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 should I handle a student who demands my attention?

Dear Barbara,

Last week I subbed in a fifth grade classroom with one young man who was sooo needy! I found myself neglecting others because I had to spend so much time with Zachary. After a while, it was obvious that he was manipulating me. What should I do when this situation happens in the future?

Pamela, St. Louis, MO

Dear Pamela,

We're all familiar with students like Zachary. There are countless reasons that students demonstrate manipulative behavior. Here are a few:

1. Problems at home will cause a child to be needy. When the parents are too strict and expect too much, children cling to a kind, understanding teacher.

2. Students who are “picked on” by their peers become dependent upon the teacher for attention and sometimes protection.

3. When the academics become too difficult, a student may panic for fear of failure.

4. Social immaturity is often a cause. There are some children and adults who simply lack social skills.

How can you gently change needy behavior? Remember, you must not overtly reject this student, or he/she may become even more needy. Be sure to spend some time with the student during down time. Enter into a conversation and show interest. Then, when you must focus on the rest of the class, remind him/ her that we spoke earlier, but now you need to help Alexis. Thank him for his understanding. You may never satisfy Zach, but you can manage him.

Substitute Teaching from A to Z

How to Use this Book

Subbing Resources

Interesting Subbing Facts

Return to home page