Alright, y’all. I am officially at that awkward stage in life where I have the Golden Teaching Certificate, but not a place in sight to put it to good use. What does one do in this stage between graduating college and walking into that perfect classroom you can’t wait to call home?? – substitute teach.
I subbed back in June while the kiddos were still in school, but after being thrown into the classroom atmosphere for 40+ hours a week, this time is different! I am less scared going into a random classroom or worried about what the day might bring. I find it more exciting this time around that I do not necessarily know what I will be teaching or who I will be teaching. As long as this girl has her sub plans waiting for her and the students are not arranging a spit-wad militia attack against you – it is smooth sailing.
Things to remember while subbing 💭:
Introduce yourself! I always ask if they’ve heard of CMU. Depending on how old the students are, you may only get a few, but right then and there you are making connections!
It might sound like common sense, but write your name on the board. It alleviates awkward encounters of students forgetting your name or them resulting to talking to other students to ask a question when they can simply ask you!
Set your expectations right off the bat. I go with one rule. RESPECT. I explain that respect to me is not speaking when someone else is. That means me or a peer. I even throw in a joke saying, “If you came up and asked me a question and I turned and talked over you, would that be okay?” That gets a laugh, but probably because I do a weird accent when I act out talking over them. (You gotta do what ya gotta do 💁🏻)
Seek out the kid who will not lie to you – BE THEIR FRIEND. Ask them what the teacher does to get their attention, how do you know when to be quiet, what are class procedures (listening to music, phones, hall passes, etc.) It might sound like you’re trying to utilize the teacher’s pet, but there is at least one student in a classroom who lives above the influence where he/she knows being a help to the teacher isn’t AT ALL a nerd-alert.
Use these same procedures. Showing the students that you know your stuff helps them put their faith in your teaching. It also makes the day’s routine stay generally the same. Students live on routine and any little change could make the whole day go haywire. Keeping consistency is key 🔑
Stick to your word. If you tell students that you need it to be quiet, stick with it. Just because you’re the sub doesn’t mean you do not know how to put your foot down. One time I did this and a student goes, “It isn’t going to work. They talk all the time over our teacher and she tries to get them to be quiet and it never works”. Well if that doesn’t stop you in your tracks, I don’t know what does. My reply? Well, I got the whole class’ attention and asked if they did this with with Mrs. SoAndSo. Of course they said that they did. So I simply said, “Well I am not Mrs. SoAndSo. This might work for her, but it does NOT work for me. When she is in here, that is her prerogative – but not mine” and then I went on with my expectations.
Leave your business card for the teacher and a note of students who were really helpful and those who needed reminders on their behavior. Be specific of what activities students needed help with, where you left off, or activities you accomplished.
HAVE FUN! The last thing students want is a boring sub. Of course you might not be able to fit in Heads Up, Seven Up EVERY time, but at least joking around and being personable is always an option.
Be Like Mary Poppins and Pack a Bag 👜:
Giant teacher bags are your friend so utilize them! Ones with pockets, thick straps, and one that is really deep so you can stuff all our tricks and secrets in it 😏 I was fortunate enough to get one for graduation – let’s just say, Vera and I are are besties.
Stickers! No matter their age, everyone wants a sticker. One time I asked for students to get out a worksheet and only three people paid attention. Once I gave those three students stickers, EVERYONE wanted a sticker. Within 30 seconds, students had the assignment out and ready to learn. These kids were in middle school …
Sticky Notes, pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, Sharpies, mini stapler, paper clips, basically a mini staples store. You shouldn’t rely on using the teacher’s supplies. Bring your own so you aren’t accidentally walking away with his/her favorite pen.
A pack of MadLibs. You’d hate to walk into a class with subplans that only take up half of the hour. Bringing a silly activity can keep kids occupied where chaos may result without.
Business Cards! VistaPrint is amazing. There are so many styles and layouts you can choose to make this scary task of adulting super easy. Leave these behind for your teacher to have for future reference AND so he/she can share with friends!
The best thing about subbing is that you never have to come back. If you have an awful, awful day. All you have to do is count down the hours and never step into that classroom again. It might be the only plus to not having your own classroom. You’re like the fun aunt. You get to help out when needed, but you can just hand them off to the parents when their acting out.
