In my role as a substitute teacher, my number one goal is the same as a doctor’s – do no harm.
I want the regular teacher to come back the next day with no messes to clean up or discipline issues to resolve, so that the class can move forward as if the regular teacher had never left.
Well, that’s the goal.
This week I subbed in a really great class. The kids were calm when they came in. They seemed willing to give me a chance. They went along with my incentive program. They were flexible. They were helpful. They had to be patient because their teacher was unexpectedly sick and had not left very detailed plans. I was winging it and the students knew it. We got along pretty well the first day.
I thought the second day would be easy. I had a better idea of the routine and was able to be better prepared academically. But when I opened the classroom door I saw the students’ faces fall. Their beloved teacher was gone again! As the day wore on their behavior deteriorated. They were less focused, less flexible, less helpful. Less nice. I reacted by becoming more controlling, less understanding, and more negative. The class and I were de-evolving in lower life forms.
As you can imagine, this is a little disheartening for a classroom management “expert” like myself. Why didn’t my classroom management techniques and strategies work?
It’s because the regular teacher uses the very best classroom management technique there is. She builds positive relationships with her students. On her wall it says “In here we treat each other with respect and kindness,” and her students clearly know they are loved. As a stranger I could be politely tolerated, but my fancy-pants techniques and strategies weren’t nearly as effective as her yearlong quest to develop a positive relationship with each and every student.
Developing those relationships (especially with THOSE students) is not always easy. It takes time and effort, sometimes superhuman effort. But in the end, love is the best classroom management technique there is.
Now go make it a great day for yourself and your students!
Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com
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