December 6, 2023

contributor Samantha Somer

As a substitute teacher entering a new classroom, trying to fit in and fit in, the most important thing you can do is create strong bonds with your students. Some may think this is crazy.

“You have very little time with them. Why bother? Just make sure they’re working.”

However, just because you’re not there for a long time doesn’t mean you can’t make an impact. You never know when a student will need help the most. While it might not be easy, in the end, it will be worth it. Forge a bond that will never break.

As a substitute teacher, how do I make connections?


Well, it all started with the second student walking into the classroom. It might be easy to take this time to get everything ready for the day, but instead you should be at the door to greet each student as they enter the classroom. Greet each student with “Hi,” “Good morning,” or even “I’m glad you’re here” as each student comes in. This shows students that each of them matters.

Greeting students in the morning can help create a bond between teachers and students, according to the National Center for Safe Supportive Learning Environments. It lets students know they are important to you (1 shot). When students walk in, their first feeling is that the teacher in the classroom cares, and that can make all the difference.

Showing students that you care will help them feel comfortable and safe. Without security, learning can never happen. The authors of Classroom Greetings: More than a Simple Hello emphasize, “(a) a greeting that says, ‘I see you, I welcome you, and I want to get to know you better.’”(p. 2). Students should feel that they matter. It helps them feel proud of themselves when they think you want to know more about them.

Morning meeting

Even though this may not be your classroom, taking 5 to 10 minutes to hold a morning meeting can really help set the tone for the day. Morning meetings help “…build a safe and encouraging environment where community, trust, and respect can flourish” (Allen-Hughes, p. 4). Students may experience sudden anxiety when they walk into a room and see a new adult in the room. Students can have a hard time coping with change.taking titanium

I delved into how a responsive classroom approach, such as morning meetings, can help reduce the anxiety students may be feeling. At the beginning of the meeting, introduce yourself to the students and tell them why you are here. Then, make a list of expectations for the day so students know what is expected of them.

For example, some expectations might be to follow directions, respect others, focus on tasks, or even have fun. After discussing expectations, check with the students and make sure they clearly understand what you have said. Next, have students walk around and say their names. Having students introduce themselves to you can help them realize that you don’t see them as just another student in the class. Instead, you care and really want to get to know them. Take the time to learn how to pronounce each student’s name correctly. Students will see that you care and it will make all the difference.

Once you know all their names, ask them questions that will help break the ice. These questions allow you to learn more about each child, while also showing them that you are generally interested in learning more about them. Problems can be anything. For example, what goals have you achieved so far this year? What is the one thing you can’t wait to do this summer? What is your favorite season? What would you buy if you had $1,000,000? What is your favorite course? Through this activity “…the core human need to have fun and to feel meaningful is met” (Allen-Hughes, p. 14). Substitute teachers are privileged to work with so many students, which is why they should do everything they can to make the greatest impact.

Classroom Management #1

A third key way to build strong relationships with students is through a managerial approach. According to the responsive classroom method, teachers should use reinforcement, reminder and redirection language. Paula Denton emphasizes that “language—our words, tone, and rhythm—is one of the most powerful tools available to teachers” (Pa. 1). Teachers should keep the three R’s in mind when talking to students.

Scenario: Students are supposed to be doing a writing assignment, but instead they are playing with a toy they found on the table.

Berating them for not completing tasks in front of the class can be embarrassing for them. It also sabotages any efforts you make to build a trusting relationship. Instead, you can use redirection language.

Redirect: “Put the toys away and keep writing.”

Reminder: “Think about what your mission is now.”

When students resume the task, you can use reinforcement language: “You remembered to start your essay with the introductory paragraph.”

Using this type of language helps keep students focused on the task while also eliminating the idea that they need your approval.

Classroom Management #2

As a substitute teacher, always remember that there may be reasons why students have difficulty following your instructions. Instead of rushing to give the student an outcome, take a moment to ask the child if everything is okay. You never know if something deeper is going on. Reach out to students in that moment by saying, “I’m here for you” and “I care about you.”

Substitute teachers may go from class to class, but never forget that when you’re standing in front of a room full of kids, you’re their teacher. You have the ability to create lasting connections with your students that they will never forget.

This privilege should not be ignored. Every student should feel valued and cared for.

Featured image attribution to CC Use same via Flickr Tulane University Public Relations