Being a substitute teacher is no easy task. Some students see a day without their normal classroom teacher as “free time,” which can result in misbehavior that makes it harder to do your job. If you are experiencing turmoil in the classroom, you’re not alone. By taking time to understand the root cause of misbehavior, substitute teachers can help students succeed.

Reasons Students Might Misbehave

  • They are bored or frustrated: Maybe the material is too easy and they’re not being challenged, or maybe they’re just not interested in the subject.
  • They see no relevance to their work: If a student doesn’t see how the material they’re learning is useful, they’ll likely tune out and get restless.
  • The teacher lacks awareness: If a teacher isn’t aware of how their words and actions are impacting students, it can lead to all sorts of problems.
  • Students are experiencing external problems: Sometimes, students are dealing with problems at home that make it difficult for them to focus on schoolwork.

You now know some of the causes, but what about the solutions? Here are some ways to manage misbehavior.

Solution #1: Communicate Expectations

Being a teacher is a lot like being a tour guide. At the beginning of each lesson, you need to set the stage for your students by telling them what they are going to learn and why it matters. This gives them a chance to get excited about the material. Once you have their attention, share your expectations. Be clear about what you want them to do and how you want them to do it. You can also let them know how much time they have to complete a task to help them stay on track. If the room lacks focus, provide students with a quick brain break to get their energy out, then direct them back to class work. Finally, make sure that they have all the tools needed to succeed, like a pencil, paper or book.

Solution #2: Make the Classroom Rounds

As any teacher knows, managing an entire classroom of kids can be daunting. One way to help manage the chaos is to walk around the room as much as possible. By varying your route, you can keep a better eye on what’s going on. Plus, it’s a great way to stay engaged. So, next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and survey the situation. Then take a walk and see what happens.

Solution #3: Motivate Students to Use Time Productively

A positive classroom is a happy classroom, and one of the best ways to create a good environment is to frequently praise your students. When students feel appreciated, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated. Research has shown that students who receive frequent praise have higher self-esteem and are more likely to retain information. When a student does something well, take a moment to give them an authentic compliment. You might be surprised at the difference it makes.

Solution #4: Correct Misbehavior When It Occurs

It’s important to be able to distinguish between consequential and inconsequential behaviors. Consequential behaviors are those that have a direct negative impact on the learning environment, while inconsequential behaviors only have minimal impact. For example, if a student has an earbud in during class but is still engaging, do you address it? By understanding the difference between the two behaviors, you can effectively manage your classroom.

Ways to handle behavior:

  • Ignore inconsequential behavior unless it escalates
  • Correct consequential behavior immediately
  • Reinforce appropriate behavior
  • Discuss behavior privately in a calm, consistent, and fair way
  • Restate expectations

What to do when an issue arises:

  • Recognize the student’s perspective
  • Single out the real issue
  • Problem-solve with the student
  • Discuss the issue with the classroom teacher
  • Implement refocusing techniques, such as games and activities

As a substitute teacher, it’s easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day activities, but it’s important to remember that students are constantly communicating, even when they’re not saying a word. Every time they walk into the classroom, they’re sending a message. So, next time you’re feeling frazzled at the end of a long day, just remember: all behavior is a form of communication. The only behavior you can control is your own. To help a student learn and grow, you have to be willing to learn and grow with them. Contact our team to become a substitute teacher or to learn more tips like this!