AcademiaAgriculture & FarmingHumanitiesSocial SciencesSTEM

How to Discipline Students as a Substitute Teacher

Updated on October 3, 2016

As a substitute teacher you will have good days and bad days. There will be students that will help you through your day and there will be students that will try to undermine you at every turn. Inevitably there will come a time during your teaching assignment that you will have to discipline a student or the entire class.

Disciplining students as a substitute teacher can be daunting. After all, the students are fully aware that you will probably only be in the class for one day, maybe two. Despite the challenge, it is important to be able to discipline students effectively so you can maintain a well-run classroom and fulfill your duties.

Earn Respect

From the moment your students come into the classroom, earn their respect. Earn it by letting the students know what will be expected of them, by getting to know their names, by being fair, consistent and respectful and even by dressing appropriately. Have some fun with your students. Laugh at some of their jokes and tell them a little bit about yourself.

If you welcome the students by barking out commands as soon as they walk in the door, you will have a hard time the rest of the day.

Source

Be Familiar with School Rules and Regulations

As a substitute teacher you are responsible for your class. You are not just a figure head filling in a chair for 8 hours. Arrive early and go through the materials that the teacher may have left as well as the substitute teacher folder that is normally found in every classroom.

Word will spread quickly through middle and high schools that there is a substitute for Mr. Smith. Students will take advantage of this by coming in 10 minutes late or going to the bathroom with 4 other classmates. If the school policy for being late to class is a note to the office, then make sure you write the note. If only one student is allowed a bathroom pass at a time, make sure only one student gets one.

Be consistent with enforcing the rules.

Source

Don't Let the Students Take Charge

"Mr. Smith always lets us do that!" Every substitute teacher has heard this many times and if you hear it, there is a 99% chance that Mr. Smith does not let them do that. Explain to the students that Mr. Smith is not in school today and that you are in charge of the class. You will be letting them know what they will be doing for the day. If the teacher has left lesson plans for the day, use them.

Source

Have a Few Tricks up your Sleeve

Always have a few tricks up your sleeve that will help you with disciplining the students.

YOUNGER STUDENTS

  • Keep the students busy. Sometimes teachers will not leave lesson plans for you to follow. Always have some age appropriate worksheets with you so that students are not sitting around with nothing to do.
  • Sentence on the Board - Write a sentence on the board and explain to the students that when they misbehave you'll erase a letter from the sentence. Let them know that if there is any part of the sentence left on the board by a certain time (say a half hour before school ends), the class will play a game. It's amazing how well this trick works.
  • Turn out the lights - If the class starts getting too loud or wild, give them a warning and let them know that if they don't settle down, the lights will be turned off and the students will have to lay their heads down on their desk for a few moments. This will help settle them down.
  • Let students know that you will be writing down the names of those who misbehave and giving the list to their teacher. Let them see you writing the names down.

OLDER STUDENTS

  • Keep the students busy. Sometimes teachers will not leave lesson plans for you to follow. Always have some age appropriate worksheets with you so that students are not sitting around with nothing to do.
  • Give the students an option to do something they normally would not do at the end of the class, like work on the computers, finish homework for another class or even talk quietly. Let them know that if they misbehave, they won't be able do that and they'll have to work on their lesson until the end of the period.
  • Let students know that you will be writing down the names of those who misbehave and giving the list to their teacher. Let them see you writing the names down.
  • Walk around the class when the students are doing their work. Proximity reminds them that you are in charge of the class.
  • Enforce the school policies. If no cell phones are allowed, then, if a student is playing on one during class, quietly take it away from the student and either give it back at the end of the class or turn it in to the office, with a note for the staff letting them know the situation. Inform the student that he/she can pick it up in the school office at the end of the day.
  • In high school in particular, there will be times when students will fight or get so out of hand that you will be unable to discipline them. Call on another teacher to help and know the office phone extension so you can call them in an emergency.

