C.M. Corner: By Any Other Name

Travis Chapman

Walking into a new classroom, 30 new people to interact with, a lesson plan to learn and teach and a set of new rules to adapt to and uphold.  This is part of the challenge of working as a substitute.  You become responsible for not only keeping tabs on your students, but for managing their behavior.  This can become quite the challenge.  This week, we are taking a look at an easy way to build relationship with your students, but also to address behavioral concerns, by using their name.  Now, is this always easy to do, no.  And we are not suggesting that you wave your magic wand and suddenly you will remember every bit of information you learn about your students.  However, we have put together some ways to help alleviate the challenge.
One of the great things about working in a class is the attendance roster.  Some more tech-savvy schools and districts have an electronic copy of the attendance with pictures of each student’s face.  Some have a basic seating chart for you.  Others simply have an alphabetical list: last name, first.  Whatever attendance system they utilize, having a paper copy for yourself can be incredibly beneficial.  With your own copy, you can take notes on where the students are sitting, what they are wearing that day, distinguishing marks or features.  I have heard that at least one substitute marks “priority” names.  There seems to be one in every class, a student who immediately starts to challenge your authority, sparks up as the class clown or feels the need to discuss every action with anybody near them.  The quicker we can use their name, the easier it will be to address behavior.  Often times students think that because you don’t know who they are, they can’t get into trouble.  But utilizing their name immediately indicates that you know who they are and they are no longer a random face in the classroom.
Another method that can be used is a name tag.  I have heard people have success through multiple facets.  A couple people have recommended using masking tape to create name tags for each student.  One even went to create them while taking attendance and thanking the student for wearing it while handing them out.  She mentioned they are more likely to take it and follow through with not being given an option and a pleasant gratitude.  Others have utilized creating tent tags with the students to put on their desk and take with them throughout the classroom.  That way, when they are not at their desks or move areas, they still can see the name. 
One of my personal favorites is using an activity or game to become better acquainted with the students.  The internet is full on ice-breaker/name-game activities that go beyond saying a name and their favorite animal.  You could have students do brief interviews with their neighbor and introduce them, play Two Truths and a Fib or my go-to the Big 3.  In the Big 3, write 3 random questions, “What’s your favorite______?, What’s your least favorite___________? If you could be _______, what would you be?” I’ll state my name and answer all 3 questions and have each person in the class do the same thing.  Utilizing some sort of activity helps to solidify the name in your mind and also builds a positive connection to you. 
The quicker we are able to learn a student’s name and use it, the faster we are able to build a relationship with them.  Utilizing that small connection, we can then address and potentially prevent misbehavior.  If you have any ways that you help learn your students’ names, send them over to training@teachersoncall.com.  We would love to hear them.  We are always looking for great ideas and strategies people are using to help address and manage student behavior.