Plan Ahead to Successfully Host a Substitute Teacher

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Most teachers know what it feels like to substitute in a classroom in which they are unfamiliar.  To add a little excitement into the mix of a sub day, kids, when they realize their regular teacher is not present, may be under the impression that their workload will be light and they will not have to pay attention.  There are several steps you can take to ensure any substitute teacher that enters into your classroom is left with a good impression of your class and a good feeling about your direction.

  1. Planning ahead makes everything about an absence run more smoothly.   One part of planning ahead is to simply have an organized classroom.  This is something that will benefit you and your students every day; and provide a good experience for a substitute.  Have places for all tools and papers; and prepare lesson plans in advance so neither you nor your sub will have to scramble when you need to be out for a day or longer.
  2. Preparing your students with expectations of how they should behave in your absence will ensure that they do not assume they can “get away” with less than respectful behavior while you are away.  Talk to students well in advance about how they are to behave in the classroom; and take the opportunity to point out to them that they are to behave this way regardless of whether you are teaching them or they are taking instruction from another teacher.  Explaining to students that they need to make a good impression of who they are and how they have been taught by you is a good way to hand them responsibility for their actions in the classroom.
  3. Ribbon lanyards come in handy in any classroom and provide convenience for teachers and students.  The way ribbon lanyards can help in the instance of a substitute teaching situation is that classroom keys can be easily seen and kept track of.  Additionally, when bathroom passes or keys are kept on ribbon lanyards at all times, both teachers and students can easily find these items quickly and without interrupting valuable time.  You could even leave an extra decorative lanyard on your desk for your substitute teacher as a thank you gift for handling your class so well.  A little appreciation can make a teacher’s day!
  4. Giving substitute teachers a head’s up as to what can be expected will help their day run more smoothly – and help your students stay on track.  You know your students better than any other school personnel.  Leave a note for a substitute with the name of a student or students they can call on for extra help throughout the day.  If there are particular students who require extra guidance or management, place their names on the list and what usually works with these students.  Also put the name of a nearby teacher who can be called upon for help if needed.  This should be prearranged with that teacher.

The better prepared a substitute is to fill in for you; the better everyone’s day goes.  The amount of success they experience is largely due to the information you leave for them.  By preparing as much information ahead of time as possible, you can ensure a successful substitute day.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Team Teaching

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In more and more schools today, teachers are working in teams to create a new way of delivering information to students. Team teaching involves a group of instructors who work together cooperatively and purposefully. In regular meetings, these team teachers set goals for their course, brainstorm ideas, prepare individual lesson plans, design syllabi and evaluate results of implemented ideas.

The approach of teaching as a team allows for a higher level of interaction between teachers and their peers, as well as between teachers and their students. In this method of teaching, evaluation is a constant. Faculty evaluates students based on their achievements and goals; and students evaluate faculty based on their proficiency in teaching material.

The emphasis of team teaching is growth for both students and teachers. There is also emphasis on shared responsibility, specialization, broadening horizons, balancing initiative and on developing clear and interesting content leading to student development. Team teaching aims to lead to more democratic participation and elevated affective, cognitive and behavioral outcomes. It has been proven that team teaching is beneficial throughout all the levels of education, from elementary school through graduate school.

Team teaching seems to hold the main advantage of breaking free from traditional teaching. When freed of the single-course, single-teacher pattern, everyone involved is encouraged to experiment and practice innovation. Through team teaching, students can be split into as many different combinations as necessary for any particular task. Remedial programs and honors sections are given opportunities to develop more appropriate and effective lessons plans for students with special interests or special needs. Team teaching programs can address the different skills and learning styles found in students, instead of assuming that all students will learn in the same manner.

Because students do not all learn in the same manner, or at the same rate, periods of equal length may not be the most appropriate for all learners. In today’s classroom, there is a wide array of students with varying degrees of demands. Through team teaching, students are given more opportunity to be seen as individuals with specific learning styles. They are exposed to teachers from varying backgrounds and specialties; and therefore given a broader base from which to launch their learning. This alone sets both students and teachers up for successful learning environments.

Team teaching does require commitment on the part of the teacher. It is not the answer to all problems faced by schools, teachers and administrators; but it is a step in the right direction. Team teaching requires planning, time management and a willingness to share. There is a risk of failure; but teachers who engage in team teaching seem to blossom into more open-minded, imaginative, creative beings that work well with others and pass along more balanced learning to their students.

If you see the need for change in your classroom or school and are not a part of a teaching team, look into the possibilities in your area. Team teaching can take place over the internet with web chats, or in person with teachers in your own district.

The Teacher’s Plan for the School Year

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teacher's planAt the beginning of the new school year, teachers are busy preparing their classrooms and lesson plans. In all of the hustle and bustle, it is quite easy to forget to think about classroom management and discipline. As every teacher knows, however, these two issues can eat up valuable class time and cause undue stress if not handled correctly. Here are some tips to develop an all-inclusive plan to help your school year run more smoothly.

It is a common mistake to start the school year off without a discipline plan in place. Students, smart creatures that they are, make a quick assessment of your plan – or lack thereof – and will know exactly what they can get away with. If you set low standards and accept disruptive behaviors at the beginning of the year, it will be more difficult to correct the problem than if you set a standard for appropriate behaviors from the first day forward. The key: start out tough to maintain appropriate classroom behavior throughout the year.

