I am a new substitute. Infact I have only subbed in 2 days in a middle school in Los Angeles. Its incredibly hard to keep the students motivated and quiet enough to actually learn. I believe being a substitute teacher does not mean you cannot teach a lesson to students especially if the regular teacher did not leave a lesson plan which is the case in the two occasions that I had to sub.
Even if the teacher left a lesson plan, how do you make 6 - 8th grade students relax enough to listen and learn?
Emeka: I work in Glendale Unified, very close to L.A. as you know. I only in the last couple of years ventured past elementary school, fearfully I may add, and found I do enjoy junior high students. I have always had lesson plans, but rarely had to teach something new. I've had to learn not to seem too nice until after role is taken and I've laid out some rules. I am not a loud, mean person, so being firm for me is an acting job. I almost always get a good response with the firm yet friendly attitude. I will not hesitate to send someone to the principal's office, though I don't think I ever have. I offer 10 minutes free time at the end of a period if they are focused and working the rest of the time. I allow a little talking but if it gets out of hand I "demand" silence. Sometimes I get it, sometimes not. If not, just go with it. Quiet is a rare phenomenon! I mentioned on another post that I don't yell, I wait for them to be quiet and just stand at the front of the room. Always, some of them will shush the others. Sometimes I have funny things to read to them, which even if I'm not sure how they are reacting to it, I think they like it.
If too many students (say, more than 2) start asking to go to the bathroom, I cut out bathroom privileges. They have to assure me it's an emergency and believe it or not many of them will say it isn't.
In another post, someone mentioned students calling a sub "the mean sub". If you are firm and expect them to work, you will not be considered mean. The next time they see you they may say, "Hey, I remember you...you're a good sub!" That is music to my ears!
Middle school students can be very entertaining! (Sorry for the lengthiness...thought I'd throw as much in there as I could.)
To keep them quiet for the whole period would be nearly a miracle. Don't stress yourself out on trying to keep them totally quiet; just make sure they don't get too loud and too off-task. Don't be afraid to get the office involved (or a fellow teacher) if things get out of hand, but don't use this "lifeline" too often.
Make sure they are busy with work. Make sure they view the completion of the work as "important," or they'll just push it aside and talk. When they have no work, that's when trouble begins, but I've yet to encounter a day without lesson plans.
Honestly, I really don't enjoy middle-school subbing b/c mostly you are sitting there, monitoring behavior, and handing out worksheets. One good benefit is having a planning period off. One time, I tried to make the day go quicker by "teaching" math (from the notes left by the teacher), and that failed horribly (mainly because I'm bad at math, not because I can't teach). Still, when I was "teaching," the day went by more quickly.
Lastly, if middle school get out of hand for you, just don't do it. I'm definitely more picky choosing my middle schools than for elementary (I'll do nearly any elementary school, but only around 10 middle schools). I can't go more than a week of middle school without a need for going for an "easier" day in elementary school.
If you read my post you will see that I mentioned that some of the kids think that I am mean. Given the backgrounds and attitudes of some of the students it is not surprising that some will have this viewpoint.
You say that you have never sent a child to the office. Good for you. But you don't sub where I do or the types of classes in which I sub. I get a lot of the classes that are difficult to handle and often the best and simplest solution is to have an individual removed so the rest may address themselves to learning. I know that this is not in line with the "No Child Left Behind" Act, but then the President himself has never subbed in Vocational Agriculture, Wood Shop, Metals Technology or other vocational rooms. Let's face it, these rooms are often and to some extent, "dumping" grounds. There is power equipment and other potentially dangerous things in there (the students themselves even). In these rooms things are going to happen the way I want them to happen or people are going to leave. And they do. Often. If I have to tell you more than two times to put your classes on before you operate that metal lath, then perhaps you should not operate it today. If you get pissed and cuss at me, then you are gone.
Someone must think I am doing something right as I have only missed two days of subbing this year. Sometimes I tell the sub caller I need some time in the second or fourth grades so that I can enjoy kids again. And even there they might give me the difficulut classes. Even there I can pick out certain indiviiduals who are going to end up in alternative highs chools. (Not that there is anything wrong with that) I even sub for the juvenile facility as my district provides teachers there.
So I am happy that you have never sent anyone out and that none of the children condsider you mean.
But, remember, the regular teachers send them out.
I can really feel your fustration. I sub at the Los Angeles Unified School District. Anyone who subs there know how some of the students can be. My first math class a few days ago was a disaster. At one point I turned my back to see a boy on top of another girl. I guess not acting agrgavated and seperating them calmly calmed the atmosphere. This was an 8th grade class. One threw paper at me.
I had the same class today (some of them at least) for a computer lesson ( I signed up for math and ESL mind) and had greater control. A lot did not do the assigned tasks but where calm and relaxed (I asked a few who will not sit at the computer to leave the class or work. They relaxed and sat on the computer but did not work). I guess that may be because I had been in the same school for about 3 classes now and they see me all the time. I think computers also make students relax :-).
I wish I not get to reject any sub appointment because of the students in the future. I might borrow a leaf from your book