Overall, subbing is a great experience. You’re getting a first-hand look of different classrooms, different routines, and different grade levels! Walking away from every sub experience you make a mental list of what you liked, what you didn’t, or even a grade levels you enjoy teaching more.
The more you know about what makes you successful, the nore
I was very fortunate to be placed with a teacher who enjoys Harry Potter as much as I do – which is saying something. At the start of the school year, we both agreed that we would spread our love for Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley, and Miss. Granger onto the young minds of our students. How we would do so was something we did not realize would be as much fun as it was.
In our sixth grade schedule, we have an hour after lunch that is blocked off for intervention or homeroom time. Three days of the week we use this hour for intervention – students who may need extra help in math or reading are able to receive this help without being taken away from arts/fitness classes or their core content classes. The other two days of the week is reserved for homeroom time. This time can be used for various things – an advisory lesson, homework time, or a time to get caught up on the books students are reading.
We decided to use this homeroom time to bring Hogwarts into the classroom. With the help from Jim Dale – the warm, friendly, British man who narrates all the Harry Potter audio books – our students were able to cozy up, cast their worries aside, and just simply listen to the start of this great series.
Many things happened:
I did not realize how many students had never read the books or even watched the movies yet
I was surprised by how many students would want to listen to these books on tape – I figured sixth graders would not enjoy being read to
I did not realize how much I enjoyed listening to Mr. Dale and how comforting he made my stressful days just by reading a book – even if I has read them a dozen times already
I was taken aback by even after so many years, Harry still has an effect on young readers!
Our class became super excited for the days we would listen to Harry Potter. This made me want to take this a step further. After researching online for kid-friendly quizzes, I found one that would sort students into a Hogwarts House based on their personality shown when answering the quiz questions. Some students were more excited than others – but either way they all were curious as to which house they would be sorted into.
After seeing who else was sorted into their houses, our classroom community felt stronger they looked on students and noticed that because they are in the same house, they must have a few things in common. It also gave them somewhat of an ego boost to think about what made them different than the others to be sorted into their houses. I also noticed that students became more excited to come to homeroom and work with the students within our homeroom. It gave them a different identity than other homerooms in our school.
This proves that no matter what you are passionate about, there is a way to get students excited and engaged into things they never would have imagined they would be interested in. I feel that more and more students were interested and excited to come to this class simply because they could tell how interested and excited I was about it!
I think the most important thing teachers have to remember is that teaching can be fun. Even in a world where our profession is criticized by ignorant people and states mandate standards that may damper our days. If we make our classrooms a magical place, then students will magically learn. ⚡️🍎
The first week of school went by in a blur. I cannot believe that I am sitting here in the middle of the third week already! Time really does fly by when you’re having fun, and fun is definitely something that I am having. It is hard NOT to have fun when I am surrounded by these sixth graders who are constantly cracking jokes, quirky comments, and keeping me on my toes to the random things they do throughout the day. I definitely do not have the same day twice.
These past two weeks have shown me some things about sixth grade and who these strange creatures (six graders) really are …
Sixth Graders Will:
laugh at anything referred to bowel movements, bodily functions, words that sound like such things, etc.
come into your class shouting, pushing, singing, and sometimes whipping and nae-naeing unless they have an incentive NOT to
become obsessed with things (ex: rubix cubes) and get their classmates to join in said obsession
say whatever they can to get a laugh from their neighbors
laugh at you – a lot!
tell you things that you don’t necessarily want to hear (who they’re dating, who they like, etc.)
question why you are teaching what you’re teaching – always have an answer
never forget if you offered them a reward or opportunity to do something
Sixth Graders Want:
to sit and work with their friends. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, why can’t they?
breaks from the classroom. I would too if I were sitting in these desks. Why not allow them to take a quick break to the drinking fountain as long as it is not a distracting time and they are not missing anything from the class period?
to listen to music. This keeps talking to a minimum because they want to be able to hear their jam! It also makes a great attention getter when you pause the music to address issues.
time to go outside. Take lessons outside and their willingness to complete an assignment grows.
their teacher to understand them. Taking the time to address issues with students show that you care about their learning and their success.
