Home | Blog | Substitute Forum: Connecting with our Students

Substitute Forum: Connecting with our Students

The day in the life of a substitute is always full of adventures and new experiences.  You may work in a new building and new class everyday or you could sub in a couple particular schools/classrooms.  In any case, building relationships with your students will go a long way to help you manage classroom behavior and have a successful day in the classroom.  We had some excellent questions, ideas and discussions at our Substitute Forum about this subject.  We’ve put together some of these tips and ideas together for you to consider if you need some more ideas.



If you have been in the schools or classroom a lot previously, but working with a new group of student, utilize that information.  Let the students know that you are aware of the policies/procedures of the day.  This way they’ll understand that things will continue as normal.  If you haven’t subbed in a particular school or are unfamiliar with the day to day procedures, let them know that things may be different today, but that’s ok. 


There were many comments about the use of expectations in the classroom.  Some preferred to discuss their expectations with the class, others simply wrote them on the board and left them for the class to see all day.  One had mentioned that with older students, they like to discuss what the student’s expectations for the day are as well, to help the students contribute to how the day runs.  Another had mentioned writing the day’s agenda on the board so students know what is coming next and when, noting that it has worked particularly well in Special Education settings.  In any case, students typically feel much more comfortable when they know what they can expect and what is expected of them.


A couple people revealed that they will utilize seating charts and attendance to help learn the students’ names.  They’ll take notes next to names to help them remember them or give them a name tag.  One sub uses a role of masking tape and writes the student’s name on it, passing it out as she calls attendance.  Another sub advised that she says names as neutrally as possible so that students don’t feel out of place if it’s mispronounced and encourages them to correct her. 


A consistent issue brought up was the one or two students who don’t want to participate and follow directions or are immediately antagonistic.  A number of great suggestions were offered in regards to these students.  Aside from things mentioned previously, one sub uses it as an opportunity to build a more direct connection with the student by discussing the expectations and explaining why those things are important.  Another sub said to be “the calmest person in the room” and to not engage in a power struggle.  If there is a violation of the expectations, simply deal with it and move on.  Another advised that ll of these students come from different walks of life and we don’t know what their walk is.  But rather, go with the flow and know what your role is for the day.  He said, “you don’t need to like me, but by the end of the day you need to know how to ______ and we need to accomplish that today.”  In any case, don’t take it personally.



These are some great suggestions and tips brought up by some of our subs.  A huge thank you to those that attended and shared your experiences and your tips.  Do you have any strategies that you use to connect with your student(s)?  We would love to hear them.  Send them to training@teachersoncall.com