Classroom Management for the Relief Teacher

“No learning takes place when you discipline. All disciplining does is stop deviant behavior, which must be done, but no learning has taken place. Learning only takes place when the students are at work, or as we say in education, on-task.” – Harry Wong

Harry Wong makes a great point. As teachers, relief or otherwise, we need to have a great way to manage our classrooms. It can be easy to assume that disciplining students who are off-task or misbehaving is the way to go, but it’s often ineffective.


So what are some ways to manage a new class that doesn’t know you?

The number one issue surrounding classroom management is always engagement. Do all the students have something to do? Imagine a typical activity you see in many classes where one student is asked to read out loud while the others listen. In this activity, you have one engaged student and the rest are bored and ready to stir up trouble.

We always want to run activities in a way that keeps everyone engaged. For example, in the read out loud activity, maybe you could do a running dictation instead.

Follow Routines
Routines are the second most important issue in classroom management. Ideally, the teacher has left you notes. If not, maybe you can ask another nearby teacher or the principal if they are familiar with certain routines in the class.

The students are also great resources for understanding routines. You’ll be surprised how, even at the Kindergarten level, children will let you know if you are doing something out of order or not at the usual time.

Set Clear Expectations
Students need to know, beforehand, what is expected of them. If they have a clear idea of your expectations as a teacher and their role in an activity, they will be much more likely to stay on task. It’s also a good idea to involve the class in setting expectations. This will give you buy-in and make it more likely that students will follow them. Just like above, you can ask for what usually happens in the class, but feel free to change one or two up for the day to fit your teaching style.

Consistency with expectations is also essential. If we set an expectation, but fail to follow through on holding students accountable, then we send the message that we’re not serious.

Prepare to Be Tested
In this vein, students are going to test your resolve and to see what they can get away with. If you’re lucky, this will probably only be one or two students usually known to be class clowns. Our advice is to never give warnings. Once the expectation is set, any deviation results in immediate consequence. This sends a crystal clear message that you’re not going to allow testing.

The worst classes for a relief teacher are the ones spent constantly trying to keep students on track. If you follow these basic principles, you will greatly increase your chance of a successful lesson. Taking the time to establish classroom management right away will allow you to focus on teaching and the students to focus on learning for the rest of the class.

Let us know how it goes!