How do you open a class?

Discussion in 'Substitute Teachers' started by TNSub, Jan 28, 2015.

  1. TNSub

    TNSub Rookie

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    Jan 28, 2015

    Alright, so one of the major issues Sub's face is starting the class and gaining respect right from the bat.

    Now, personally, with most High School classes (and even many Middles), the classes start out chaotic, to the point that the students cannot hear me even with using a microphone to amplify my voice.

    This start is not my fault in any circumstance. The deal is that in my district, there is a 5-minute break between each classes, and each teacher lets the students "go wild" during this break - the students can be as loud as they want, there's really no big rules during this time. That's the foundation across the school system and I'm not the person who's going to change that by starting a School System Revolution.

    Now, as a Sub, I'm required to actually do "Hall Duty" during this break, I'm not even supposed to sit in the class the entire time, but I pop in and out anyway just to keep an eye on things.

    So when the bell rings, the students are still hollering to the top of their lungs and out of their seats. They tend to have the "get seated" thing down pat with little issue, but the extremely loud talking and refusal to calm down is the problem. I literally have to completely change the focus from free-reign break to all focus on the teacher.

    Now, anyone who says this isn't an issue, they either only teach AP and Honors classes (which usually become silent because these students tend to have very strict families), or they're lying. That's the deal.

    So how do you calm a class, when you're the Sub who's meeting the class for the first time, not knowing any names, and not knowing any signals or personality styles the real teacher uses to calm the class. What if this class responds to stern direction? What if it responds to happy kitties and beautiful butterflies? You just don't know.

    In my district, there's a big focus on 100% positivity and no negative or stern attitudes in the classroom, but watching other teachers, the teacher do have to get extremely stern to calm a class of 35, low-income family students whom half are failing the class and simply don't care. How am I expected to do any better.

    I've done silent gestures (holding my hand up and waiting for respect), calm warnings, trying to go around and calm the students down one-on-one, using bells, whistles, or ringers, counting down from one-two-three, and finally, if nothing works, I announce to the class that I'm writing up every student I see on the attendance list until I'm able to conduct class.

    What's your method? Is there really any truth to the whole "only positivity" method, or do you think that this is more of a method that is only effective once a teacher has a long-standing relationship with their class?
     
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  3. vickilyn

    vickilyn Phenom

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    Jan 28, 2015

    How long have you been subbing? Just curious.
     
  4. bbelton60

    bbelton60 Rookie

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    Jan 28, 2015

    I wait until they're all quiet and if there's still a student or two talking I tell them just to hold on a minute and they'll be able to socialize all they want afterward. Just do it with a smile and thank them when they all become quiet. I've never been negative during this time or scolded them as a class (even though I've wanted to a few times).

    I usually say good morning/afternoon and tell them what the teacher left me with, and write it down on the board, along with my name.

    Then I tell them if they need any help to feel free to ask and that I'm going to collect it at the end of the period (and at the end of the period I tell them to just hold onto their work and turn it in to the regular teacher tomorrow). I've never had a problem and never had any students "disrespect" me that didn't already disrespect all their teachers to begin with.

    That's just me though. Maybe it's cause I'm a young and tall male. If you find another method that keeps students respectful, safe and somewhat on task, I wouldn't discourage you from using it. But my biggest piece of advice would be to avoid negativity at all costs.
     
  5. miss-m

    miss-m Cohort

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    Jan 28, 2015

    Usually I just say, "Alright -- I'm going to take attendance so please get quiet and have a seat" loud enough that at least the ones in front can hear me, and then wait for everyone to comply. Once I start calling names for attendance it gets a lot quieter, and then when I'm done I introduce myself really quickly and tell them what they're doing, then ask that they work quietly (though I'm usually ok with some quiet chit-chat as long as they're mostly on task).
    I've only really had an issue with one secondary class, and even that was mostly one student (he was being inappropriate and spent a few minutes locked in the hall... I was REALLY mad, and I don't get mad easily. He was much better behaved after that though, so it worked.)

