Friday, April 13, 2007


Is it just me? Or did you HATE days when you had a substitute teacher in school? It seems like they were always so grouchy. I remember my heart sinking when I saw the sub walk through he door, and vowed that if I were ever the sub, I would do it differently!

Now I AM the sub!! I work a couple of days a week as a substitute teacher. I work at all the grade levels and I really like my job a lot.

I'm not calling myself a model teacher or anything, but I do have a lot of teachers that call me when they can't be in the classroom, which I take as a compliment, and it must mean that they like what I do. There's a skill set you have to have to be a good sub. It used to be considered "glorified babysitting", but now with as many standardized tests that must be taken, and with the pressure teachers are under to have their students perform, substitute teachers are expected to step in and really teach the day's lessons. I love it! Here are the main skills I think are helpful:

  • Classroom Management: For a sub, this means the art of conveying a "no nonsense" attitude, while still being friendly. Right from the start the students have to know that yes, the regular rules apply, and yes, you know what to do if that doesn't happen. Yet, if the students think you are out to get them, you've got a whole new problem because they will be determined to get YOU first.
  • Flexibility: Most teachers I work with have excellent lesson plans, yet the days they can be followed to the letter are few and far between. There's always something. Fire Drills, thunderstorms, the kids already did that page in the book, broken VCR, there's a book fair in the LMC during your library time... it happens. You've got to learn to roll with it. I keep several grade levels of worksheets and a game or two in my sub bag.
  • BE NICE! In my experience (and this is sad,) if you just smile and talk nicely, you stand out from most of the other subs. Usually in elementary schools, I give the kids a chance to earn an extra recess (or two) - and they are happy for most of the day. And if they are really earning that recess, that means they are really getting their work done, and the time factor is not a problem.
Hey, if everyone has been safe, somewhat educated, and reasonably happy, I feel like I did my job well and had a good day. That's not to say I don't come home exhausted! The emotional effort it takes to keep track of 25 6th graders (and their hormones) combined with the physical effort of spending the day walking is very wearing. But I do feel like I accomplished something at the end of the day.

Sometimes I wonder about returning to full-time teaching. I LOVED it when I did it before I had children. It is amazing to teach something, and really watch those lights turn on in their heads and get to see the progress. You build relationships... you make a difference in people's lives. Of course, the downsides are the planning , grading, and immense amounts of paperwork teachers are put through anymore. I think 1 out of 4 kids in the school is on some kind of "learning plan" that must be documented regularly, meetings held, etc. From what I can see, being a teacher has become as much about shuffling paper as it is about teaching.
Umm. No thank-you. I think, at least for awhile, I will just stick with my job of getting called in to "play" school. I teach what I want, turn down that I don't want and get to be in the same schools and on the same schedules (mostly ) as my kids. It's not perfect, but it's usually pretty darn good!