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.

Nagging and Negative - How can I change?

Dear Barbara,

I had an awful day today. The fifth graders filed in at 7:45. I was sitting at my desk, and the students walked right up to me and started asking for special favors. I was asked to solve disagreements even before class began!

I found myself pleading for quiet. It set me off on a negative path for the whole day. Yelling and nagging never work, and I know that. For some reason, I was in a bad mood and had very little patience for the students.

I hate being that way. Can I recover? It's not who I am, and it's not who I want to be.

Davie, Florida

Dear Amanda,

It's a terrible feeling to be out of control. I'm glad you recognized that your methods weren't effective.

First of all, when students arrive, you should try to stand near the door and greet them one by one. Do not sit at your desk. This shows a lack of interest. Walk around the room while students are working and make a connection with each one. You need to show that you have a genuine interest in your students and that you want to get to know them.

State all directions in a positive manner. Instead of saying, “stop talking”, tell them that you would like to have all eyes on you right now because you will be giving directions. Thank them for listening. Point out those who are listening, rather than those who are not. You'll create positive role models. Students will see that you notice and acknowledge good behavior, as opposed to dwelling on the negative. When all you do is point out poor behavior, you are giving misbehaving students your attention, which is exactly what they want!

If you find yourself becoming negative, stop, wait a moment, and look for one good thing that is happening in the room. Comment on it, give a compliment, and move on. You'll be surprised at how you'll recover and turn things around!


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