    Also, perfecting a "teacher voice" can help a lot. There's a specific way you can talk where your voice carries and shows you're serious but doesn't require yelling. It can be hard to find the right tone (at least it was for me, because I'm usually quieter and not very serious), but once you get it that is a life saver.
     
  6. misswteaches

    misswteaches Companion

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    Feb 1, 2015

    This is a great question, and as a new sub I'm looking for suggestions too. I sub K-8. In elementary I often use little phrases (1, 2, 3, eyes on me; snap, crackle, pop, everybody stop; etc.) but the method below is what I use in middle school as well as some elementary classes.
    What I have found to work for me is to say (loudly) "When it's quiet I can ____"...take attendance, tell you what we're doing, get started, move on, whatever. Then I stand with a smile (usually!) and let my eyes travel around the room, landing wherever noise is coming from until the students feel my laser eyes (LOL) and stop talking. Sometimes it feels like eternity, but it's never more than a minute for everyone to notice and start whispering, "Guys, she's trying to talk!" Then I thank them and start speaking in a normal tone. If they get noisy I stop mid-sentence and stare at them with a face of disbelief/disappointment/horror until they are quiet again.
    I am 5'2", female, and young. My voice is not loud. Using this approach has worked well for me because I only have to raise my voice once, then I let my silence and my eye contact do the rest of the work. During my student teaching, I was told over and over not to start teaching until EVERY student was listening. I think this is a good piece of advice. Don't even try to start until you have attention.
     
  7. vickilyn

    vickilyn Phenom

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    Feb 1, 2015

    First, if you have the experienced mother look, like "really?", it will take you far. I too stand at the front of the class, smiling, but with a note pad. Pick your main troublemakers, or least attentive, and walk up to them and call them by any name in the class, and say, that's right, correct? They will almost always give you their name, or the person who truly belongs to the name will say "I'm Billy, that's Sam!" Thank Billy, and quietly write Sam's name on the pad, with one tally mark, moving on to another student, maybe even a quiet one, who will probably answer truthfully, then on to another loud or troublesome student, repeating the question and noting the answer. The ones that tell the truth, get a little star on the pad, the ones determined to try to stump the sub get the tally mark. Usually four kids is all it takes for curiosity to get the best of them. They will want to know what you are doing, why stars and tallies. Simply reply that you are required to take attendance and finish calling out the names. Someone always goes back to the marks on the pad. I tell them, pleasantly, that it is never a good thing for the sub to learn your name by adding a tally mark, since that is the name that goes on the report to the teacher at the end of the day. Once that has been shared, the other students will make sure that you have the right names, because they don't want to be on the report by mistake. This works well for K-8. HS, use the same mom face, a smile, but don't engage in small talk. I usually pick the loudest student in the room to pleasantly stare at. The others will notice, and start to look at the same student (or group) and they will help you by telling them to stop, quietly, in hushed tones or hand gestures. In HS, teens hate to be noticed too much - they are pack creatures. When the pack is staring them down, they normally fall in line. I would recommend against getting into a power struggle, I would not lock them out of the room - if they leave the building, your goose is cooked, because they are no longer in supervision and you created the breach. In bigger schools, there may be a VP the students don't want to cross. Try to know who that is and just quietly phone from the room and let them know that "Johnny" is wanting to speak to them in room xxx. Do not yell, don't pout, and just move on with their directions. In HS, you seldom get to do meaningful instruction, so they just need to be accounted for and the assignments explained and given out.

    The stop and stare works anytime you want a student's eyes back on you. The mom face and tone of voice that commands respect will take you far. If you have kids of your own, but you are always finding they aren't listening to you, then it is a skill to learn. Sometimes kids are predictable - you can turn and catch them just as they are starting to do something they shouldn't. A cocked eyebrow, a "Really?", and then a return to what you were doing will get you the reputation of having eyes in the back of your head. I have excellent hearing, so I have often been able to not miss a stride and answer a question that a student asked someone in the room before that student could answer. It's all about building street credibility, and I earned mine by outsmarting them, but not belittling them in the process. I highly recommend learning names, using the names as you pass them in the halls, or during lunch or recess. It is harder to be cruel or insulting to someone who seems to genuinely like and know you.