Overall, sixth graders can be wacky and very unexpected. This why I love this place in the Middle so much! I never have the same day and I never have a clue as to what tomorrow will bring. I am sure I will be adding to these two lists as time goes on and I learn more about these strange creatures I have found in the sixth grade 🙂
If you told me a week ago that I had absolutely nothing to worry about and that the first week of my student teaching will be the best time I have ever had in the classroom – I would have said, “Umm, you’re just saying that because it is the scariest thing I have ever done and I am hyperventilating just thinking about it …” Well, past Alexandra – and anyone else who might be freaking out about this next step – calm down! Student Teaching is an experience that is better than any other experience you have in the classroom.
Part of this great experience is starting in the Fall. It is great time being able to get to know these kids while they are getting to know each other and the new classroom. With that, this week has shown me more than anything how important building a team identity within your classroom and among your students.
With my 6th grade classroom, my host teacher and I are teaching Social Studies and Mathematics. Our cooperating teacher is teaching Language Arts and Science. We have home room for the first ten minutes of the day and after a couple of days of getting to know the kids, we broke them up into two different groups (Brown and Gold) somewhat randomly, but keeping an equal of our home room and his home room . Within these groups, they travel to their core classes together so making sure these groups come together as a team is very important.
Things I want to take away from the First Week of School are these:
Ice breakers, ice breakers, ice breakers! Make sure you know the names of the students by the end of the day.
Introduce yourself. Make yourself seem like a human being, instead of the robot at the front of the room.
Establish a “TEAM” persona. Talk about what it means to work together and the importance of being a unit. “We may not all be BFFs, but we are a family. You don’t always get along with your family, but you always stick up for your family”
Teach Expectations! You cannot automatically assume your students are going to know how to walk down the hall the right way. Display the correct way to do things for; line forming (left toe to left heel), bathrooms, cafeteria, playground, bus lines, blurting out, hall passes, etc.
Student Intro Activity. Have students make a ‘people poster’ so they are able to brag about themselves and bring in pictures that make them proud of who they are.
Go over behavior issues or expectations that need work. Re-address line forming, etc.
More team building activities/get-to-know-yous; People BINGO, Find Someone Who …, Two Truths and a Lie
Work on ‘People Posters’ more.
Team building motivational movie. It is a nice break for the second day of school and gets them even more motivated to be on a team – debrief movie after. Stress the importance again.
Go over room procedures; hall passes, pencil sharpening, blurting out, etc.
Tour of the room; what is off limits, where do you turn things in, borrowing books, etc.
Give class jobs to students who want them; trash, collect papers, clean board, line leader, end of line, attendance
Play “Guess Who” with students to get to see similarities and differences.
Name games outside. Get better acquainted with names and do it outside!
Give breaks – a lot! The first couple days are a lot of being talked at – give them breaks!
More teacher introductions; quiz, crossword puzzle
Starting core subjects, give a pre-test so you can assess where students are
Pass around “What I want my teacher to know about me” sheet
Measure students to show their growth at the end of the year (tape on the locker marking their heights then take their picture to compare to the end of the year, use a piece of string)
Address planner/agenda/homework policy
The days go by really quickly. Not once this week did I ever dread coming to school. I really enjoy my students too! Being able to say these things reassure me that I can totally do this ‘teaching thing’ for the rest of my life 😉 You are supposed to do what you love, right?
Today I had the great opportunity to substitute teach in a sixth grade class in my home district. Going in, I was incredibly nervous, but equally excited. I started right after lunchtime and the kids were preparing for a play they were putting on later that night, so the atmosphere was really upbeat. I was able to watch their dress rehearsal and see how proud they were to put on something that they have been working on for awhile now. I spent time outside with them at recess, talk to them about what they were reading, and what they were looking forward to.
Just after today, I learned a lot. I know what I need to work on and what I have room to improve on. I tested things that worked and did not work. That’s what teaching is though. You roll with the flow and keep changing things up until the rolling gets easier!
Even though they were not my students, I was not in my own classroom, or I was not able to practice my methods of teaching – this has definitely shown me that teaching is where I want to be!