No one knows the power of first impressions like substitute teachers. Whether you find yourself facing a new class hourly, daily, or weekly, be sure you can answer the question: What kind of first impression do I want to make? And the great thing about being a substitute teacher is that you get to perfect the art of the first impression on a regular basis!
Let your clothes do some work
Before you even open your mouth, your appearance communicates a lot to your students. Be sure to have several pieces in your closet that you can count on to help you feel professional, secure, and comfortable.
If you enjoy bold or trendy fashion, consider making a quieter statement with just one piece or accessory: you want your clothes to reflect your personality but not distract from your ability!
It can be just as stressful for students to see a new face behind the desk as it is for teachers. Students need to feel safe and relaxed in order to give you their best, and they feel this way when the classroom leader appears assured and in control.
Not feeling as confident as you need to appear? That’s okay: go ahead and fake it ‘til you make it!
Don’t fake anything more than confidence, though, as building trust is just as important as appearing in control. One of the most impressive–and challenging–things about students is their ability to detect pretense.
Don’t try to be anything you’re not. Students respond best to substitute teachers who say what they mean and mean what they say.
Make use of your introduction
Students will be more inclined to reciprocate the effort when you share more about yourself than just your name. Use this time to let them know a little about your personality, whether you want to share a bit about your pets, your favorite sports team, or a funny anecdote.
Your introduction is also the time to establish clear guidelines for expectations and consequences, which will help everyone feel more relaxed. Don’t skip over this important step!
Attend to attendance
If you don’t know the attendance scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it’s time that you do. Taking attendance is not only a practical routine; it’s also a symbolic ritual.
Let attendance be a time you learn about your students. Be creative and let students write an “attendance note” or draw a picture for you. Remember that little gestures like eye contact and a smile go a long way with students who want you to see them as individuals. This is also a good time to home in on those who might be helpful or challenging.
What’s a successful or not-so-successful strategy that’s worked for you at the start of a new class? Share in the comments below!