Thinking of working as a substitute or relief teacher? Consider these tips on classroom behaviour management and working in a school.

Many teachers begin their career working as a substitute or relief teacher. It is an invaluable way to get experience and with any luck, a way to make connections which could lead to full-time employment. Being a relief teacher requires a different set of skills and attributes than being a staff teacher. Students love to push boundaries and try to manipulate substitute teachers because they believe the teacher may not know the rules. Preparedness, confidence and consistency are vital to keeping sane and maintaining order in a classroom full of pupils that you have just met.

Be Prepared

Although classroom teachers are expected to leave suitable work for their students during an absence, this may not always happen. On occasion, the work left will be inappropriate work–either too difficult, too easy or confusing. Be prepared with a set of activities that students can do regardless of ability–wordsearches, riddles, or creative writing or drawing. Do your best to have the students complete the assigned work, but focus on keeping them engaged rather than worry about completing the assigned work.

Bring your own paper, pens, pencils and whiteboard marker. Ask the relief coordinator how attendance should be recorded and if keys are necessary to enter classrooms. Get an overview of disciplinary policies on paper and do your best to implement them when needed.

Be Confident

Relief TeacherWhen you feel prepared, confidence often follows. As well as having an understanding of the school’s behaviour policies, be sure to have some of your own rules for classroom behaviour. When students see they have a relief teacher, they may see it is an opportunity to push boundaries. One major issue that often arises is students leaving the classroom during lesson time. Clarify with the relief coordinator or principal if there are guidelines involving letting students leave the room to use the restroom or retrieve items from lockers. If possible, do not let students leave–once one student is permitted to leave the room, many others will want to leave as well. This is a good way to establish some authority and a main reason why you need to be prepared–if a students claims they need to go to their locker to get a pen/paper/book, you are ready to hand them a replacement, thus removing the need for them to leave. Most students quickly give up trying to push boundaries at this point.

Walk around the classroom and show an interest in the students’ work. Do your best to get to know names by looking on book covers and use the student’s name when talking to him or her–this is a effective way to create an air of authority.

Be Consistent

Be consistent with your rules and routines and you will quickly establish a reputation as an authority figure within the school. Not only will students be more receptive, administration is more likely to consider you for a permanent position.

Relief and substitute teaching is unpredictable and exciting, but sometimes stressful. Following these simple tips can help make your teaching experience positive and constructive.