Substitute Teaching a Student with a Safety Plan

You arrive at the school and they tell you the classroom you are teaching in today has a student with a Safety Plan. Translation: there is a student in this class that has been violent towards the teacher and/or other students. At this point you may be tempted to ask for more money – or at least a better benefits package! However this is more and more common so it’s good to know what to do.

First of all, your main goal of the day is to make sure that everyone stays safe and if possible, to avoid an outburst. Your second goal is to teach. If you make your first goal to teach, I can almost guarantee an outburst, complete with raised eyebrows and shaking heads from the teacher next door.

The best way to make sure everyone stays safe is to get this student on your side in the first 5 minutes of class. Offer incentives for students who sit down (offer the sugar pack to your coffee if you have nothing else – kids love sugar – ok maybe that’s not a good idea), make sure this student gets an incentive. Tell a ghost story or do a magic trick or both. Get the students laughing with a funny story or a joke.

If this student is disruptive while you are teaching, offer incentives and rewards for listening quietly, send them on an errand to the office (send it in handwriting – no kid knows how to read that anymore), get them involved in helping you with a visual aid or allow them to use a tablet or computer.

If this student is disruptive while everyone is working, allow them to doodle or use a tablet or computer, ask them to help you with stapling or hole punching – “Yes, I’m sure the teacher wants all of the blank paper 3 hole punched!” Again, offer rewards for doing their work or allow them to work with a partner.

The main point is if this student is disruptive or violent, nobody will learn. You are only there for one day and the principal will be thrilled if you just don’t call the office during the day and the student will have a better-than-expected day as well! Who knows, the student may actually learn if you are able to get them on your side!

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