Derek has a Masters of Science degree in Teaching, Learning & Curriculum.
What Is Classroom Management?
Imagine a classroom in which every student is always on task, follows the rules, and is respectful to others. This classroom is one in which all students are able to learn and participate because they feel safe and taken care of. The only way a classroom can ever run like this is with a good classroom management system. Classroom management is the process of regulating and maintaining student behavior.
As a substitute teacher, classroom management is often one of the more difficult aspects of the job. Because you are meeting new students every day, you don't have the benefit of knowing their personalities and temperaments. Therefore, it is helpful to enter each classroom with a toolbox of management strategies that can be adjusted to fit the students. This lesson will detail several strategies you can use to make each day go more smoothly for you and the students.
Follow the Management Plan
Often, teachers will already have a classroom management plan in place. Therefore, one of the best things you can do is find out about and follow that plan. Doing this has several advantages over using your own methods. First, the students are used to the different rules, rewards, and consequences in place and are therefore more likely to respond to the style of management. Instead of setting your own rewards and consequences, using the teacher's methods will maintain regularity and lead to less disruption.
Second, you can more easily communicate behavior issues with the regular classroom teacher if you follow his or her management plan. You can tell the teacher (in your note) exactly how you responded to behavior and how the student responded to you. Instead of having to detail your own strategies, you can simply tell the teacher that you used the set system of consequences and rewards.
Finally, following the already established management plan makes it easier for you to manage behavior. By using a system students are already used to, you are less likely to have dramatic behavior issues because the students know that you understand how their teacher runs the room. If the teacher's plan is successful, students should respond to it, even if the teacher is not in the room.
As you probably know, there are often times you will enter a classroom and be given little to no information about how the teacher regularly manages student behavior. While this may be frustrating, it does not mean that you are going to have a tough day ahead of you. Without knowing the management plan already in place, you can fall back on some tried and true strategies that should work with almost every classroom.
The first of these is positive reinforcement. Students are more likely to act out when a substitute is in the room, so rewarding any good behavior you see is a useful way to let the other students know your expectations. There are many different ways you can reward good behavior. How you choose to do so depends on your own preferences and the climate of the school.
Usually, simply keeping a running list of which students are being helpful and following the rules is a great way to reinforce good behavior. Let students know at the beginning of the day that you will be leaving names for the teacher of the students who were making good choices and being responsible. You can even keep the list on the board, so students can see their names there and be consistently reminded that they are making good choices.
However, you may also want to use tangible rewards, such as a treat or a small toy. Some substitutes keep some candy or toys in their bags that they take to each school and use these as tools for positive reinforcement. Just be sure to know of any student allergies or school policies before using this method of positive reinforcement.
Seek Help from Other Teachers
Teaching is a collaborative effort. Just because you are a substitute and may not know the other teachers in the building does not mean that you are not part of that team. Often, teachers in the same hallway or grade as the classroom you are in will be happy to help if any problems arise. Do not hesitate to use this help! Seeking help does not mean that you don't know how to handle a classroom. It simply means that you are using the tools at your disposal.
For example, other teachers might be aware of behavioral concerns in your particular classroom. Talking briefly with the teachers before the day starts can help you get this information. They may also offer to take poorly behaved students out of the room for you (though usually only in extreme cases). Additionally, they might have suggestions for how to handle student behavior or can tell you how the classroom teacher usually manages his or her classroom. Other teachers are your greatest asset as a substitute!
Classroom management, or the process of regulating and maintaining student behavior, can often be a challenge for substitute teachers. However, by having some strategies to use, you can keep any classroom running as it usually would, with little disruption. By following the classroom teacher's management plan, using plenty of positive reinforcement, and talking with and getting help from other teachers, you can be a successful classroom manager.
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