As hard as you try, there may come a time when you encounter a difficult student that needs a little more attention in the discipline department. It is important with students like this to not engage in confrontation in front of other students. In a confrontation, there is always a winner and a loser. When dealing with a particularly difficult and quick spoken student, it is easy to come out looking like the loser if you get frustrated in front of the class. With this type of student, it is wise to handle discipline issues privately, after class. Asking a student to stay behind when the bell rings calls very little attention to the situation; and also allows you time to formulate proper discipline without letting emotions guide you.

Communication is paramount for kids of all ages. In the classroom setting, a teacher will do well to clearly communicate their expectations for each session. For instance, if you are entering into a quiet reading time, you may announce “during this session, I expect that each of you will read quietly, without talking, for 20 minutes.” You may need to state your expectations at the beginning of every session, or every day, for several days before your students know exactly how they may and may not behave in your classroom.

This communication begins on the very first day of school and does not let up until the end of the year if need be. Every student should be held to your standards; even though it is expected that you will have certain students that you “click” with more than others. Students are very aware of what is fair and what is not and so it is important that you, as the leader of your classroom, be fair in your dealings with each and every student.

It is the responsibility of the teacher to create an environment of learning for their students; not just to lecture facts and figures. In order for students to learn, they need to engage; and in order to do that, they need the right environment. And to get that, they need you to have a plan.

Teachers and Time Management

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Teachers are in the position where they have to fit a lot of tasks and materials into each day. They must stay on track while still ensuring that their students retain the information being taught. All in all, without proper time management, a teacher can quickly become overwhelmed by the stresses of the job. If you want to give your best to your occupation, do what it takes to become very effective with your time management. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Use the resources available to you. If there is something new you would like to introduce to your classroom; chances are you are not the first. Talk to other teachers you know and tell them about your ideas. This is a great way to find out if others have done the same thing. You may find that you come away with several tips on how to complete your project or plan successfully.

Making lists cannot be overstated when it comes to time management. Everyone in any occupation (and even at home) can benefit immensely from itemizing the tasks that they wish to accomplish each day. Some teachers recommend creating the habit of making 3 goals each day. When you have your list of tasks you need to accomplish, prioritize them; placing your biggest task first. By accomplishing your most dreaded goal first thing in the day, everything else looks easy!

Distractions are huge time stealers. This can be the parent who loves to chat or the colleague who loves to pick your brain. The best way to tackle these types of distractions is to listen for a few minutes (you never want to be rude) and then explain that you would love to hear more, but have work that you need to get back to. During times when you are pressed to accomplish a task, it may be necessary to lock your door and put out a nicely stated “do not disturb” sign.

Sometimes it is necessary to actually remove yourself from your normal environment in order to accomplish tasks in a shorter amount of time. This may mean that you head to the library on to grade papers so the football game blaring on the television does not keep you from focusing 100%. It may mean that you leave campus to grade papers if your attention is constantly diverted in this setting.

The times that are allotted for breaks should be used as such. Many teachers feel that they will get more done if they work through their lunch break. However, by taking time away from work and even away from campus (depending on how much time you are given) can renew your energy to such a degree that you accomplish more when you return.

Likewise, time at home should be for you and your family. If family responsibilities and chores are overwhelming, delegate them to those who share your home. Explain that their help is necessary and use the saved time to do something fun together. This helps you unwind and keeps you from forgetting to focus a little on yourself.

The Teacher’s Life: Keys to Avoiding Burnout

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Teacher's LifeIt is estimated that $2.2 billion is spent annually in our public schools due to teacher turnover. It is no secret that teaching can be a stressful career. It may be a surprise, however, to learn that about half of new teachers leave teaching within the first five years of their career. Many teachers cite low salaries, negative student behavior and lack of administrative support as the primary reasons they seek employment in a completely different field.

With the numbers shown above, you can see just how necessary it is for every teacher to know how to avoid burnout. Those in the profession enter it because they have a strong desire to help children learn and grow. To see them leave what they love because strain has built up to such levels that they see no other way is simply sad. If you are new to the profession, or are finding yourself suffering from undue stress; it is imperative that you seek ways to recover after every day spent in the classroom.

Part of what can be very helpful to teachers is the support of another. Just as it is for students, it can be highly effective for teachers to work in teams. Having a partner with which to prepare and organize lesson plans can help a teacher feel more at ease with what can be an overwhelming task. Talk to another teacher who teaches the same grade as you and make the invitation to work as a team.

Extra help can also be found through parents and the students themselves. Invite students to take on tasks like cutting out or laminating papers for extra credit. Anything that doesn’t require grading or adult supervision can be a task that you delegate to students. Parent volunteers can take on the task of grading papers during their volunteer time. Every teacher knows just how much of a weekend can be given up to grade papers; so finding a solution to this dilemma can lift a large burden from your shoulders.

When you lessen your grading load, you then have time in the evenings or on the weekends to spend time being something other than a teacher. In order to love what you do for years and years, you’ve got to remember to be a person outside of that occupation. Because teaching requires you to give of yourself constantly, you must learn ways to replenish just as consistently. Take a weekend away with a friend or loved one to visit a local attraction not associated with school. Go to the beach or head to the mountains for a nature hike.

Getting out in the fresh air is a great way to relieve tension and rejuvenate the senses. Because so much of your time is spent indoors in a classroom that can get noisy, it could be quite refreshing to create an outdoor area in your home where you can go at the end of every day. Creating a small ritual of sitting in your quiet outdoor area allows you to make the switch from work to home more easily. If home contains its own responsibilities that hit you as soon as you walk through the door, stop at a local park for some quiet time before driving home.