A Baker's Dozen Tips and Tricks for Substitute Teachers
1. They're probably lying to you. Not the students, the other teachers. Whatever the teacher or anyone else tells you about a group of kids will not be true when you're in the classroom because how kids behave with a sub is unrelated to how they behave with their regular teacher. It's your first day, and you have to set the expectations for your classroom.
2. Introduce yourself. Write your name on the board.
3. Act like you know what you're doing. Children, like dogs, can smell fear.
4. Be loud enough to fill the classroom without yelling. Practice this ahead of time.
5. Never yell. If you yell, they win. More importantly, if you yell, you lose. Don't lose.
6. You are not their friend. They will ask you if you are married, if you have kids, if you like dubstep, if you go to clubs, what your favorite football team is. An enterprising atheist will ask if you're religious so they can debate religion with you. Don't answer personal questions. You may reveal some personal details in the course of a conversation, but do not allow them to interrogate you or to speculate aloud about you.
7. Do not smile indulgently when they try to get you off topic. There are no indulgences on the first day of school.
8. Develop an attention grabbing, portable skill: play blues harmonica, juggle, whistle Stars and Stripes Forever, recite The Jabberwocky from memory.
9. Do your best to learn names. If you are bad at names, tell them that, and apologize for it. Knowing their names is a sign that you're paying attention to them.
10. Wear a watch. If you can find the clock in the classroom, it may not be correct, and you cannot keep checking your phone.
11. The students are probably also lying to you. If you have plans from the regular teacher, stick to the plans. You can add more stuff if you know the subject or you have extra time, but don't skip something, even if the students tell you they did the day before, or that the regular teacher never makes them do that part. Your job is to get the work done.
12. Everything will conspire to keep you from getting the work done. Someone will pee their pants. Someone will cry. Someone will run around in circles for an hour. Someone will try to hone their stand-up routine during independent reading. There will be a tornado drill. Take a breath and get back on track.
13. Write a note to the regular teacher thanking them for sharing their class with you, and letting them know how the day went, how far into the lesson plans you were able to go, and if any students were particularly disruptive or particularly helpful.