so many classrooms with vastly different situations each time, here are my best tips to teachers from their subs on how we can have a successful day with a few extra resources. 

  • Please don’t ever feel like you’re leaving too much information. We can be walking into a completely new school that day so assuming we know nothing is the best protocol. 
  • Giving us information on students is extremely helpful. Who might need extra help, who would be extra help, who to trust to run the classroom keys back down to the front office. Even certain behaviors to look out for and the best way to handle them. 
  • Knowing the attention-getters you use for your class can be a big tool for us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in front of a classroom singing out, “class, class” only to get weird stares from half the kids and louder talking from the other half. Leave us with at least one to use. 
  • Leave us with the name and directions to the classroom of one teacher close by that can help in a time of crisis. This can be something as small as turning on the projector, or as big as locking the classroom during a lockdown.   
  • We thrive on your lesson plans. I had a good friend tell me an awful story about a week-long sub job in a special ed classroom with no lesson plans. She had to come up with something to do every day that week with these students, in which she had no previous training on how to teach them, or what they are learning. In some states, a teaching degree or license is not required, so lesson plans are crucial. 
  • The classrooms I had the most success in had a binder with labeled maps, procedures, a class list, the lesson plans for the day. Everything we need to know right there, and something the teacher had to make once and only replace lesson plans as needed.  

We want to have a successful day teaching your students, and the more information we have to do this, the better! I have never walked into a classroom and thought the teacher left me with too much. Even if there was material that was never used it still helped me feel prepared.

Are you a substitute teacher? What other tips do you have? 
Are you a teacher? What tips do you have for subs? 

My Best Field Trip Tips

Field trips season is coming this spring! Nothing causes kids more excitement and teachers more anxiety than a day outside of school in unfamiliar territory. Field trips can be so nerve-wracking because it takes planning, permission slips, parent volunteer sign-ups, and more. 

I spent two months in a 4th-grade classroom during my time student teaching, and during that time we as a 4th-grade team went on SIX different field trips! In my next block of student teaching, I was in a 2nd-grade classroom where we went on two field trips in two months. In my first long-term substitute teaching job after graduation, the first-grade team I was working with brought the kids on a field trip to the aquarium. All within the same school year, I was able to experience TEN field trips. 

Ten field trips in nine months with three different age groups gave me a lot of experience that I am here to share with you now! 

  • Prep the students beforehand- Don’t leave them with uncertainty, walk them through what will happen, how it will happen, and how you expect it to happen. Tell them how to enter the bus, how to sit on the bus, how to handle lunchtime, how to find you if they need you, and more. Set CLEAR expectations and repeat them again and again. 
Exploring and learning about The Great Salt Lake by getting into it!
  • Give your students examples and stories of why your expectations are set the way they are. The first field trip I went on with my 4th-grade class, their teacher told them a story of how she lost a student on a field trip because the student wasn’t following instructions and she wasn’t paying close enough attention. She made them a promise that she would pay extra attention to every single one of them and do her part if they did their part by adhering to expectations. Adding a personal experience helped those students realize just how important paying attention and following procedures really was. 
  • Count your students. Then Count again. And again. Always be counting the students.
  • Use the buddy system. It is used often and is somewhat obvious for teachers, and for good reason, it works! 
Writing in their field trip journals
  • Have your students keep a field trip journal to record their learning. Give them prompts during breaks to write about what they are seeing, learning, and doing.
  • Parents. You most likely have at least one parent in your classroom that is willing to step up and to help you with what you need. Utilize these parents as chaperones, organizers, and more! Use them as often as possible. 
  • Take pictures. If possible, take pictures of your students for parents to see and to show your students later as well. These memories are priceless and everyone will appreciate them later. 
  • HAVE FUN. There is no lie a certain level of stress accompanies any given field trip. But when it comes down to it, you’ve done the planning, you’ve prepped the kids, and now it’s time to enjoy the field trip and watch the students learn and grow in a new environment. 
Handcarts and pioneers are a deep part of Utah’s state history. Field trip at the American West Heritage Center in Wellsville, Utah.
Touring Utah State University’s campus

Field trips can be incredibly rewarding if they are done correctly. Students can learn and grow outside of the classroom and it can give them the hands-on experience they need to understand how the world works around them. Gone are the days of passive learning where we sit in desks and copy notes. Now is the time for active learning and putting understanding into the hands of the students. 

What are your best field trip tips that you would add to this list? 

The Conclusion Of My MBTI Research: My Learning Summarized

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

In the last few months, I have analyzed all 16 Meyers Briggs personality types. Last week I wrote my 16th post in the series, the final personality type explained. Seeing my research come to an end was sad for me because I’ve dedicated so much time and interest in the subject. A few takeaways I ended  with were this: 

Figuring out student’s personality types can be hard and time-consuming, but also incredibly awarding if you’re willing to put in the work. 

You don’t necessarily need to know their MBTI personality type to know them better. Start with identifying introverts and extroverts and using that information to guide your teaching. Move on to identifying sensing versus intuitive students and then use that as well. 

Students can be aware of MBTI types as well to help them interact with other teachers and peers. 

When comparing personality types, they can be very similar and vastly different at the same time. 

There are not necessarily pros and cons to a personality type, just differences in how we think and who we are. 

Jane Kise has done extensive research on MBTI in the classroom. If I cannot convince you how beneficial is it, maybe she can with her TedTalk. Notice that she doesn’t find conclusive evidence by the majority of students acting and reacting in certain ways, but because every single student of the same personality type has the same actions. 

In the future, look for a post with links to each of the personality types to learn more about how to use your knowledge of MBTI in the classroom. Until then, share with me! How has your knowledge of MBTI helped you in your classroom? 

featured image: thedailybeast.com