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Tips for classroom management for subs

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8 months ago
I'm a former teacher who is now a substitute. I recently had a rough day, so I wanted to ask for advice on how to handle students who become confrontational or refuse to work.

In this case (in a middle school) the teacher had given me little information about classroom polcies besides calling security if the students got out of hand. One student refused to do her work, saying "I don't do work for subs". Another in a later class told me the teacher lets them talk and listen to music while they read. I told them that they needed to read silently, but they refused. Most of the schools in this district also have a no phones policy, though the teacher hadn't specified what her policy was. When a student in this class was on his phone, I confiscated it and put it at the front of the room saying he could have it back at the end of the class. This then caused another student to claim I was breaking the law by taking someone's property.

Any tips on how to deal with students like these besides leaving a note for the teacher? I'd like to be able to handle it right away so that other students can remain on task and focused.
8 months ago
As a middle school teacher, I understand the difficulties of managing challenging students. Before becoming a full-time teacher, I substituted in some "rough" schools in Baltimore. My best advice is to not be confrontational with students who refuse to do work (unless you are going to be a long-term sub). Phrase your correction in a way that lets the student know what was expected of them from their teacher and that yes, it would be your choice not to do the work, but you would be chosing to also receive the consequence of the bad grade when your teacher comes back. Reminding them it's their choice lets the student think they have control. Ultimately the attention and control is what the challenging student is most likely seeking.

Last updated: 8 months ago

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8 months ago
If you have enough advanced notice many schools post the student handbook on the school website where you could review key policies like phone use. Asking the school staff when you check-in would be another option.

Your question should be a reminder to those in the classroom on a daily basis to include such information in their "sub folder". When it's used daily we often forget the person covering for us may not know.

When I was subbing I often let the classes know that I would be following the instructions left by their teacher, but may do some things differently because I am not their teacher. Sharing what your expectations are for the day/class can also be helpful. Do your best to avoid power struggles as this is what students will try to do especially with a sub. Remind them their choices have consequences. Those can be positive or negative. If they choose to work the consequence is in the form of a reward because the work is done or maybe less homework. If they choose to not work consequence is negative as the work still has to be done and a call to security or whatever the school policy is.

Whatever you do stand your ground. Let them know you won't be intimidated or pushed around by their poor choices or behavior. The expectation is that the plans left by the teacher are to be completed.
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