C.M. Corner: The First Few Minutes

Travis Chapman

With the school year well under way, students are now diving into the routine of class schedules, after-school activities and homework.  As we are in the beginning of the school year, this week we will take a look at the beginning of the day/class.  The first 5-10 minutes with a new group of students is a crucial time for any substitute.  You have to not only set the tone and expectations for the day, but establish yourself as a friendly, caring authority in the classroom.  While, each person will have a different approach, we’ve listed some ideas to consider.
Regardless of the position you are working, it is important to introduce yourself to your students.  This allows them to build some sort of relationship with you without taking much time.  Take a couple minutes to tell them your name; that you’re excited or looking forward to working with them and something interesting about yourself.    This fact could be something related to the position you’re working, a hobby or something fun you did over the summer.  If you have the opportunity, let them tell you the same information.   Be creative and incorporate it as works best for you.  This may be right away before anything else happens or incorporated throughout the beginning procedures like morning meeting or attendance.
While this may not be an earth-shattering concept, we are not their regular staff member.  Just the same as we are trying to determine the daily procedures and what to do, the students are trying to figure out what they are going to be as well.  Set the framework for how the day is going to happen by establishing classroom expectations; how the students are to behave, how you are going to interact with them, what they need to accomplish in the class/at that time, etc.  If you are able to utilize the regular classroom expectations, great!  If you are not, then let them know what you want.  We can’t expect our students to behave in a certain manner if we have not told them the expectation.
Along with setting expectations, understand that both the students and you will need to be flexible.  Plan for it and set that concept in their minds.  We have had a number of our substitute staff let us know that things have worked a lot better when they told their students that things will be a little different that day, and that’s ok.  If you establish this idea early on, when a student tells you “that’s not how our teacher/my para does it,” we can remind them about that flexibility.  People are able and willing to be more flexible if they can prepare for it.
If we are able to gain advantage of the first few minutes of the class/day and establish a positive, structured classroom environment, we will be able to set the tone for the day and additionally prevent some classroom misbehavior in the process.  If you have any tips or tricks to help start the day, leave them in the comments or let us know at training@teachersoncall.com.