Substitute teachers have a tough job. For each assignment they step into a new environment, often with an incomplete set of instructions. They do not know the rules or routines. Most students take advantage of the situation, expecting that no real teaching will be done and no learning will occur. They test the limits. Will the substitute teacher be in control or will the students be in control?
Occasionally I work as a substitute teacher. Before every assignment I pray…for two reasons. First, I need God’s intervention and wisdom to manage a classroom. Second, I need God’s presence actively involved in my life so I can set my attitude for success.
As a servant leader, a positive approach is paramount to being in control.
Recently I received some notable comments from students.
One young man thought he should prepare me in advance. “Sorry, Miss. Your day is going to be miserable because of us.”
My response: “Nobody can make me have a bad day. That’s entirely up to me. And I choose to have a good day.”
The student nodded in agreement and gave me two thumbs up. At the end of the day he checked in with me. “Are you still having a good day?”
“Of course, I am. I choose to have a good day,” I said smiling warmly.
Another student decided to warn me of my plight. “We’re a BAD class.”
My response: “Oh, I don’t believe that. There might be some students who make poor choices, but I think you’re a GOOD class.”
The student looked at me with surprise and found her seat.
As a servant leader, I’ve made several commitments that I engage in every role—as a pastor, consultant, coach, speaker, substitute teacher, or anything else. These commitments embody my positive approach. They are behaviors that establish an environment of trust. By following them, I can be in control wherever I am and thrive in any setting.
- I do not raise my voice at anyone. I address people on an individual basis. Corrections in behavior or performance are made one-on-one in firm but quiet tones away from the hearing of the group.
- I point out the positive. I focus on what people are doing well and verbally praise them for it. Expressing appreciation motivates others to make good choices and creates confidence to try harder.
- I am always polite. I say “please” when making requests and follow up with “thank you.” This is another way of expressing appreciation and showing respect to others. Being rude is never warranted, regardless of the situation.
- I ask questions. I seek input with a desire to understand and discover. Valuing others’ insights builds relationships and establishes their buy-in to solutions.
- I do not ask someone to do something I am not willing to do myself. I do not assign others “the dirty work” simply to avoid unwanted tasks or because it is “beneath me.” I lead by example and strive to be authentic.
- I laugh at my own mistakes and admit when I am wrong. Being in charge doesn’t mean I wear the facade of perfection. As others see how I respond when I make a mistake, correct it, and move on, they feel safer when they make a mistake and a learning culture is established.
- I am quick to forgive. I keep short accounts and will not allow the past negative behavior of others to color my current dealings with them. God’s mercies are new every morning toward me. The least I can do is extend His mercies to others.
Servant leaders see their influence as a means to benefit others, to help others grow personally and develop servant leadership traits. What commitments have you made that empower you to be a stronger leader?