At the End of the Day

While you won't normally have a drastic situation where you'll need to call the office for emergency help, you will have situations arise when you will need to use all of your skills as a substitute teacher to get you through the day. When you leave your note to the classroom teacher, make sure to let them know what problems came up and, if applicable, give the teacher the name(s) of students who had issues. The students will hear about it and when you are in that classroom again chances are you won't have as many problems.

As a Substitute Teacher, you soon learn that certain things work with certain classes and that there is no promise that you will have a perfect day. Just know that maintaining discipline in your class will go a long way to making your day easier and, at the end of the day, you will know that you have tried your best.

© 2012 Glimmer Twin Fan

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Glimmer Twin Fan, I was a Permanent Substitute Teacher for a few months in the beginning of my career and your tips here on how to survive and discipline students in this capacity is spot on and totally agree with you on this one. Very nicely done and hit all the right points here. Have voted and shared here and socially too!!

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      It is double hard to be a substitute teacher! Really helpful suggestions here especially the importance of getting in early and being prepared - always having alternative worksheets.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks so much for the vote and share Janine! I appreciate it. I'm glad you agree with the tips. Disciplining students is always my least favorite thing to do.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      GoodLady - You are right. It does seem to be harder as a substitute teacher. I like the early bird tip too, but probably because I like to get to everything early! It drives my husband crazy! Thanks for the comments.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      This is great. My grandchildren talk about substitute teachers quite often....and it is so interesting to hear their comments. They discuss which one is "Cool," which one is "Mean," etc..... Of course, being young, elementary students, at least in their school, here in our area.....the kids are still pretty compliant and easy to discipline.....they know to BEHAVE like little Angels for what particular teacher......and who they can relax a bit with.

      Who says students don't pay attention!!? UP & shared.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks so much for the vote and share fpherj! It is amazing what students really pay attention to and what they know they can get away with. Sometimes it's fun just to see what they try. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub!

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      Really good hub. I'm sure all the substitute teachers out there could use the help. It's a tough job.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks Paradise! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Any tips help subs out.

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Nice hub for substitutes! I can remember the disappointment of seeing one in the classroom. My immediate thoughts were, "Here's another one that doesn't know their head from a fence post." Unfortunately, that proved true most of the time. And, there were always those that pushed to limit. It usually ended when the sub would start screaming loudly, or run out of the room crying. Don't envy one in that position at all. Well presented info!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks so much rcrumple! I hope you weren't too mean to your substitutes! Just kidding. I have gotten pretty exasperated, but have never run from the room crying. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub!

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Glimmer it's perfect! Well done and very organized and concise. I really like this and it's helpful to me. My students are usually older but my class can get out of hand at times. I'm very laissez-faire in my style and I do suffer for it. But I always have a lot of interaction and opinions. Thanks for the great article. Voted up!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks eHealer! I appreciate the comments and I'm glad you enjoyed it. I always think older students are harder to discipline. They know the game by the time they get to high school.

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 4 years ago from California

      I wish you had written this hub a few years ago when I was new a substitute teacher. Some days were just horrible- especially the middle school kids. One of the things that I did was to rearrange all their seating lol! And yes, the famous line "But...Mrs.X always let us ___"

      Great hub and great tips! Voted up!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks so much for the comments and the vote Turtlewoman! Middle school kids are the toughest in my opinion. I like the rearranging seats trick especially if I am there for more than a couple of days. that way I remember their names.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I have substituted for teachers over the years. It helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve in dealing with those difficult starts. Being prepared is really important. And yes, I have turned the lights off a couple of times to get attention. Great write up and very useful.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks so much teaches. I have a big tote bag filled with worksheets and things. Luckily the teacher usually leaves plans, but there have been times when he/she hasn't. Then it gets tough. Even with plans sometimes the class can get tough.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 4 years ago from North Carolina

      I am afraid to ever be a substitute teacher. I remember how my class and I behaved for them. :( Excellent tips. I just couldn't do it. Bless those who do!

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 4 years ago

      Very good advice here. The two most important I would suggest is to keep calm and carry on lol.

      A good sense of humour is essential and to keep them busy with plenty of good quality work..

      Idle hands etc.

