# 48 Substitute Teachers

Photo courtesy of imagegator.com.
Photo courtesy of imagegator.com.

# 48 Substitute Teachers

The following is a post written by Anonymous, which deals with getting respect as a substitute teacher. I will be glad to address these concerns and any other concerns you may have. Simply write and tell me about it. The chances are you will be helping others out as well.

Hello. I just found your site and thought I would ask you for some advice for a problem that has been weighing on my mind. I am a 24-year-old, recent graduate from my Secondary English Education program and have recently gotten a job as a Building Substitute at a local middle school. However, as a recent graduate from college, I look young. VERY young. Young enough to have the Assistant Principal (who interviewed and hired me) tell me to get to class when I was attempting to guide the students in my class back to the classroom after lunch (I reminded him I am a staff member and he apologized. Since then I have made sure to be more involved with staff so they know I am an adult and a teacher). However, I am not so concerned about administration as a am worried about how students view my authority in the classroom.
As a substitute teacher, even one who is consistently in the same building as I am as a Building Sub., it is vitally important to maintain a level of authority so that students understand that I mean business and am not just a slightly older student who is in charge of the class. At 5’1, most of the students are actually taller than me. Plus, now that the honeymoon period that the beginning of school is over, I have noticed more of a push back from students when I ask them to do their assigned work, not to be too loud or disruptive to other students. It is hard to implement a standard of behavior management when I do not see the same students every day and have little backing from administration to treat substitute teachers the same as regular teachers (not that I can blame them-they have bigger problems to deal with). The school does implement the Step program for behavior management, but once again it is difficult to enforce when students think that because I am a Substitute Teacher I have no force behind what I am saying.
It has come to the point where I am thinking about not looking for a teaching job anymore after my year as a Building Substitute is up, that maybe I should give myself a few years to look older, maybe get my Masters or take a job in education that does not directly involve students. I should not have to think about how my appearance will impact my teaching skills, but unfortunately I do. All I want to do is design great ways for students to connect to literature and convey themselves through writing. It seems impossible that if I cannot get through the behavior management, I will not be able to inspire and teach kids about writing and reading the way I wish to. As an experienced educator, let me know what you think I should do. How can I change the way that students perceive me as a teacher? Should I take a few years off away from teaching and come back to it at a later time? Or should I stick with it?

Response: This is an excellent topic choice. On my first day of teaching I stood next to the school librarian for three minutes while she spoke to someone about her weekend, waiting for her to talk to me. Finally I spoke up and said I was the new Kindergarten teacher.Their faces got red and they apologized, saying they thought I was a student. My friend told me her first day at a High School the Football team went into the parking lot and took her VW Bug and picked it up and turned it around. She had to wait until people left so she could get her car out.

I am unfamiliar with the Step Discipline Program, Now, what can you do? Realize that none of this is your fault. Middle school students live to torture the substitute teacher. If there is anyway you can get out of that school my advice to you is to seize the moment. Keep looking for teaching jobs. Know that your current situation will not last forever and your goal is to get your own classroom.

How do you survive in your current position? Dress up every day. Look older and wear Business type clothes and not youthful fashions. Appearances will help! Do not dress like a student, Wear lipstick and other makeup if you can. Wear long skirts and heels if you can. When I started teaching I went to Lord and Taylor and was dressed by one of their professional dressers. The clothes I purchased were classics and timeless. It was expensive to buy those four outfits, but I used them as the basis for my wardrobe. Then I discovered Jones of New York at an outlet store. I bought matching long and short skirts, pants, and a matching blouse and jacket. I also purchased an extra pair of pants and had a seamstress cut them to just below the knee. I loved that look. I looked professional every day, and felt better about myself, too. I also bought a pair  of black and another pair of brown shoes. When you spend a little extra, clothes tend to last.

You can not change your students, just yourself. You may find another in your position where you can vent. Use a class period to have students write about respect. Grade the papers and ask the teacher if you can enter the grades into Power School or what ever grading system you use. The students should have ramifications for their actions, but you can't do it alone. Put a smile on your face and look confident, even if you cry on your way home. Take a deep breath and cross another day off your calendar. You can do this. You are a great teacher and did not cause these difficulties. Best of luck and blessings to you!