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Difficult Situations
Have you ever been in a difficult situation?  Let us know about it, and we can answer any questions you might have about how it was handled, and how to handle a similar situation next time.

Religious discussions PDF Print E-mail

Some students today were asking about a news story that I do not feel comfortable discussing with children that are not my own. This news story had to do with God, and religious beliefs. I do not want to get in trouble for discussing something and "pushing ideas" on students. How do I answer a student's question about a news story, without shutting them out and making them think they shouldn't be interested in the news?

Religion is a subject that educators, substitute teachers included, must be careful about discussing with students. When in doubt, you could just tell them that you're glad they are showing interest in the story, and that students their age (regardless of their age) should be interested in the news and world around them, but would they please discuss this story with their parents. Explain that since it is a story involving religious beliefs, you do not feel it is appropriate for you to be explaining your take on the story, since each person will have a different opinion of the story depending on their religious beliefs. Or, you could discuss the story, but be sure to watch your words very carefully, and try to leave any subjective ideas or personal opinions out of your discussion. Discussions like these do not have any clear cut answer, because there is always the possibility that something can go wrong or be said wrong. If someone twists it enough, you could some how get written up for hindering a student's learning by not discussing an educational story. A stretch, but stranger things have happened.

 
Computer Lab difficulties PDF Print E-mail

A class I was subbing for recently had free time in the computer lab. There are websites that are approved for the students in the favorites list. There was a group of girls that would just not use the approved websites, and kept going to places that I was told by the teacher are off-limits, such as music websites. After telling them a few times not to use those websites, I finally told them that they had to shut down their computers and just sit for the rest of the class period. During computer time, I have periodically had to do this with other classes. While I'm sure this acceptable, I'm never sure of how much punishment I can hand out to students when they do not follow the rules.

The situation you mentioned sounds like you handled it just fine. If they had refused to turn off their computers, you could have called for another staff member such as the principal. For other situations, it all depends on the grade level, what the teacher said you could do, and the school you're in. Most of the time teachers will tell substitute teachers what approved discipline methods are. For younger grades it's probably something like writing their names on the board, no tokens (or other item) for the class at the end of the day, time taken from recess, etc. For older classes the teacher might leave a stack of detention forms. When in doubt though, it's best to not threaten with something you're not sure you have the authority to do. If the teacher the next day takes back what you said would happen, if you sub for the class again, you will have lost some respect. The students will just tell you that they don't have to listen, because their teacher won't go through with your punishment. You can also call down to the office and have a staff member come down to hand out some form of punishment, or send the child to the office. It is a good idea to call down to the office in the older grades, to make sure the child actually made it to the office. Be careful that you do not send someone to the office all the time, otherwise the office staff will get annoyed with always having one of your students in the office. They also possibly won't treat the student as if they are being punished, because the odds are not good that a student or more every day, every time you sub there, needs to be sent to the office.

 
Where do babies come from? PDF Print E-mail

Substituting while pregnant was silly in itself but the children made it even more amusing! One of the last times I went into a classroom, I was cheerfully greeted by a boy who exclaimed, “You’re pregnant”! The whole class erupted with stories about their mom’s big bellies. One little girl said her mommy had two babies in her belly. I thought the conversation, while not productive, wasn’t causing problems until one student asked how the baby got in there! I had no idea what to do so I completely changed the subject and we started our morning work. I didn’t think it was my place to be explaining the process. What should I have said? ~anonymous

This is one of those situations which always seems to have a million possible answers. Fortunately, being at the head of a classroom, you can just say "Oops, it's time to get to work, we have a lot to do today! Just try to remember that question and ask your parents when you get home, since this conversation really isn't on our list of work to do." Saying anything much more than that could result in a phone call from the parents. Today, even telling a child, "When a Mommy and Daddy love each other very much..." could cause trouble. There are families with two Mommies, families with two Daddies, families where there is only one parent, etc. In sticky conversations such as that, it is best to just tell the child to ask their parent.
 
Students who smell like marijuana PDF Print E-mail

I was subbing today and a student came in smelling like marijuana. I wasn’t sure what to do, should I have told the principal?

When in doubt, you should tell someone. It can’t hurt to just let the principal know at the end of the day, or at lunch if you can catch him or her, that you have a concern about a student. It is probable that the teacher already knows about the student and it is being handled, however it may be a first time, in which you would want to tell someone.

Today when we went outside I was subbing for kindergarten when some of the kindergarteners ran over on the part of the field that the older students were playing ball for gym. The gym teacher yelled for them to watch out and get off the field, and then told me off, saying I should not have let them outside. I apologized, and then left the teacher a note explaining what happened. The students who ran on the field also wrote apology notes to the gym teacher. Should I have done something differently?

Writing the note to the teacher and having the kids apologize was probably a good idea. You could have told the kids to stay off the field completely, or stayed inside. You didn’t mention if you knew the gym class was outside. If you knew they were outside, you could have stayed in, however the classes should be able to share the area.