Important Lessons Learned From Substitute Teaching

The other day, I had the wild privilege of substitute teaching at a school. Now I am an elementary education major, so this seemed like it wouldn’t be too hard. My professors had warned me on the struggles of subbing, but I thought I would defy all odds and make these students listen. I was wrong. The day I subbed was not one I try to remember often, but constantly think about due to my current career choice. The children were falling all over the place, throwing things, not doing their work and most of all, messing with me. So after my experience, I figured I would help by lending those who are also following in the same career choice a few pointers I learned from my dreadful day.

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1. Don’t let them know if you are weak. The students will not respect you if you let them walk all over you. You need to be understanding and caring, but remember that these students know the classroom more than you. They will try to be outspoken and rambunctious but you must remind them who is boss.

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2. Investigate before getting there. Many professors and mentors will tell you to go into a class with an open mind and try not to believe everything you are told about the students. But sometimes, especially as a sub, knowing your facts about the class can help prepare you for what’s ahead. The key to this is to ask either fellow teachers or the one you are subbing for to give you some pointers on the troublemakers in the class. You want to know the who's who of the class, just so you can be prepared for anything that can go awry.

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3. Read over the plan. When getting ready for a day of subbing, always read over the plan and schedule before entering the classroom, if you can. If not, find some time where you can at least read most of it so you are no flying by the seat of your pants when you are asked a question. Knowing the time schedule ahead of time can also help you familiarize yourself on when the students should start to clean up so they are not late to the next class.

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4. Remember there are other days to come. After my experience subbing, I honestly didn’t think I could handle being a teacher, but something my professor told me was “that’s not your class though.” When I have my own class, we will have a bond, a rhythm of trust between me and my students. If a day of subbing goes badly, just know that is not a great representation of your own classroom because the students you have will know your expectations and consequences much better than a group of unknown students.

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