An essential step
All teachers begin their careers as substitute teachers. Here’s how to prepare for substitute teaching! You’ve just submitted your application to your local school board. Now you think all you have to do is wait for the phone call. What if instead, I encouraged you to plan your practice?
As teaching students know only too well, substitute teaching in schools is the way for future education professionals to gain experience in addition to internships, and to build a reputation in the field. So, before they’ve even finished their bachelor’s degrees, budding teachers wander from school to school to carve out a niche for themselves and, by the same token, rake in the cash. But it’s not easy: they don’t have the luxury of planning their schedules and budgets for the medium term, they’re constantly changing and adapting, and all too often, children take advantage of their teacher’s absence to modify their behavior, and not always for the better. So it’s vital to be prepared for substitute teaching.
1- Survival kit
I strongly suggest that you prepare plenty of all-purpose material for all levels. I’m thinking here of riddles, crosswords, word search puzzles, sudokus, mazes, coloring pages of all kinds, French and math exercises, and so on. Although most of the time the teacher has left a plan for the day, it’s possible that his or her absence is unforeseen, and that we’ll have to fill certain periods with almost nothing on hand. Or it could simply be that the activity he or she has scheduled ends sooner than expected, and we have to compensate. It could be a lifesaver!
2- A simple, effective emulation system
Before arriving in the classroom, I believe it’s essential to have thought through a classroom management plan that can meet the needs of students in all cycles (so as not to reinvent it every time). That said, good behavior will be encouraged and bad behavior countered. Some like the idea that every minute lost through the group’s fault is taken up by the substitute during recess or free-play periods. Others hand out certificates of recognition at the end of the day to students who have done well. At the end of the day, whatever you decide to do, it’s important to let the students know when you arrive (rules, operation…) and to be consistent and constant throughout the day. This can only save you a lot of energy!
3- The day before, as important as the day of
On Monday, the phone rings at 6:30 a.m. and the dispatcher tells you to be at home forty-five minutes before 8:00. That’s a call that doesn’t give you a chance to relax in bed! Worse still, you don’t know what to wear or what to bring for dinner, and to make matters worse, your partner has parked in front of your car and you can’t find his keys. In my opinion, it’s a good idea to make sure the night before that conditions will be optimal when you wake up the next morning: choose your clothes, prepare your lunch, bring your equipment back home, etc. In short, make sure you don’t have to worry about the weather. In short, make sure you don’t have to rack your brains in the morning before going to bed the night before.
4- Get a head start
If you have the chance, I believe that arriving early at school to get ready before the students arrive contributes to efficiency. You’ll have more time to find the room, read the teacher’s plan, write it on the board as you see fit, as well as your name and rules, bring in the materials you’ll need for the day’s activities, etc. What’s worse than asking the students to get out their dictation notebooks? What’s worse than asking students to take out their dictation books and completely ignore where the list of words and sentences you’re supposed to read to them is? I speak from experience… You’ll save time and be more credible in everyone’s eyes.
5- Demonstrate rigor in all areas
At the end of the day, it’s a good idea to leave a full report for the teacher and clean up afterwards. As for the report, there are several models on the Internet that you can use as inspiration. As for the clean-up, you can even ask the students to help before they leave. If everyone pitches in, it’s much quicker. At the end of the day, people will know that you’re serious about your work and that you don’t neglect any aspect of it.
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By Léa Gagnon
Bachelor’s student in special education (and substitute teacher in my spare time)