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Newbiesub Newbiesub is offline
 
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How to handle disruptive middle schoolers
Old 10-23-2019, 07:13 PM
 
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Sorry this is a long post, itís just my first time posting so also giving a little background. I just started substitute teaching in August, with no teaching background. I was a paralegal for most of my career, but was not happy with the long hours and long commute. I have a high schooler and a middle schooler and needed to be more available to them, so thought subbing was a good solution.
It has gone okay so far. Iíve had some good days and some bad.

Today was the worst though. All classes were taking quizzes, so they took their quizzes and behaved. The last class of the day is basically a home room where they can do homework or go to other teachers for help. First they are to have 10 minutes of silent reading. Thatís when the problem started. I kept telling the kids they needed to quiet down and do their work, but a group of kids kept talking. I didnít realize they were that loud but the teacher from next door came in and started screaming at them to be quiet and he was telling their teacher and the principal. He left, slammed the door and then the principal came up and asked to talk to me. I went out in the hallway and apologized, told him I told them to quiet down, but they didnít and then the teacher came over and yelled at them. He went in and talked to them and said he knew the regular teacher was going to be mad and he would support any punishment their teacher wanted to give them.

I then found out from my son, a student at the same school, that the teacher that yelled went back into his room and said to the students that sub doesnít know what she is doing. A boy from that class was telling the football locker room. So that will really help with my credibility with the students. This is the first time something like this has happened. This was the third day the teacher was out and all three days the subs wrote notes about these students acting up.

Tomorrow, Iím going back to the same school, not the same classroom, but the same grade, and donít know what to do. Part of me wants to talk to the principal and tell him about the teacher saying that to his class. The principal has been my kids principal from 1st grade to 8th grade, so Iíve known him for 7 years. My kids have never (knock on wood) been in trouble at school, they get good grades, have activities and are basically good kids.
I know that doesnít have any input into my subbing ability but I guess Iím just not used to kids getting in trouble and I expect them to behave, so Iím having a hard time with kids that donít do that.

I donít want to get blocked from the school, so just looking for tips on handling kids better. Are subs supposed to yell at the kids? Iíve had kids where Iíve had to repeat myself several times but then they would usually listen. I was thinking of going over expectations in homeroom in the morning so theyíd know what to expect in the afternoon for homework time. I donít know whether to just forget it happened and start over and be much stricter, all business, not let them make a peep? How do you handle middle schoolers? Thanks for any advice!!


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Aillya Aillya is offline
 
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Old 10-24-2019, 01:04 AM
 
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Homeroom is the bane of so many substitute teachers. In theory it's great, but in practice it's just a black hole of nothingness that breeds disruption, distraction, and misbehavior. Especially if it's at the end of the day, when kids are already in that ready-to-go-home mode. What were they thinking, assigning it at the end of the day? Madness. The teacher who came in was also unprofessional as hell. I've only had that happen to me once, and it was also at a middle school, in a class where the lesson plan necessitated group collaboration (good luck keeping that quiet all the time with 40 of them packed into a small room), so I think it might just be a "middle school teachers being stressed out" thing.

As for yelling at students. I wouldn't, personally. It just seems like a good way to escalate the situation, because now your noise is adding onto their noise and you're also feeding into the child's natural desire to do the opposite of what a screaming adult says to do. Lots of kids try to "test" substitute teachers to get a reaction, so if you let them know that they've evoked a violent response, it goads them on more from what I've seen. On top of that, every child is a fragile snowflake these days, and it's so easy for that sort of thing to get built up into a massive lie about you being violent or genuinely unprofessional. If you're not generally the type to yell at a child, then stay that course, be true to yourself, and play to your strengths. Don't try and fit into somebody else's shoes for fear that they'll come in and undermine you in front of your students. It likely wouldn't work anyway, if it isn't authentic, and most kids would just take offense and try and push back even harder in my experience.

