Substitute Teaching at the High School Level: Tips and Tricks

Substitute Teaching at the high school level can be challenging. However, there are some things you can do to help yourself, and your students, have a positive experience.

1. Allow autonomy: High school students are, at the very least, in their mid teens, and sometimes are as old as 20 before they graduate, so, even though their decision-making skills may not be fully developed, they know their own classroom routines, and if you trust them to behave as usual, they probably will.

2. Be respectful: If you respect your students, they will probably reciprocate. If you treat your students poorly, that will also be reciprocated.

3. Communicate honestly: A lot of times, if a student is refusing to cooperate with you, he or she will have a reason. Ask for it. If the student says he’s breaking that rule because he thinks it’s completely arbitrary and you agree, tell him it’s your job to enforce that rule, and you’d appreciate if he didn’t get you fired.

4. Ask, don’t order: Perhaps the biggest mistake a substitute teacher can make while working in a high school classroom is trying to be a dictator. A strong, “What I say goes” attitude can be effective in elementary schools, and absolutely necessary in a middle schools. Unfortunately, teenagers are at an age when they are attempting to assert their independence, and some of them may already be supporting themselves financially, to some degree or another. The difference between asking, “Can you come here for a moment?” and ordering, “Come here” matters.

5. Don’t give them the satisfaction: If you think a student is intentionally trying to provoke you, it might be true. Stay calm. Count to ten. Smile. Laugh at the antics, and quietly ask to speak with them at a moment when it does not disrupt the classroom. Explain your point of view. Explain the consequences if the behavior continues. Enforce those consequences if it does.

6. Know everything: The same way a lawyer must know all of her adversary’s options in a courtroom, you must know all of standard procedures for the high school where you’re working. Do disruptive students get sent to the principal? Is there an I.S.S. room? How do you make sure they show up to it? Are you allowed to write passes to the water fountain or the vending machine? Are students allowed to use their phones during free periods? If you’re trying to enforce a rule you think exists, but it doesn’t, you’re creating a reputation for being unreasonable, and you’re creating a lot of frustration for yourself and your students. If you’re not aware of a rule that does exist, you’re just not doing your job. Because high schools allow students more freedom, this can create very big problems.

Please contact us if you would like to receive more tips or tricks for making your substitute teaching experience more beneficial for your students, your school, and yourself.

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