    By the way - I do exactly the same things in a rowdy class as a full time teacher. The one advantage I have now, of course, is that I know names, but I work with ED students who behave like those same kids I used to sub. There is a time for little things that endear - I offer Altoids to my students, since we are allowed. That isn't a luxury that you get so much in public schools. I also try to keep soft tissues in my room/bag this time of year, hand sanitizer for the sneeze or cough, and some hand lotion. It is surprising how human that makes you to these students. I also keep sharpened pencils with me at all times, highlighters, and the eraser caps. These are dirt cheap items, but they are often greatly appreciated. Most of the time they find their way back to me, but sometimes the student needs it more than I do, and I tell them consider it their lucky day. I carried a canvas bag from room to room as a sub, and I still do. I always try to have something extra - crosswords, word puzzles, riddles, puns, and the list could go on, that I could share if the work was completed and there was time to spare. In the lower grades, I always had at least two picture or short chapter books that I could read aloud if the work was done. I enjoyed those things as much as the students. Teaching should have some joy in it.

    Good luck.
     
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  8. comaba

    comaba Cohort

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    Feb 1, 2015

    I'm not a sub, but there are times when I'm just tired of waiting for quiet, or using one of my tried-and-trues, and I want it quiet NOW. That's when I say, "YO" loudly. For some reason, that gets everyone's attention. (I know the students find it very odd that I say that.:D Maybe that's the secret!)
     
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  9. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    Feb 7, 2015

    Wait until the class is quiet, before you start saying anything. That's a golden rule of sub teaching.
     
  10. Louisianasub

    Louisianasub New Member

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    Feb 12, 2015

    I've been subbing since October/I'm desperate to find out how to get the morning started on the best foodting/get them settled?
     
  11. ms.irene

    ms.irene Devotee

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    Feb 12, 2015

    Lynette, your post is gold. I'm favoriting for the next time I'm called on to sub. Sounds like you were the kind of sub I would like to be able to call and count on!
     
  12. vickilyn

    vickilyn Phenom

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    Feb 12, 2015

    Awww - you just went and made my day. :wub: I had an "interesting" day, so thank you for the support. :hugs:
     
  13. TNSub

    TNSub Rookie

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    Feb 13, 2015

    Well, the thing about my district, there's so many low-income families that are sue-happy that we're not allowed to bring in any forms of reward for the class - no candy, no toys, no music to settle them down, nothing. It's bare bones.

    I've been subbing for about 2 years, and I've found that depending on the school and the administration, I get different results. I've been to one school where all the classes become silent with one small warning or a hand in the air.

    I've been to others where the students get caught bringing guns. It's a battle just to take roll. I like to point out that not all Subs experience such schools. Not all Subs live in the intercity or in such extreme areas.

    Again, I don't generally have any problems with classes where there's a general standard... AP Classes, Honors Classes, even classes that are just a bit more advanced. But the lowest work ethic of the low? I haven't found a technique beyond write-ups and 5-minute behavior speeches that work. These students are beyond challenging.

    Here's a situation from today:

    I was starting my class, and there was a lot of misbehavior even though I had already written my rules on the board, and greeted the class with a loud, clear, friendly greeting, ready to get things on track. I had a lot of issues to deal with, but four students had sat at a single table at the back of the room where they weren't supposed to. I tried to let it go at first because the teacher didn't have a seating chart and her seating was beyond weird anyway (literally having students sit where their shoulders are touching side-by-side).

    I walk to the back of the class, after I've controlled most of the class by passing out the quiz and reminding them the rules of the quiz, where these students are still causing severe problems.

    I say, "Now, for the quiz, I need you guys to move out across the classroom." I try to be nice and add a "Don't worry, once the quiz is done, you can sit here again."

    Suddenly one of the girls says with a severe attitude, "I'm not going to move, my teacher lets me sit here every day." and I say, "I'm sorry, but those are the rules for today." and she says, "Well you're not the real teacher!" and I say "I'm sorry, but I'm the certified substitute teacher and these are my requests."

