Dear Barbara ...
I've created the Dear Barbara column as a way for subs to get answers to questions about any subbing topic or suggestions that may help you solve a specific problem in substitute teaching.

If you'd like to submit a question, please click here and be sure to include your name and home town. Answers to the best questions will be published here.

How Do I Avoid Being Too Strict and Still Maintain Control?

Dear Barbara,

I'm hoping you can help me with a nagging question I always seem to have at the end of a day of subbing. Whenever I'm very strict, I sense that the students don't like me. If I'm too easy, they take advantage. It's hard to strike the right balance. Any suggestions?

Biloxi, MS

Most teachers find this to be the toughest problem. No one wants to be a bad guy day after day, but you can't be a “friend” either. It's unprofessional and the students won't respect you.
While doing research for the book, I interviewed students at all grade levels to find out what they want from a sub. Their comments were insightful.

Many students told me what they don't want in a sub:
1. “Don't take it out on the whole class when just one person is bad.”
2. “I hate subs who stare at us while we do our work.”
3. ” Bad subs are never relaxed. They start out all nervous.”

Others told me what they do want in a sub:
1. “ A sub must be fair. If they threaten to send a student out of the room, then do it!”
2. “A sub should know the work pretty well so they can help us.”
3. “If the sub looks like he/she is having a good time, I know we'll all have a good day.”

With time, you'll find your way. Good subs adapt to the particular character of each class. Just remember to keep you sense of humor and remember that sometimes you just need to get through the day!


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