Tips for Substitutes
are two different perspectives to consider when applying Tools
for Teaching to
the job of substitute teaching. The first is when you
are about to have a
substitute. The second is when you are about to be a
substitute. Our treatment of substitute teaching will,
therefore, have two parts: 1) your preparation for having
and 2) what to do when you are
Having a Substitute:
primary concern for teachers who are implementing Tools
for Teaching is
that the substitute might mess it up. The most vulnerable
part of the program in this regard is Responsibility
when you do not tell the substitute about Responsibility
Training, the students often do. You may return to
find huge bonuses posted on the board.
you tell the substitute about Responsibility Training,
they often get it wrong due to the complexity of
the program. Most worrisome is the use of time
Without training to the contrary, most people equate discipline with punishment.
Consequently, an untrained sub who is being
hassled by the students may reach for the penalty
clause in desperation in order to “put the lid on.” You
may return to find enough penalty time posted
to destroy PAT for the week.
failsafe approach for dealing with a substitute is to
give him or her a simplified “bonus only” version
of the program. Substitutes may reward the students with
PAT, but they may not penalize
is an example. Tell the teacher to rate each class period
using the following scale:
0. Highly uncooperative
rowdy, but not oppositional
2. Fairly well
behaved with a few short-comings
and well behaved
Have the substitute post these numbers at the end of each
class period. The substitute will tell the students that
all of the numbers will be added to PAT as bonus minutes
when you return. This simple procedure will help an effective
sub, but, of course, it cannot save an ineffective sub.
Being a Substitute:
you are the substitute, you must be in charge from the
moment you enter the classroom. This does not mean that
you act like a drill sergeant. Rather, it means that
you have a plan, and you begin to implement the plan as
you enter the classroom.
Students can read tentative body language “a mile
away,” and they know whether or not they can “sink
the sub” before you begin to speak.
Introduce yourself in a warm but crisp fashion and begin an activity – immediately.
Do not expect
a lesson plan to be left by the other teacher, and do not ask
the students what they are supposed to be doing today.
Do not worry about the other teacher’s rules or
procedures since they will probably be unknown to you.
the ground running.” Announce your expectations
and start your activity. That activity should be enjoyable
and somewhat subject related. Your opening words might
sound something like this:
morning. I am Miss Seymour, and today I am your substitute.
We will be following my rules today which are simple – pay
attention and do your best work. For starters I will
divide the room into two teams down this isle. You
are the captain of this team, and you are
the captain of that team. The first thing I want
you to do is…”
you are in the classroom before the students arrive,
quickly arrange the furniture so you can “work the crowd” and
meet the students at the door with Bell
Work (see Tools
for Teaching Chapter
11). Teachers who substitute frequently should have folders
of high-interest lessons. Elementary teacher should have
folders for math, language arts and social studies for
different grade levels. High school teachers should have
a range of options in their subject area.
activities serve beautifully as high-interest lessons.
Teachers who build a PAT
Bank as part of training
soon learn that there is no real difference between
a PAT activity and a good, high interest Say, See,
Do lesson. Developing a PAT Bank simply expands
of how to make learning fun. For PAT ideas, check the
PAT Bank on this web site.
the rest of Tools for Teaching,
don’t introduce it, just do it.
You will work the crowd and set limits as a simple extension
of who you are. Your “ace in the hole” for
discipline management is always Say, See, Do Teaching. Get
them active. Keep
them busy with input-output, input-output,
Give them a VIP even if you have to construct it step-by-step
as you give input. Then, use Praise, Prompt and Leave
as you monitor their work.
if you wish to develop your classroom management skills
and cannot attend a Tools for Teaching workshop,
get the book and download the Study
Group Activity Guide from this web site. The Study
Guide contains prompt-by-prompt protocols for each
of the training exercises contained in the workshop.
You can practice the skills with your spouse or a
friend in your own living room.
Stories from Substitutes
Gail from Hawaii
subbed a class that was supposed to be very difficult. I
visited the school the week before to observe four
different teachers. One of them was using Tools
I could see exactly what part of the program she
was using and why it worked. The other three teachers
and threaten” as their method. I got the classroom
of one of those three.
I used the skills I learned from Dr. Jones’ – working
the crowd, the regal turn as part of Limit Setting, and “camping
out” in one instance. I also had some awesome
bell work set up. The kids were angels and said
they wished I were their regular teacher!
