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De-escalation Tips for Substitutes & School Leaders

De-escalation Tips for Substitutes & School Leaders

Safe & Productive Classroom Environments

The goal of every effective substitute teacher is to maintain a safe and productive classroom environment. Even the most well-managed classrooms can experience disruptive behavior from students, especially when the classroom routine is different - including when a substitute teacher is running the class.  Disruptive situations can get out of hand quickly, which is precisely why providing your substitute teachers with school-specific resources and de-escalation techniques is essential. 

The Value of De-escalation 

Substitute teachers often face challenging situations and behaviors in the classroom. To handle these situations, they need to be flexible and adaptable. They must establish clear expectations and rules at the beginning of the class. Ideally, subs should remain calm and patient, and be prepared to modify their approach as needed. De-escalating tense situations in the classroom is a crucial skill that helps maintain a positive learning environment for students. Here are some useful de-escalation techniques for classroom teachers and substitutes: (Credit We Are Teachers)

1. Be empathetic and nonjudgmental: Try not to judge or dismiss students’ feelings when they’re in distress. Remember that their feelings are real, whether or not we think those feelings are justified. A student who is upset needs support and encouragement.

2. Avoid overreacting: While we can’t control students’ behavior, how we respond to it has a direct effect on whether the situation escalates or defuses it.

3. Set positive limits: One of the most helpful things we can do when a student is misbehaving or acting out in class is to give them respectful, simple, and reasonable limits. 

4. Ignore minor challenges: When a student challenges our authority, redirect their attention to the issue at hand. Ignore the challenge, but not the person. Bring their focus back to how you can work together to solve the problem.

5. Allow quiet time for reflection: Silence is a powerful communication tool, and it can give students a chance to reflect on what happened and how to proceed. Allow space for students to regain their composure before returning to the lesson.

6. Check your tone and body language: What we say matters, and how we say it makes a big difference. We can unintentionally escalate a situation when we raise our voice, and our nonverbal communication cues stress or anger. 

7. Use diffusers to de-escalate: If you are experiencing a power struggle with a student, you can use responses like “good point,” “I hear you,” and “noted” to de-escalate. When you use diffusers, you help your students feel seen and heard.

8. Practice reflective teaching: We may find our students pushing the same buttons again and again. Each time this happens, it is an opportunity to practice de-escalation strategies, and then reflect afterwards. 

Supporting Your Students and Substitutes

As a school leader, you can help put practices in place that support safe, productive classrooms. Ensure that your substitutes are aware of school policies and disciplinary procedures, including how to quickly reach an administrator for support. Challenging class? Ask teachers to include specific strategies or techniques that have been successful with the students in their sub notes or lesson plans. Check in frequently! Your presence will create a sense of support for your students and substitute teachers, and help deter student misbehavior.

Despite the best training and planning, incidents happen. De-escalation techniques focus on reducing the intensity of a situation, preventing it from escalating further, and helping students calm down. As the school leader, you can de-escalate by listening actively to the concerns of the students and substitute. Try to help find common ground and work toward a resolution that addresses everyone's concerns. Finally, be sure to follow up with the students and adults involved to ensure that the situation has been fully resolved, and to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

Sub Teacher Source is proud to support our substitute teachers with advanced classroom management training. Contact us to learn more about Sub Teacher Source's innovative educational staffing options.

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