Managing the High School Classroom


April 25, 2023

By the time students get to high school, they have had years of experience dealing with guest teachers. Unfortunately, some of that time might have been spent learning ways to manipulate them.

For that reason, it’s important for a guest teacher to take control of the high school classroom right away.

In many cases, the classroom policies, rules, and procedures are posted on the wall, or the teacher will include them in the lesson plan. Either way, learning those rules before students arrive will help ensure you have a firm understanding of what is and is not allowed.

For example, some teachers will allow food and drinks in the classroom, while others have rules against bringing in anything other than water.

It might not seem like a big deal to let a first-hour student finish his breakfast at his desk while you take attendance. Or to let it go when a student comes in five minutes late.

The problem with letting those small things slide is that you’re also setting the tone for how you will handle more serious issues. If you appear to be a pushover about small things, you’re encouraging students to test you on bigger ones.

Plus, high school students talk. If you let things slide in one class, students in the later classes will expect the same treatment.

One of the biggest challenges in high school classrooms is cell phones. High school students are never without their phones, but they don’t need to be texting friends or sending snapchats while you are teaching .Make sure you establish your stance on cell phones at the very beginning of the class period.

Many school districts have policies that govern cell phone use in school. In some districts, if a teacher even sees a cell phone, that’s reason enough for it to be taken away.

If the classroom teacher does not adhere to the policy, you can often turn to the official policy when telling students they cannot use their cell phones in class.

You don’t have to have an all or nothing policy when it comes to cell phone use. For example, in a math class, you can consider letting students use their cell phones as calculators, but with stipulations. Remind students that if they’re caught using their cell phones for other purposes, they will be taken away.

Generally, it is best to be consistent in your cell phone policy, particularly within the same school district. Students are known to compare notes as to what substitutes’ rules are.

You may find it appropriate or necessary to establish a stricter policy. Be prepared to fight the protests, at least in the beginning.

With high school students, it’s best to avoid too much downtime. Students of any age might take advantage of unfilled class time, but high school students are especially good at it. They can turn unstructured time into an environment that is hard to gain control of.