Vicki from New York state
I walked into the classroom, introduced myself, and
immediately started a ten minute PAT. Then I said, “If
you want more of this, let’s get our work done.” They
got the message, and I had a great day.
Peg from Florida
I have a Bell Work activity that works like a charm
when I have the same classroom for several days. It
is a captivating story that is divided into sections,
each of which ends in a cliff-hanger. I pass out copies
of that day’s installment and tell the students
to provide punctuation for the story as they read it.
Denise from California
I subbed for RSP today – English, grades 9 and
10. (Students are referred to RSP – Resource Specialist
Program – by an IEP team for having learning
and behavior disabilities.) The regular teacher warned
me that it would be rough even though there are only
about twelve kids in each class.
I started them off with a “gift” of three
minutes of PAT and let them work for more by staying
on task. Since they seemed to have noattention span at all, I let them earn a minute of PAT for each five minutes on task. They were able to accrue an average
of 8 minutes of PAT over each 50-minute class period
which they spent at the end of the period. They really
did get a lot of work done!
The class had a full time instructional
aid, and she was in complete shock. She said that she
had never seen this group of kids so well behaved for anybody.
Considering that I am a substitute, she felt that I
had done some kind of magic on them. I showed her your
book and explained that is was nothing but good, solid
teaching practice. She was speechless, really. I felt
good coming home from a day of subbing. Imagine that.
Training for Substitutes
The investment that school districts make in developing
a pool of well-trained substitutes varies greatly. Many
districts seem to have no plan apart from finding a warm
body at the last minute. Other districts are systematic
and proactive. Here are some examples of the latter.
Ron Nash, Virginia Beach School District, Virginia
We call our substitute teachers guest
teachers. We are
trying to take the edge off of the unfortunate connotation
“sub” has picked up over the years. It’s
a subtle change, maybe, but most of the guest teachers
seem to like it.
We offer several resources for
our guest teachers. We allow them to use the online
education journal collection called ProQuest, the Professional
Collection – something we subscribe to for the
whole school division. We also maintain a library just
for guest teachers. They may check out books (Fred’s
is one of them) for three weeks, at which point we
ask them to return the book(s) through the interoffice
In terms of training, our office
(Office of Organizational Development) provides one day
of mandatory training before guest teachers can go into
the classroom. We concentrate on interpersonal skills,
classroom management (Fred is a big part of that), logistics
and professionalism. It is very interactive and taps
into the knowledge, experience and wisdom of our veteran
Our Office of Organizational
Development also offers two-hour seminars twice each
month during the school year. The seminars deal with
topics such as Everyday Math (a program used in our
elementary schools that is unfamiliar to today’s
adults), instructional strategies, outlines of specific
subject-area programs (curriculum scope and sequence),
and, of course, classroom management.
These two-hour seminars are
offered on weekday evenings, and average attendance
has been 15-20. The Fred Jones seminar fills up quickly.
Guest teachers do not get paid to attend these seminars.
They attend for the best of motives… to help
our students by becoming more knowledgeable and more
efficient in the classroom.
Two of our instructors are long-term
substitutes at the high school who went through your
training. They bring a lot of first-hand experience
to the seminar and are great at answering “nuts and
Sonia Hawkins, Houston Middle School, Houston, TX
The seminar went wonderfully!
At the beginning I told the substitutes that the skills
I was about to teach them would eliminate
“annoying behavior” – not only from
their students, but also from their own children, spouses,
and family members!
I found a clip on United Streaming
that showed student misbehavior ending in the teacher
going bonkers and throwing several kids out of class.
We discussed who won and who lost and how it made the
teacher feel. I then showed them Chapter 7 of Tools
Calm is Strength. We practiced remaining calm in the
face of provocation (“the turn”) just as
you did in the workshop. I also talked to them about
Working the Crowd (We have substitutes who bring a
newspaper or a book to read while substituting!).
The seminar lasted about an
hour. Before they left I held up Fred's book and referred
them to your web site. After the training 5 or 6 people
came up to me to ask more questions because they are
long-term substitutes. Others emailed the personnel department
to tell them that it was the best training they had had
all year long.
I am the only teacher who has
spoken out for substitute staff development in the nine
years that I have been here. Thanks for letting me use
your program and your book to help these people! You
guys have a great program. I only wish I had known about
it 20 years ago.