*Coffee is not your friend in the morning*
As coffee is a diuretic, it can be dangerous to drink before school starts. Especially if you are going in for a new class or school. If you don't know when the breaks are or when the teacher you are covering for has their prep time, it can be hard to plan a bathroom break.
*Bring a notebook to record ideas*
One of the best things about substitute teaching is that you get to visit many different classrooms. This is a great opportunity to pick up different tricks that other teachers use that work By always having a notebook handy, you can record classroom decorating ideas, classroom management techniques and lesson ideas that you might like to use in your own classroom some day.
*Get to school early!*
That way, you can look over plans and do any needed preparation for the day's lessons (ex. photocopying, stapling, sorting. cutting, etc). Getting in early will also give you the chance to speak with administration and other staff members. They may be able to give you some valuable advice or information concerning your class. Some other things you can do if you get to the school early: put down chairs, read name tags on desks or look in each for something with a name on it and make a seating chart, look around the class to see where supplies are located, make sure you have the attendance sheet, locate the staff room and staff washrooms, and write your name and rules on the board. You will be much more relaxed for the day if you feel settled and prepared before the bell rings!
*Use Mapquest, even if you think you know where you are going!*
If you're heading off to a school you have never been to, it is a good idea to get exact driving directions. The last thing you want to do is get lost and then be late for your day. Not only is this a stressful way to start to the day, but it definitely reflects poorly on you from administrations point of view.
*Check the teacher's mailbox*
The attendance list may be kept here, or you may find letters that need to be handed out to the students.
*Find out about recess/lunch duty*
Some teachers forget to mention their daily supervision responsibilities in the plans. Usually there is a schedule posted around the classroom somewhere, or in the Occasional Teachers Handbook. Use this schedule to locate your teacher's name and see if you have duty that day. If a schedule can not be located, and there were no specific notes left, ask the secretary or a neighbouring teacher for the info.
*Ask the teacher next door where your class lines up*
Many schools have classes line up outside a particular door before school and after recess. Some schools require the teacher to pick them up from the door, others do not. Ask the teacher in the classroom next to yours for the details. Otherwise, you may find yourself sitting and waiting for a class that never comes!
Most classroom teachers will leave detailed plans, but not all of them will all of the time. It is important to have some ideas floating around in your head, or supplies in your bag, for back-up activities incase of downtime or a complete lack of plans. If a planned activity is REALLY not working, soldering through is not always to best idea. If the class is getting out of hand, switch to a different activity - either something else planned for the day or a different game or activity.
*Learn riddles and quick games to use in a pinch*
Sometimes, there will be a few minutes before recess or some other transition when you need to keep the class quiet and organized. Knowing some riddles or quick games that don't require any set up will go a long way in these circumstances.
*Just get through the day!*
The most important thing is for the substitute teacher and the students to get through the day alive and in one piece. That is the ultimate goal! Do not be afraid to ask for assistance from neighbouring teachers or administration if there are serious problems in the classroom. Don't be too concerned if all of the lessons are not totally completed according to the plans. Follow the plans as much as possible, but do not be afraid to make changes to them when needed to save your sanity, and that of the students.
*Start with the subject you are strongest in*
This is an option for substitutes when they do not feel confident in their abilities to teach the subject that is planned for first thing in the morning. It is important to show the students that you are a strong and confident teacher, and if that would be better conveyed by starting with a different subject, than that may be the best option.
*Pin-point the very active or disruptive students, and then keep them busy!*
Give them extra jobs to do. Make them your special helper(s) for the day. Keep extra activities such as word searches and connect the dots on hand. Having them happily working on a different activity is better for the class overall then allowing them to be disruptive.
*Bring a bag of goodies*
It is always a good idea to keep a bag of rewards on hand (small toys, candies, pencils). Sometimes, if all else fails, offering a reward for good behaviour, or making an activity into a challenge, will help the class focus.
*Learn the students names!*
Students will respond much better when spoken to directly using their name. It is hard to get a specific students' attention when all you can call them is "hey you!". When you know the names, you can call out to students directly to get their attention more quickly. Also, if there is a problem, you need to know the students' name in order to report back to the teacher or administration. Although, we always seem to remember the names of the students who get into trouble, don't we?
*Pick a helpful student*
It is useful to try and figure out early on in the day which students appear to be the most helpful in the bunch. Pick one that seems particularly good, and go to them quietly with questions that come up about classroom routines, procedures etc. A helpful student can be a great ally, since many students tend to try and get away with certain things when their regular teacher is absent.
*The Goldilocks Rule for choosing a book*
This works well for classroom teachers, but can also come in handy for substitutes. When students are choosing a book for silent reading or from the library, tell them to use the Goldilocks Rules. The book is TOO HARD if...there are 5 or more words on each page that you don't know. The book is TOO EASY if...you know all of the words. The book is JUST RIGHT if...you know most of the words.