Inside a kindergarten classroom with Augustana students

Substitute Teacher Woes

Dear loyal readers,
Today’s blog may be one of the oddest blogs you have ever read from me. Kindergarten today can only be described by one word…frightening! We had a substitute teacher today because Mrs. Nell is in Virginia and it did NOT go well. We were not able to work with our individual students today because we were so busy assisting the sub with classroom management. I have never seen such misbehavior from these students. There were numerous amounts of crying, pushing, and hitting. Benny cried twice and I had to reprimand Ryan as well. I could not believe our precious students had somehow transformed into misbehavior central. They would not listen to the substitute teacher and some of the time they would not listen to us either! We were only there an hour and 45 minutes. I can only imagine how the substitute must have felt at the end of the day. I would think that she is taking a nap right now at home and will not wake up for at least another 24 hours. After dealing with these students all day she needs that much sleep. However, through this terror I have learned some valuable information, as always, about kindergarteners, teaching, and primary elementary in general. I will now impart the knowledge I have gleaned to you, my loyal blog readers.

ROUTINE: Students in general, but especially younger elementary students need a set routine. Without their day planned out they feel uncomfortable, apprehensive, and antsy. They will not pay attention and will blurt out that the substitute is not following their routine. This is what occurred today. Luckily we were there in the morning to sing the song they begin the day with every morning. Also, we have general knowledge about what they do during the day so we could guide the substitute in that aspect. Even with our help it was obvious the students routine had been interrupted and they did not like it one bit. The transitions between activities were messy and that gave the students many opportunities to misbehave. As a teacher, this means that I must leave detailed notes to my substitute about my routine. The closer the sub is able to follow this routine, the smoother the day will progress and the rate of misbehavior will decrease. When a teacher knows they will not attend school it would be helpful to explain what a substitute teacher is to the students. Maybe have a mini-lesson on the meaning of flexibility and what it means to make changes to the routine. Talk to the students about what you, as a teacher, expect from them when you are not present. I would also elect students who would tell the substitute more information about the routine, which I would go over with them ahead of time.

SINGING: When all else fails, sing a song with the students. When the students were coming back from their bathroom break they were making a lot of noise and had nothing to do at their desks because they were waiting for the other kids. I decided to sing the song “Ten in the Bed” with them while they were waiting. It helps them work on counting one less from ten, they all know the song, and it keeps them engaged. Everyone was singing and no one was goofing around. At the end of the song I said that there were zero in the bed and then everyone was silent. Then for a few brief moments it was SILENT! As a sub, you can use little tricks like this to get the students engaged rather than disciplining them. Make sure any songs you sing with the students have places where they can participate or answer some kind of question. This is a way to get the attention of the class without threatening to take away recess.

POSITIVE ATTITUDE: Substitute teachers do not have a choice of where they are subbing. They are placed in whatever grade is without a teacher for that day. This signifies that even if kindergarten is not your thing, you have to try your best and fake it. These students need to see enthusiasm and see the sub acting as though he or she wants to be there. This sub did not act as though she wanted to be with the kindergarteners that day. I think they noticed this feeling they were receiving from her. This may have been another reason for their misbehavior. Mrs. Nell is always extremely jovial and excited to see her students. That is one of the many reasons they love her so much. When you take that enthusiasm and joy of seeing the kids away, why would the students want to behave? The teacher has not given them a reason to. I can understand the difficulty of always keeping this tenant in mind. I am personally not a fan of sixth graders and I would have to constantly remember to keep a positive attitude if I had to be their substitute teacher. However, it is imperative that I work to the best of my ability to not falter in that aspect. Respect is a two way street and the students you are subbing deserve that respect as well.

Ah, kindergarten. I am one of the few Augustana teachers who have expressed a willingness to teach kindergarten as a career and even today I left saying NO WAY! I am so done with kindergarten! However, now I feel better having identified potential reasons for the students’ problem behavior today and some possible solutions on how to fix these issues. I hope this does impart some knowledge about teaching and I know I learned a lot from our very frightening episode today. Oh, by the way, there will be a sub on Monday too…Stay tuned for Ms. Sara’s blog!

2 Responses to “Substitute Teacher Woes”

  1. Ola! Augustana,
    Speaking of which Your students are your top priority. When your teachers call out, you need to make sure that that a replacement is immediately on the way. A substitute teacher answering service can handle teacher call outs and finding substitutes, as well as providing emergency help lines to your school, students, and student guardians.
    I look forward to your next post

  2. Dear Augustana,
    Thanks, on a related note If you want to become a substitute teacher, there are great opportunities available for you! It takes special skills to become a substitute teacher, and it is rewarding to have the chance of making a difference in a student’s life, even if for a short period of time. Ideally, a substitute teacher will have a strong desire to work in a school setting and believe in enhancing the lives of children.
    Keep up the good work

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