We are already almost halfway into the month of February but the weather seems to disagree. Yesterday it snowed another few inches on top of the foot of snow we got previously this week. Last night, I was so excited because the weather forecast called for 39 degrees and rain in the morning, which meant the snow would finally MELT and no more ice! It’s the little things in life… Well, when I woke up bright and early at 5am to eat breakfast and read the Bible with my husband before he left for work, I was SO bummed. To my utter dismay my phone read 31 degrees with freezing rain. If you have never experienced freezing rain before, consider yourself VERY blessed. You’ll see (or read) why. When 7am rolled around, I trudged along the thick ice-skating rink that our parking lot had become until I reached my car at the far end. What I had imagined in my mind was actually better than what lay before my eyes. An inch thick of frozen rain, I kid you not, sealed my car. I had to yank with all my might just to open my door to grab my ice scraper. I threw my bag and lunch box into the front seat, turned the car on, cranked the defrost to full blast, and got to work. My ice scraper is a heavy duty lil guy (you have to own a nice one when battling snow and ice all winter long where I live) but even he couldn’t break the ice. I scraped little tiny shavings off as I pushed with all my force against the ice but couldn’t get any leverage. Finally, I whittled out a little chunk at the bottom of the window and worked my way up. Five minutes down and I finally had cleared 1 window… I still had 5 more windows to go, including my windshield and the backend window. The thing about freezing rain on a car is you legitimately cannot see through it if you were to wimp out and decide not to scrape all your windows. We’ve all had those mornings where you scrape a one square foot box for you to see out your windshield and call it good because the rest will defrost soon after your car hits the road. Well not with freezing rain. You can’t see a blessed thing out of windows that have been frozen with rain because its as if the rain has frozen in place where it landed, literally. So instead of a nice dusting of frost you have a wavy layer of thick bumpy ice all over your car that makes seeing impossible. It’s like looking through an opaque warped mirror. SO anyways, fast-forward 20 minutes and I’m red in the face and quite warm despite the below freezing temp. I finally finished scraping all my windows and it’s time to drive to the school where I would be teaching that day. Fifteen minutes later and a few near death experiences on the icy roads, I have arrived. I’m already 20 minutes later than I’d like to be and feeling the stress creep up as I think about how I need to check in at the office, receive the keys, find the classroom, unlock the door, turn on all the computers, smart boards, document cameras, etc, set up the classroom for the day, and then finally read over all the sub notes for the day for a brand new class I’ve never taught before, ALL before the kids were going to walk into the classroom door as the first bell rang 20 minutes later. As I walk into the school I notice how quiet it is… too quiet. Elementary schools are NEVER this quiet. The office lights are on but nobody is around. At first I think maybe all the teachers are in a staff meeting. Then it dawns on me that school may or may not have been canceled. I’m thinking WHY didn’t I check before I left my apartment?! I pulled out my phone to check online and to my dismay, the entire school district had been closed for the day. Usually, this would be the best day ever but considering everything I had gone through that morning, it would’ve been nice to have had a reason to endure it all. So fast forward another 30 minutes and now I’m back home with the day off but not much on the agenda considering I was planning to teach all day. So I figured what a great opportunity for me to share some of my tried and true tips for classroom management when teaching a brand new classroom with students who like to push the limits.
1. Make a Chart of the Classroom with Student’s Names on the Desk’s Where They Sit
-This has helped me tremendously with remembering student’s names. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to manage a classroom when you don’t know any of the student’s names. If the class is already a little squirrely and they find out you don’t know who they are and can’t call them by name, they are that much more likely to act out. I’ve noticed if I can keep a chart with the student’s names and where they sit on my clipboard (always keep a clipboard with you with the class list, your chart with their names labeling where they sit, and the sub notes for the day) then you will be much better off because you can quickly check to see the name of the student you want to speak to or call on.
2. ALWAYS Have a Morning Meeting with Your Class
-Not only is the class brand new to you but you are also brand new to the students. I’ve learned from experience that when I have circle time with my class in the morning and share my name, my expectations for the day, rules, and rewards, the day goes much smoother. I like to do a meet a greet to start off the circle where I fist bump or hand shake the student to my right and say “Good morning ______”, then they say good morning back and turn and repeat the cycle to the student to their right. We continue this until the very last student does it to me. This creates a sense of community in the classroom despite you not being their regular teacher. I’ve found that students LOVE that they get permission to fist bump each other as well… like I said it’s the little things.
3. Write Down Everything the Students Do; Both Good and Bad
-This is a strategy I learned after surviving a day with one of the hardest classes I’ve ever subbed for. A fellow seasoned substitute teacher shared the idea with me and I’ve used it for every class since and it truly helps SO much! Keep a class list on your clipboard and during the morning meeting share with the class that you will be writing down what they do throughout the day to share it with their teacher. If they do something good, great! I’ll write it down and their teacher will hear about it. If they make a not so good choice, their teacher will hear about that too! I don’t tell them I’m writing down things in a negative way, I just let them know “Okay, if you make that choice to _____(whatever it is that isn’t a good choice) I’m going to have to write it down for your teacher. But you still have the option to make a better choice and I can write down that you chose to make a good choice. Most of the time, students really do want to please their teacher and/or make the right choice and will choose to make a good choice instead of proceed with whatever it was they were going to do. Also, if they make a bad choice and then know I wrote it down, often times they will make less bad choices throughout the day because they don’t want a bunch of bad notes left for their teacher. Also, a little hack with this, even if you don’t have enough time to write down what exactly the student is doing, you can pretend you’re writing it down and they will have no idea.
4. Write on the Board How Long Students Are Off Task
-If students are getting out of hand and taking a long time to finish the task given to them or taking forever to transition to the next lesson, write down what time it is on the board when you notice students have gotten off task and are wasting class time. Once students finally are back on track and ready to learn, write down the time again. Calculate the time (this can even be used as a mini math assignment for the whole class to do) and write that time up on the board. Whatever the time is, the class is warned they will miss that much recess if it happens again, or take away that much recess time if the class has already had issues throughout the day of getting off task and have been previously warned.
5. ALWAYS State Expectations Before The Lesson and After the Lesson
-Don’t assume students know what is expected of them. You may run things differently than they are used to, and besides that students just need to be reminded period. At the beginning of the lesson, state what voice level the work should be done at, if it should be individual work, pairs, or groups, how much time they will have to complete the lesson, and remind them that you will be looking for students who are working hard to write good notes about for the teacher. At the end of the lesson, review how did we do? What did we do well and what could we do to improve next time?
6. Circulate The Room
-This may seem like a no brainer, but circulating the room not only assures the students know you are watching them but it also helps you to see what exactly students are working on and make sure they are on task. Make sure to compliment students who are working hard and focus more on the students who are making the right choice rather than the students who aren’t. I’ve noticed often times when I say something like, “Wow so and so you are doing a wonderful job getting right to work on your assignment without talking to your neighbor” five other students will then stop talking and get to work on their assignment.
7. End of the Day Exit Ticket
-At the end of the day, have the students get out a piece of paper to use as an exit ticket. Write on the board, “What did I do today that would make my teacher proud?” and have the students answer the question on their piece of paper. Collect the papers and read them after school when the students have gone home. If you agree with what the students wrote, you can write those things down in your note to the teacher at the end of the day to let him/her know how their class did. This also helps students’ hold themselves accountable. If at the end of the day they don’t have something they can think of that would make their teacher proud, maybe something needs to change the next time a substitute teacher is in their classroom.
I hope theses tips and tricks help you as much as they’ve helped me! Thanks for reading and leave me a comment below if you have a strategy that has helped your classroom management when teaching.