    • sen.sush23 profile image

      Sushmita 4 years ago from Kolkata, India

      I agree to your tips and tricks Glimmer Twin Fan. I had worked as a substitute teacher for a few months at the beginning of my career. Being prepared with worksheets is a very good idea- that does keep them busy to start with- and meanwhile gives the teacher time to get familiar with the class. Useful hub.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks tammy! It's definitely not for the faint of heart but it has some really good days too!

    • Peanutritious profile image

      Tara Carbery 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK

      Brilliant advice that I have used whilst supply Teaching. Consistency is the key. They try every rule in the book to play up, you need to be one step ahead. Only a supply Teacher would be able to offer such valid advice!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks molometer! Keeping calm is a must! The minute the students see you sweat, they know they have you. I appreciate the visit!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      sen.sush - The worksheets have been my go to trick since I started substituting. I appreciate your comments!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thank you so much for your comments Peanutritious! You are right that we need to be one step ahead!

    • Peanutritious profile image

      Tara Carbery 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK

      Ha! I say that through bitter experience!

    • Lyn.Stewart profile image

      Lyn.Stewart 4 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      I can remember oh so long ago over 20 years ago when I was in High School my class sending 2 sub teachers crying from the room and making a third quit teaching.

      All of these so called teachers started the class by yelling at us etc. This immediately turned all of us against them and we worked very hard at breaking them before the end of first period. (45 mins - an hour).

      Any sub that showed us respect (treated us like people who mattered and had idea's and a brain in our heads) we behaved for. However those that yelled at us or treated us with disrespect were toast. I believe that was the only times our whole class worked toether as a well oiled unit.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks so much Lyn. Showing respect goes so far. I think students believe the substitutes are going to come in and be really strict from the start, so if you come in and show them some respect they are caught off guard and appreciate it.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      The idea of writing the sentence on the board and erasing a word every time rules are broken, then dangling a reward is ingenious. Have been a sub during two periods of my life and surely wished I had know that idea. One idea I used really got the kids to working. I had a puppet of an otter. The fur looked real for many years. When my hand in the puppet the kids couldn't tell if it was alive or not. When the kids entered the room the box(with air holes of course) with the puppet would be on the teachers desk. I told the kids they would get to see what was in the box at the end of the day for being good workers. I only had to walk away without showing the puppet once.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thank you for your comments tirelesstraveler! I love the puppet idea! The kids must have loved that. These days there are such real looking stuffed animals that would be a fun thing to try!

    • ESPeck1919 profile image

      ESPeck1919 4 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      There are some really great suggestions on this. I especially like the sentence on the board idea for little kids.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks ES! That is always a fun one and the kids really get into it, especially if there are a lot of letters missing and it is getting close to the end of the day!

    • KawikaChann profile image

      KawikaChann 4 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      This brings back memories - I tutored elementary kids in So-Cal after high school; boy, being nice has to go together with being firm. Once the class gets away from you, it's hard to get them back. Nice Job Glimmer. Peace. Kawi.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks Kawi! You are definitely right, once the class gets away, they are gone, especially older kids.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Well done, GTW,

      You have shared crucial elements of the sub's role as disciplinarian. I took off from my teaching career for three years when by now 17 year old grandson was born as he was ill. I subbed a LOT.

      Establishing from the beginning that you are the teacher for the day and letting the kidoes know how it would work that day was key. If they thought they were in charge, you would be a sinking ship that never got out of the harbor. Thank goodness this was an area that I did not struggle with.

      Others will benefit from reading your suggestions. You nailed it.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      I appreciate the comments pstraubie! I have had classes get away from me and it is no fun at all. Looking back, all I can do is smile about it now. Thanks for the visit.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      I've never taught so I would not know the nitty gritty of handling students. Since I have been a student like everyone else and have had my share of substitute teachers in my class, I can say these are some excellent tips and tricks. Thanks for sharing.

      Voted up and useful and sharing.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      Very nice work. I had a square box with holes in it that I put on the teachers desk. If the students were well behaved I let them see what was in the box at the end of class. There was an otter puppet that looked real when my hand moved that I kept in the box.

