How do I maintain classroom discipline?
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How do I maintain classroom discipline?
Informative Guide for Substitute Teaching - Sub Folder - Guide for Absent Teachers - Guide for Subs
How do I become a substitute teacher? What does a substitute teacher do?
How do I maintain classroom discipline? What do I do with these lesson plans?
Kids Today
The first thing you may notice as a substitute teacher is that children behave differently than they did when you were a student. Be prepared. Also be aware that student behavior varies by age and location. Additionally, different classroom teachers institute different rules.

Your job is not to whip the kids into shape. You simply need to get through the day without any catastrophes.
The Existing Rules
Familiarize yourself with the existing rules. A lot of schools are currently instituting school-wide behavioral policies and discipline strategies. For example, in many schools, a certain hand signal indicates that a class needs to be quiet. You may think that the kids are unruly because they do not respond to calls to "be quiet," when all you need to do is put a finger in the air.

A good classroom teacher leaves a note of some sort explaining the classroom policies (e.g., "One finger in the air to quiet down. Two fingers means the student needs help. Three fingers means the student needs to use the lavatory"). If there is no discipline code provided, ask at the main office.
Determine the Class Maturity Level
Unless there is a test being given, a little bit of taking usually doesn't hurt anything. Just use your best judgment. Be aware that demands for absolute silence will be met with resistance, and too firm a hand can cause a rebellion. Try to determine how mature the students are and how much freedom they can handle.
Remove Temptations
Classrooms are full of temptations. A student may be patiently waiting for an opportunity to write on the chalk or dry-erase board. Put all chalk and dry-erase markers on or in the teacher's desk. Put away the Scotch tape (the uses students find for tape are limitless). Put away anything that you fear a student may "mess with."
Hall Passes
Find out the school or classroom hall pass procedures. Some schools issue a weekly hall pass sheet, limiting the students to a certain number of hall passes per week.

Limit the class to one hall pass at a time, and only for good reasons (e.g., the restroom or nurse). Have students sign out with you (marking the time they leave and return). Never give a student permission to visit another teacher or the library--this is a common student ploy to roam the halls.
Hazard Pay
You do not make enough money to function as a bouncer or prison guard. Certainly, it is your duty to diffuse situations and prevent fights from breaking out. And if a fight occurs in the hallway or classroom, your gut instinct is going to be to help a student being pummeled by another student. But do not place yourself in a dangerous position. There are staff members (hall monitors, security officers) whose job it is to handle high-risk situations. If you see something happening that needs security, alert the proper people. When it comes to putting yourself into a situation, use your best judgment.
Awkward Situations
Let's not beat around the bush. We all have seen the news and the bizarre things that sometimes (though thankfully rarely) happen between teachers and students. You can avoid any problems by following a few simple rules.

Never be alone in a room with a student. For times between classes or during planning periods when students are prone to pop in, keep the door open. A teacher and student alone in a room with a closed door sends out a "creepy" vibe, a vibe that you definitely do not want.

Never go into the student restroom. There are faculty restrooms for you to use. If you fear that a student is goofing off in the restroom, or you walk by a student restroom and smell cigarette smoke, alert the security staff or main office. You are not there to police the school. If you've told someone, you've done your duty.

But what if you are dealing with a kindergarten student who has relieved her- or himself before sitting on the toilet? Aren't you supposed to help the kid or clean the kid up? A regular classroom teacher might get away with doing this, but not a substitute. Send the kid to the nurse or alert the main office. Just imagine being a parent and having your little child tell you, "Mr./Ms. So-and-so helped me when I went potty and wiped my butt." Creepy, huh? Remember that parents (and school staff) do not have the comfort level with you that they might have with the regular classroom teacher.

So you've helped a child to pull her skirt out of her tights, or zip up his pants. Leave a note about the incident in your notes for the teacher. For example, "Jerome seems to be outgrowing his pants. When he got back from the restroom, he needed my assistance in helping him to suck in his belly and secure his pants closure."
Benevolent Dictator
You are in charge of the classroom, but you are aware that students (and indeed all people) respond better to kindness than harshness. Be firm but fair. Saying "because I said so" never works. Saying "I appreciate your cooperation while Ms./Mr. Smith is out today; and I look forward to writing a glowing report to your teacher about how well-behaved and on-task you were" does.
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