    She procedures to cuss and fuss, so I the only thing I find I can do is go and get a write-up form, cut the malarky, and fill out the form without saying a word. That type of behavior is beyond silly.

    I just don't know what cuts out that type of behavior in an efficient way. It gets tough.
     
  14. vickilyn

    vickilyn Phenom

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    Feb 14, 2015

    I sense that you believe most subs have the cushy jobs while you are stuck with low work ethic and low SES students. If doing the write up works for you, do it. I work with students who are similar to what you are describing, and I tend to find that making the production of writing them up at the moment of conflict, in front of the other students, is a great way to trigger a show down of wills and escalate the conflict. You can win these, but you might also light the fuse to a powder keg. I would suggest asking administration what steps they recommend, and what actions they prefer for you to take.

    There are rewards that aren't food or music, and they are free or cost you very little to own. I keep the old brain quest games/cards in my bag (there are a ton of them, and will work with the variety of groups you are teaching) and will play in teams to get everyone involved, to use as needed or fill time, crosswords, word searches, interesting articles that can be considered or debated, pun-y sheets (they groan, but love them), puns of the day for the board, and I have even been known to read to HS students from something like The Sign of the Seahorse in science classes - rhyme is not just for little kids. I always did keep these things in my car, ready to be used as needed. Sometimes you are lucky enough to know what would be appropriate before entering the classroom, but I am a huge fan of expecting the unexpected, and that allows me to be highly flexible in my actions and expectations. When I subbed for people who knew of me, that was often considered a strong suit.

    I have been physically threatened and my safety endangered, so I would try to keep the peace as a sub, since any violence directed at me could spill over towards innocent students. If the student wouldn't move, how about noting that to the teacher, as well as any student she appeared to be cheating with, and letting the regular teacher administer the earned consequences? If the teacher gives an F for cheating, that is a consequence that is significant and appropriate. If you have a cell phone, snap a pic for the teacher, then erase if the school allows. Doesn't work in all schools, but a picture is worth a thousand words.
     
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  15. TNSub

    TNSub Rookie

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    Feb 17, 2015

    Well, the reality, as a Sub, I'm given deadlines and expectations to work with - when I enter a class and I'm told to give out a quiz, that there will be no talking, those are the expectations I'm given - and if I allow anything else, the teacher will leave a bad report (both teachers and subs have to file mandatory reports, both good or bad, for every single assignment in the region).

    So when I walk into the classroom, use confidence to greet the class in a friendly manner, and ask everyone to settle down, I'm still not sure how to get things on the right track when there's expectations and deadlines. There's not an unlimited amount of time. Most periods in my region are 40 minutes long. That's a tremendously short amount of time to get things done.

    Usually, I have two techniques. I'll try my best to take roll call, and put marks beside the name of anyone who's continuing to talk, with the color of their shirt, so I'll know for sure who I'm dealing with when things pop up through the period - that way, I can shock the students when I call out direct names for the warnings. The second technique, if there's a quiz or test, I pass them out soon as possible because about %50 of the class will tend to "get" that a test is serious.

    But beyond that, with a specific school I teach at almost every day, there's always about 5 students in each class of 35 that want to cause direct problems with me as a Sub. It's not just whispering and chatting, it's extremely loud, disrespectful behavior that is very obviously on purpose, a lot of behavior that the students do because they want to establish that "they're" the ones in charge of the class, not me.

    When I see that behavior during mandated assignments, I know that I can't just give those students a free pass for the day and let them color or draw instead. 17-year-olds know how to act and I'm not the Sub who's going to get in trouble for allowing free passes for bad behavior. Students of this age would only act worse with alternative assignments, they would see it as a reward, a chance to act up even more.

    When it gets to the point that I've warned a specific student multiple times, my method has been to simply, and politely, fill out a discipline referral form. I've found that it works to a good extent most of the time. I don't enjoy bringing this negativity about in the class, and I'm constantly striving to find a technique that works for this age group, something in the start of the class that lets everyone know I'm in charge and to respect me in a friendly way, but I'm not sure what it could be.

