SNOW HILL — Looking to create a more prepared substitute teacher, Worcester County Public Schools offered a day of workshops last week, including a program designed to teach classroom management techniques.
The workshop event was one of two held throughout the year that substitutes are expected to attend to qualify for a higher pay rate and to pick up essential teaching skills that are designed to make them more effective educators.
Theresa Torpey, extended school program administrator at Stephen Decatur Middle School, served as the consultant for the classroom management workshop and explained her main goal is to give substitutes confidence when faced with a potentially unruly group of students.
“That’s one of the objectives; to make them more confident,” she said. “So that when they come in they project that confidence and the kids pick up on that.”
According to Torpey, classroom management is the first tool that all subs need to learn because everything else builds off that groundwork of respect from their students.
“You can’t get anything done if the kids aren’t listening,” she said.
It can be a challenge to sub for a class, Torpey admitted, especially for teachers “walking in cold.”
“It might be your first time in that school, in that content,” she said.
Even for veteran subs, Torpey said that her workshop provided techniques that help them maintain an edge and keep pace with students. The most important thing, she added, is knowing how much attention needs to be given to a student to help them behave. Some only need a teacher nearby while others might need to be taken out of the class for a one-on-one conversation, explained Torpey.
Joan Thomas, a sub with more than a decade of direct experience and years beyond that of classroom time, said that she attends the workshops to keep up with constantly evolving educational standards.
“You know what’s expected of you,” she said.
For newer substitutes like Michael Cawley, the workshops can be even more effective.
“I think this class itself, classroom management, for a substitute this is the one learning tool that you really need,” he said.
While Cawley had some substituting teaching experience many years ago, most of his time recently has been spent in the corporate field. After taking some time off following his retirement, Cawley said that he was ready to get back to being productive and has found substitute teaching a perfect avenue for that.
“I’d rather be in the classroom than in the boardroom,” he said.
Though Cawley had already participated in previous workshops and had earned the higher substitute pay rate, he said that he decided to take part in Torpey’s workshop because he felt that the skills would be useful.
“I was interested to come to see what she had to offer,” he said.
The main goals of the classroom management program were to help teachers “gain skills and confidence” as well as to learn “proven discipline strategies.”
The techniques, said Torpey, center on giving teachers the self-assurance necessary to tackle a difficult class. While she recommends the workshop to all subs, Torpey admitted that a lot of the skills do take practice in the classroom to perfect.