I don't know what kind of advice to offer since I'm not there and don't know what kinds of kids you're dealing with. My middle school has a study period but it's in the morning when they're all too tired to be any trouble. The high school I teach at most often has a similar period just after lunch that's always a ####ing nightmare because it's usually 40 kids who've just eaten lunch all crammed into a room "reading" for 30 minutes, but I've never seen any teacher actually enforce that, so it basically becomes a free time/study hall sort of situation. Before it starts, I'll loudly get their attention (note that even if I'm yelling here, there is a distinction imo between yelling to get the group's attention and yelling at a single student) and that usually shuts them up long enough for me to tell them that "there are 40 of us in here, so let's just get through this without being stupidly loud so I don't have to go home with a headache tonight" or something of that effect. It sounds really casual and dumb, but I think a lot of them appreciate the genuine nature of it and even when it does inevitably ramp up at some points, some shushing gets them to shut up again. I'm very relaxed in general, so I think if I ever yelled or put out a tough-front at this point, it'd just seem disingenuous. Kids appreciate genuine people, and they can sense when you aren't, so play to your strengths and do what seems right to you.


Good luck. And seriously, to hell with that other teacher, slamming doors and yelling at kids and stuff. He probably escalates more conflicts than he resolves. Blows my mind how people like that are considered qualified. At the end of the day, there are only a small handful of things you can genuinely 100% control and those are your own actions, your responses to the children, and the way you let them see you react. Everything else, no matter how godlike your management is, will ultimately fall on them. Also if you're genuinely worried about being blacklisted over this, I hope you took a picture of the other sub notes all detailing the same level of noise from that last class. It probably wouldn't matter much if their mind's already set on it, but it probably couldn't have hurt. It's pretty absurd how that class could be problematic for 3 other subs (and they undoubtedly grew worse with each day that passed with a new adult in the room) but you're the only one who had to hear about it like this despite coming into that class at the tail end of their week-with-no-fulltime-teacher.


Aaaah, I just want to give you a hug tbh. ;_; Don't let that idiot or a few unruly students get you down. I'm sure you did the best that you could. One thing I've found works with kids who already respond well to authority but just thought they'd take today to goof off because there's a sub, is I'll pretend like I'm writing something down and then look right at them while doing it. It shuts them up so fast lmao

Last edited by Aillya; 10-24-2019 at 01:25 AM..
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subasaurus subasaurus is offline
 
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Old 10-24-2019, 05:21 AM
 
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I wish teachers were more understanding about how difficult it is for a stranger to get 30 hormonal hyper teenagers they've never met before to immediately become silent.

"Hey, you in the red shirt, stop talking!"

As subs, we don't even know their names yet and we're supposed to be able to make them respect us immediately. Fat chance. Kids in this era do not give instant respect to adults anymore.

Subbing can really be a pain the butt sometimes. I sometimes hate being a stranger and how students take advantage of that. The game is not in our favor.

Last edited by subasaurus; 10-24-2019 at 05:42 AM..
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Newbiesub Newbiesub is offline
 
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Thank you so much
Old 10-24-2019, 09:16 AM
 
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Thanks Alliya and subasaurus for your advice. I really appreciate it!

I am at the same school today and am right down the hall from the room I was in yesterday.

Luckily, the teacher today wrote very detailed instructions and said to write down any names that didnít comply. I let the students know at the beginning of each class what was expected and that I was to write down their names if they didnít follow instructions. That seemed to work pretty well. Only one class still was loud even when I would keep giving reminders. I also had a microphone to use today that the teacher said to use in each class. So that also helped to have them pay attention. I donít think Iíll be blocked or I guess they wouldnít have let me come back today. Iím not back here after today for a few weeks so that will help. I think Iíll try to stay out of 7th grade.

Iíll just try to use this as a learning experience. Iím not very tough or loud so I guess that makes the kids think they can push me around and want to see what they can get away with. Iíll just try to be a little tougher to begin with and hopefully avoid that.

Thanks again for your advice. It definitely helped make me feel better. This website is such a great resource!
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Old 10-24-2019, 02:00 PM
 
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At "my" middle school, there is very good support from the administration. I can send a kid to the "in house suspension" room and I know I won't see him / her again for the day. I can call for someone to come down from the office. Some of them straighten up when I tell them I'm leaving names for their teacher . . .the school owes you support on this!