    I open my classes with a friendly atmosphere, a very confident, "I know exactly where I am." atmosphere, and yet because I'm a Sub, I get constant problems from the students. A fellow teacher, no matter how meek she is, can walk into the class and it's immediate silence. In my opinion, it's because that teacher has established authority with discipline, not because she's walking in with Sudoku puzzles in her hand.

    The popular expression is that you're not supposed to fight fire with fire, but in this case, what is the fire, and what is the water? Are discipline referrals really a "bad" thing that only ignites disrespect from the students? Or are they the "water" that puts out these fires and allows students to get a grip on the environment they're in?

    For example, I taught a class where a girl skipped for about 15-20 minutes after I gave her a bathroom pass. The office called me after witnessing her in the halls and told me I "had" to write her up. She was upset and gave sass, but in my future classes with her, she got over it, tried her best to impress me, held many personal conversations with me, and now she's one of my friendliest students... and I never once got irate with her over the first incident. There were simply professional consequences that I had to give.

    If we're not given the authority to discipline the students even in the most professional of ways, what authority do we have as Subs, and what stops a fight from breaking out in class, or what makes the students do their work? The students don't have the advantage of knowing that I'm probably the coolest, most laid back, professional, and respectful Sub they'll ever have. They test the waters just to do it. So what else could I do?

    I mean, if my district wasn't probably one of the most strict Sub districts in the country, I'd pop movies in for every class that acted horrible, just to get them to at least calm down and not destroy things. That's what Subs did when I was in school. For better or worse, it prevented fights, prevented broken desks and torn up textbooks, and prevented anyone from really needing to use the bathroom or act up. In my opinion, a movie is just as good as a coloring book or crossword puzzle, especially if it's more educational. But yet, no one recommends that for some reason.

    Now, I do believe it's different if a Sub is new to the school and new to the students - it's probably going to look strange if a Sub has 15 write-ups on their first day to the school. But I've been at a certain school for more than a year now, and the students know me and know my rules. What's the best technique when it comes to this situation? I simply have to think out of the box, yet think beyond the term "alternative assignments", because I simply haven't seen results with that method.
     
  16. vickilyn

    vickilyn Phenom

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    Feb 17, 2015

    In reading the post, nowhere did I see that you have distinctly talked to admin about the exact steps that they want you to take. Furthermore, if a student doesn't do the work assigned, and you documented that, then the F that the classroom teacher dispenses will probably have more significance than a write up. Hey, that's my opinion, and I have been on both sides of this fence - sub and classroom teacher. As I stated before, if a write up works for you, go with it.

    You are questioning the plight of all subs, and it is an age old tale full of sorrow and dismay. You hand out the work, you give directions, and if more than half can follow that and turn in the work or exam, then the teacher will figure out the rest, once armed with your report. As for the girl skipping for 15 minutes - after 5 minutes I would have been on the phone to the office to report her absence. Did she abuse you as a sub? Yes. Did you let her? Probably. You responded as admin instructed, so job finished.

    The bag of tricks that I have is not to take the place of the teacher's lesson plans, but to reward those students when they accomplished what the teacher set forth as the goals and objectives, allowing them the time to do something that is more fun. Do students remember who can give a little enjoyment if less time is spent in conflict? I believe so. That is my belief, but it doesn't have to be yours. As far as movies, that was never my call as a sub - if that is what the teacher left, then it became my job. Classroom teachers leave the work. Subs work hard to get that work done. Sometimes those two activities don't meet in the middle. As far as alternative assignments, I don't believe that I ever advocated not doing what the teacher left. However, I did always try to be prepared for the lessons that were not long enough for the period. Coloring books have never been my style, and I can assure you that crosswords and word searches were always academically aligned.

