Last week I was in a 4th grade classroom for half the day and I STRUGGLED. I mean I REALLY struggled. Here are the issues I faced.
1. I allowed kids to try to tell me how the teacher “always does” something.
2. I had no plan for how to quiet kids or get their attention.
3. Transitions were disastrous.
4. I unknowingly let kids run the class.
I left the class feeling like I was just not cut out to be in a 4th grade classroom.
However, the itch to redeem myself was too strong to not go back to a 4th grade room so I took another 4th grade sub job yesterday and it went magnificently.
Firstly, I used the morning meeting to set the tone for the day. No topic in the morning meeting is more important that how the classroom should look, feel, and sound with a sub. Upfront I acknowledged that I was probably not going to do everything the same as their regular class teacher– but was quick to follow up with how that is ok and a chance to take part in something different.
Secondly, I accepted the fact that kids lie. All day long kids tell me what Mr. D would do and I just responded with, “but today we are going to …”. Again, bathroom was an issue. Mr. D. has a slick bathroom ticket system where kids have to give up a ticket to go. If they don’t use their tickets by the end of the week, they get their names in for a prize drawing. The sub directions said to ALWAYS take a ticket. Kids would respond with things like, “Mr. D. does not take a ticket if we are done with homework.” I did not budge. I continued to take tickets. That earned me respect. Apparently other subs have caved.
Math was tough again because the lesson was just so long and unwieldy. I really do not like the math curriculum the district uses, Everyday Math. It really over-packs the lessons and the learning objectives are beyond the scope of any one class period. Apparently I am not the only one who finds the curriculum undesirable. Here is a review from Forbes Magazine. And, here is a Facebook group dedicated to parents who dislike Everyday Math. The reason I bring this up is that the curriculum that is unwieldy creates classroom management challenges.
So, a good day of subbing is about being prepared and anticipating what may happen and having a plan for what may happen when things don’t go well.
To all the frustrated subs out there, keep practicing. That is the only way to keep learning and trying new things.