Managing a Classroom With Grace
I always want to be careful when writing about classroom management. Yes, I am well aware of the fact that is probably the number one challenge facing new subs, but I also know that in my search for tools and techniques to manage my classrooms no one systems seemed to work for me. Instead, the techniques I use now are an amalgamation of many different skills I have either seen first hand or read about. For that reason, I suggest that new subs expose themselves to as many different systems and tools as they can, keeping the things that work for them and fit with their personality, and discarding the rest.
With that caveat in mind, please allow me to offer a few of my personal favorites:
Coach's Whistle: One week I was asked to fill in for a PE teacher and the night before I went to the store to buy a coach's whistle. I was truly surprised the next day to see how effectively it got student's attention. I decided to carry it with me every day to use as needed. “Oh,” you complain, “that seems so harsh for a small classroom” and you would be right. But I have found I seldom need it. 98% of the time, just putting it to my lips gets the job done. On the two times in a hundred that doesn't do the trick, a very brief soft blast does the trick without damaging any eardrums.
Stopwatch: There is a very subtle but powerful difference between telling students they have twenty minutes to complete a ten question worksheet, and telling them they have two minutes to answer the first question. Breaking bigger tasks into manageable chunks with short deadlines helps students bring their short attention spans to order.
Clipboard: Clipboards imply authority. Don't ask me why, but they do. I usually have a seating chart on mine. If the teacher doesn't give me one, I make my own. That way as I walk around, I can call on kids by name. They find this remarkable for someone who has only been in their class for a few minutes, further endowing me with mystical powers.
Magic Tricks: You would be amazed at how much you can get an elementary student to do if you show them a magic trick and then promise to teach them how to do it themselves when their work is completed. The thought of them being able to amazed their friends with there skills of prestidigitation is enough to motivate them to new levels of diligence.
Riddles: One of the most important things you can do to maintain classroom order is to get students on task as early as possible. Therefore, if the teacher hasn't left any bell work (a short assignment to be done before the bell rings) and I can't think of one myself from the teaching material, I write a riddle or word puzzle on the board for students to try to figure out until attendance it taken. (Check out “BrainFood” for some possible suggestions.)
A few other elements of good classroom management are: 1) treat everyone, even the janitors, with respect, 2) always be fair, and 3) be willing to poke fun at your own imperfections. Kids love humor and they are attracted to people who are secure in who they are. You may be quaking in your boots at the thought of trying to manage a room full of middle-schoolers, but take it in stride, relax and show you are human. They'll love you for it.
Note: If you have found value in this post, please visit my blog at http://teachingadayatatime.wordpress.com/ And, as always, I'd love to hear about what you have found is most effective for you.
Thanks Lee for this informative post! Even if you are not a substitute, you can get tips from this and maybe help out your own substitute!