      I have used most of your ideas and they indeed work.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks so much for your support rajan! I think substitutes all over the world have similar problems. Kids are kids everywhere!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thank you tirelesstraveler - That sounds like a good idea! As a sub it is always good to have lots of ideas to keep the classroom in order. I appreciate the comments.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      This is an excellent article for substitute teachers. I am going to share it on my Linkedin teacher groups. It will help many people out there that are subbing.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thank you so much Rebecca! I appreciate the support. I remember when I started subbing I had some tough days that I was not prepared for.

    • Diane Woodson profile image

      Diane Minton 4 years ago from Evansville, Indiana

      Things have changed drastically since I substitute taught from 1979-1984. You have a very useful Hub here, A person who never did this kind of work, has no earthly idea about what they are in for! Discipline is a bad word nowadays, back then it was so much approached with caution.

      The idea you have concerning writing names down or taking name is a very good one, however the students may let you think they don't care if you do it or not. I had children in 5th grade being so loud that it caused other Teachers to come down to see if everything was ok, and offering help. These were not the norm. My experiences were good and I always stuck to the lesson plans left by the Regular Teacher and this kept much chaos from happening. I commend your efforts to help other Educators in their quest for learning and order in the classroom.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thank you so much Diane. I have had so many different situations, but all in all, the students are nice, helpful and respectful. I appreciate your kind and thoughtful comments.

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      Mostly good advice. As a teacher who hates being out (but sometimes it has to happen), I cringe at the thought of a sub allowing students time at the end of class to do things other than the stated plan. Nothing is worse for an organized teacher than a substitute who doesn't follow the written plans. If there is extra time (a situation I never allow for), then it is good advice. I subbed a lot before I got my job. It isn't easy. I know sometimes a sub has to do what he or she has to do to survive to the end of the day. :)

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Hi donnah75 - I did not always enjoy giving them free time at the end of class, but many times teachers did not leave organized plans like you do. I can't tell you how often I have had a neighboring teacher come in to say that Mr. or Ms. X emailed them to let me know that the kids can work on what they want (this is in emergency sub situations). On the other hand, I have had many teachers leave great plans and they do fill up the entire period/day. There is never a dull moment when subbing. Thanks for the insight and comments.

    • Shinkicker profile image

      Shinkicker 3 years ago from Scotland

      I teach ESL classes. My first ever assignment was trying to teach conversational skills to a large class of Italian 14 year olds.

      I wish I had read your Hub back then. LOL

      Really useful info

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

      Yikes! 14 year olds can be scary especially when they are learning something new. Hopefully they weren't too rowdy. Thanks for stopping by!

    • amiebutchko profile image

      Amie Butchko 3 years ago from Warwick, NY

      Very useful article and tips. I am a ccd teacher and early on, my biggest problem was controlling my classroom. These are some great ideas that I will take with me to class should I get into some sketchy areas....

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

      Hi amiebutchko - Glad you found these tips helpful. It's amazing how classrooms are different, but most people have the problem of controlling them. I think kids just like to push the boundaries. Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      Moira Walsh 12 months ago

      Sorry, but your advice assumes that the students will allow you to speak and that you have some way of knowing their names. Students routinely refuse to give their names, even during attendance. "Resource" and "focus room" staff are so overwhelmed, they probably won't be able to respond to your calls. Frankly, it sounds like you haven't seen anything but the best situations.

    • profile image

      Yolie Ellis 2 months ago

      Most of the class use their desk to lounge, legs on top of desk spread eagle. i avoid using "no" but asking with respect to consider their actions. I get a sassy remark with a. "Our teacher lets us"...they freely explore the teachers desk when I'm setting up Smart Board...Without a doubt, today's upper grades do not care for a learning environment, not even to let those that want to learn .

      I've found that students today have no concept of respect, kindness or simple rules of civility.

      I do enjoy teaching and completing a teacher's lesson plan.

      Students ask to go to bathroom, instead they go to office to complain.

    Click to Rate This Article