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Subtastic Subtastic is offline
 
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Old 10-25-2019, 06:42 PM
 
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You are always going to have "those classes" from time to time. I had one on Tuesday. As soon at the teacher left for the IEP meeting some were up out of their seats and two boys started doing chest bumps. I said knock it off in a loud voice, and said I'm writing down all your names - even though I didn't know all their names. That nipped it in the bud.
There are other factors at play here other than you. It could be the makeup of the class or the time of day , or day of the week. From my experience, dressing professionally, being firm and unflustered, appearing knowledgeable about the subject does make a difference.
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Glad your next day was better!
Old 10-26-2019, 01:34 PM
 
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Sorry this happened to you!
Subbing is hard, and kids without something to do is always a disaster.
Remember, these age kids know how they are supposed to behave, it isn't your fault. I don't know why any teacher would think that you as a sub can just say "Class, please read silently" and think you can stop them from talking if they choose to.

I have a couple ideas that might help next time in a similar situation.
I might scope out the one student that came into the room and was reading his book before the bell even rang. I would go over to him/her and quietly ask "What does Mrs. Smith do when a group won't stop talking during reading time?" Quiet Student might say "Oh, she writes the names on the board, and then they owe her minutes tomorrow at lunch." Ok, so I will attempt to do the same thing, Assuming I know the names of the offenders...

I may also circulate around the room, asking groups to get their books out and quietly begin reading. If this is what they do every day, a bunch of them will comply. Then get over to the loud group. I would ask them to quietly get their books out, remind them it is quiet reading time. Maybe ask about what they are reading. Circle back to them if they need some reminders. Maybe say, I don't want you disturbing the others, if I need to, I will leave a note for Mrs. Smith. I always try to remember that physical proximity can help in keeping students on task.

If you have more defiant students, rather than just a little rowdy at the end of the school day, a sub always has to make a decision to call the office or however you are supposed to call for help. I don't like doing that, but once in a while, it is the best option.

I agree that homeroom time at the end of the day is just a bad idea all around.

If you start subbing more and more at the same schools, you will begin to get to know the names, and some of this will be a little easier.
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SergeBlerge SergeBlerge is offline
 
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Old 10-27-2019, 03:29 PM
 
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Having another teacher quiet down students because you can't or don't move fast enough is always embarrassing, but it's the nature of the beast, and I wish more regular teachers would understand that. It doesn't necessarily mean they'll block you from the school, though. From my experience, schools tend to be more forgiving than that. They'll give a sub a few chances before taking any action like that.

Now, in terms of how to get those kinds of kids to quiet down, I'll tell you right now that just TELLING them to, does not always work. They'll just keep talking. So what can you really do? Well, just know that as a sub you actually DO hold more power than you think. Me personally, I would first tell the kids they need to quiet down, and if they don't I get more stern, like "hey, excuse me. If you guys can't quiet down you're sitting somewhere else. You're taking a quiz. No talking at all/you know that by now/etc." Straight faced, serious. Be as intimidating as you can. If they STILL don't quiet down you actually split up the group. You tell so and so to move here or there. Separate them. Tell them if they don't move then they can take the test in the office, OR tell them they sit in the office and just take a zero for the test. If they STILL don't obey, then you simply send 1 or 2 or whoever needs to leave, to leave. Say like "ok, you're done. You had enough chances. I'm calling the office to expect you over." Then call the office, tell them who you are sending over, and that's it. Most likely they will leave.

No need to yell. Yelling doesn't work. Be stern. Be confident in it. The kids are basically on auto-pilot. They won't remember it at all in 10 years so it really doesn't matter.

As far as the next door teacher telling the kids "the sub doesn't know what she's doing" is completely unprofessional and graceless. Sounds like a total jerk if you ask me. If the kids were being loud enough that the next door would hear, it was definitely too loud. Those types definitely NEED to be kicked out, period.

It's not always easy. I too hate being the bad guy, but it comes with the job. Best of luck to you in future jobs.
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Old 10-27-2019, 04:46 PM
 
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You're doing your best. This happens to everyone. Welcome to the American school system, at least in that part of town. I've talked to retired teachers and they told me it was that bad in the eighties too. Until the gubmint wants to run the schools properly and discipline kids, nothing will change!
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