    If you are going to write up the referral in class, why not write it up on the second request, or as soon as the student shows no intention of doing the work after the first request? These guys who are disrupting and challenging you for authority are not going to become more compliant after the fifth or tenth time you ask them to comply. Save the frustration, write them up, and if that should make a difference, you can let them earn the write up back, to toss if they like. Or, you can simply turn them all in, no matter what the outcome.

    If you have been doing things this way for a year and still don't feel like you have the respect and authority you feel you deserve, you really should be asking someone who has observed you in the classroom. Perhaps they will be able to give some solid pointers that will really help. Good luck.
     
  17. anna9868

    anna9868 Cohort

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    Feb 20, 2015

    Lynett, how long have you subbed before becoming a regular teacher?

    I love your approach, I use kind of similar approach, usually shlep quite a few interesting things with me as a fillers. I wish I could use them as rewards, but I often find it hard to find the time or know how much time would the work that teachers leave me take.
    I only sub in elementary schools, and I find that most teachers give SOOO much work that I don't have the opportunity to use my games/puzzles often.

    I also find that kids these days are often not-so-excited about games. I remember subbing in 5th or 6th and when we had a free time I suggested I have a fun game to play (4 corners or similar), they chose playing on computers/phones instead.
     
  18. vickilyn

    vickilyn Phenom

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    Feb 20, 2015

    I subbed for 10 years. I love Brain Quest, and still have them, because it is quick, academic, and the trivia format reminds them of Jeopardy. If they have access to computers and phones, set up a challenge to find the best pun, the stupidest riddle, their own trivia to stump the class, and so on. I did read things like Sign of the Seahorse to my science kids from 4th on up through HS. There are things to do, and I will see what pops into my mind later in the day, with more time. Have a great day!
     
  19. anna9868

    anna9868 Cohort

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    Feb 20, 2015

    Wow, 10 years, that's a long time!
    Lynettstoy, may I ask why you subbed for that long? Was it because you liked it or couldn't find a good position?

    It's my 6th year of subbing, and I probably will not be looking for a regular job for another 3-4 years. I wonder if they interviewers would believe me when I tell them I subbed for a while because I was ok with substituting!
     
  20. vickilyn

    vickilyn Phenom

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    Feb 20, 2015

    I loved it, it worked with family needs. Later, it became necessary to become a breadwinner with benefits, so different scenario. During the subbing years I was a caregiver for a family member with Alzheimer's. I do believe this flexibility is one of the wonders of teaching.

    I made some powerful friends and advocates over those subbing years, and probably the support and recommendation from a teacher who had advanced to superintendent during my years in that district stood me in great stead when the full time job hunt started. I have several strong LOR's, but none is more thoughtful or moving than the one from that individual. I guess it isn't about the length of time you sub, but more about what you are taking away from those years that truly matters. I simply described it as the scenic route to my changing destination, which has provided infinite possibilities and exposure to numerous teaching styles and rationales. Nothing I ever learned was wasted, and if that isn't the very definition of a lifelong learner, then I don't know what is. Education is a journey that we continue, not one point in time that will forever define us. My students are always surprised to find that I am always enrolled in some course - they think I should be "done" with learning. What the smartest of them realizes, however, is that if I am not growing I am slowly dying on the vine. SO not my style! I hope to be a practicing, growing student right up to the day I die, otherwise I will die with many regrets.

    Learn, grow, share, and then learn some more - life is too short to just coast. ;)
     
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  21. a7410333

    a7410333 Rookie

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    Mar 14, 2015

    I subbed for a while. Mostly in low-income schools. I'm a male, and I really don't care for students not listening to what I have to say so I start with something simple like:

    "Hi, my name is Mr. A. This can be an easy day or a hard day. Let's make it easy, ok? Here's what we are doing today. If you follow my directions we'll get along, if not I'll kick you out. Simple as that."

    The rest of the time, I'm nice, positive, upbeat. I randomly give out starbursts to students who are doing their work. I just let them know that I'll kick them out, and I'm not trying to get into power struggles.

    Always had great success with this, and rarely had to kick students out (though I would if I needed to.)

    The students respected this upfrontness and even so called difficult classes at tough schools were pretty easy with this approach.
     

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