Friday, December 25, 2009

Just for Laughs

I found this when a friend of mine on Facebook joined a group called "I hate it when the substitute teacher is meaner than the regular teacher."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Razzle Dazzle Them and They'll Make You a Star

Well, it's officially Christmas Vacation (or whatever we're calling it these days) and I've worked exactly four days in the month of December. This is due in large part to my picking up everything that little Irving Snotpockets and Ginny Germcarrier have shared with me. It's also due to the fact that I'm a new subsititue.

It's hard being a new sub. Nobody knows you and nobody trusts you. In order to prove yourself, you have to prove yourself, and you can't do that unless you actually get into a classroom. I've heard many teachers simply will not call an unfamiliar substitute to work in their room because they've had bad experiences. And granted, some of the stories I've heard are pretty bad, from teachers who avoid the lesson plan completely (what in the world do they do all day?) to teachers who actually leave campus and leave the kids alone. And I'm guessing that nowadays because of the economic situation, there are a lot of people who sign up to be subs thinking it's an easy gig. Sadly, these people make it more difficult for those of us who worked our tails off to earn the credentials to be in a classroom and want to make a career of it.

I got my best feedback from a teacher who was in and out of his classroom while I was subbing for him and saw me in action. The two third-grade classes traded for an hour in the afternoon as one teacher did Science and the other did Social Studies. The man I was subbing for told me later that the other class's teacher poked his head in while I was with his unruly class(I didn't even see him) and remarked, "She's good!" Never had I felt so validated.

I often wonder what type of feedback kids give about me the next day and how it's related to their behavior. I've had days where the kids are so out of line I end up yelling at them just to be heard over their noise. I've had other days where I just get through the lesson plan and don't do anything special that they'd remember. Am I "the mean teacher?" Am I "the nice teacher?"

Who am I?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Oh, the Drama

Recently some friends and I were speculating about which gender is easier to raise; boys or girls. The consensus was that boys are easier. As a table full of females, we all remembered what we put our parents through.

May I offer the idea that young drama is not isolated to either sex?

Case in point:

Earlier this week, I was working in a third grade class. It had rained a few days before and when the kids were coming in the door, one boy showed me that he had fallen down and gotten mud on his pants and dirtied his hands. I asked him if he wanted to go to the office to call his mother to bring him clean pants.

"Oh! That would be a disaster!"

Deciding that the damage to the pants wasn't so bad that he couldn't live in them for the day, I told him to go wash his hands and sit down so we could start the day.

"It'll hurt too much! I can't even touch anything!"

By this time, I could see where this was going. His hands were not bleeding, or evens scratched. They were merely dirty. I don't doubt that it hurt when he used them to break his fall, but he could move his fingers, and there was no swelling, so I told him he had two choices: he could go to the nurse to be checked out and call his mom, or he could sit at his desk and do his work. He chose to sit at his desk, which was located front and center.

Throughout the day, several very loud announcements came from this child while I was teaching his class.

"Excuse me, but there's an emergency! I can't find my book!"

"Oh, no! We need to stop! I have to sharpen my pencil!"

And, naturally, the standard reports on what his classmates were doing.

After lunch, he was pulled for RSP. I began a science lesson with the other students and was having them popcorn read the chapter when he came back in. I told him to get out his science book and open it to the page I'd written on the board. He reached into his desk and out fell a whole box of crayons all over the floor. I could see him opening his mouth to tell me about it when I bent down right in front of him and said very quietly and sternly, "you may not announce to this entire class that you spilled your crayons. Pick them up and then catch up to us in the book."

And he did.

Drama averted.

And I've Got This Bridge in Brooklyn for Sale

I often think that we should have students write movies instead of professional screenwriters. They come up with the best fiction I've ever heard, and they actually believe that you'll believe them.

The very best are the "Our Teacher Lets Us-isms."

Our teacher lets us:

...sit wherever we want to on Fridays (or whatever day of the week it happens to be)
...leave early if we finish our assignments
...listen to our iPods
...text each other so we don't make noise talking. (This one is my favorite!)
...finish our friends assignments if they can't do it together on tests
..skip assignments if we already know how to do the work the whole period 'cause she doesn't believe in discipline

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


About this time last year, I finished my teacher education program and earned my state certification.

Many moons ago, my plan was to be a teacher. School took a very long time because I worked my way through. A credential program was put on the back burner for a more "practical" career in business due to family pressure and the simple sense of working and getting paid for it. After all, corporations don't expect you to work for free for a full semester to earn a place within their hallowed halls.

So, I got my BA and continued to work. I hated the trappings of corporate life. Every single little piece of every single day. But, I just assumed everyone hated it, so I carried on.

In 2007, the company I was working for announced that they would be closing my office in the near future. This was before the economic meltdown, and although we were the most profitable division in the company, there were internal political issues galore about having an office in the location where I happened to work. We all saw this coming, and it was during this time that I really looked into finishing my credential. I figured out exactly how much money I would need, how quickly I could do it and stockpiled the money.

So, I got accepted into my teacher education program in the Fall of 2007 and became a full-time student the following Spring. Murphy's Law kicked in and while I was going to school full-time, excited about a new career, the economy was sinking. For better or worse, on my very first day of student teaching in second grade, I knew I was finally in the right place. Unfortunately, as I finished and looking for a job, schools were laying off teachers in very scary numbers.

So, here I am. Credential in hand for a year, at one of the worst times in recent memory to be making life changes. I'm subbing and earning valuable experience, even liking it, but hoping that the next school year brings me my own little patch of education.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Comfortable Shoes, a Necessity

Teacher education is an interesting experience. They tell you how to teach certain subjects. They tell you how kids learn. They tell you you'll get sick, and that you'll have behavioral challenges, and that you may feel like a failure some times and a success at other times....even within the same day.

When I was student teaching, my university advisor called attention to our physical habits. Several of the girls in my student teaching seminar received notes when she came in to observe us that we spent too much time pushing our hair out of our eyes. After that, on observation days, there was a marked increase in pony-tails, barrettes and head-bands. The lesson was that kids will pick up on every little thing and you are "on" ALL the time. No doubt I'll write more about being "on" at a later date, but this post is about the one thing nobody warned us about in terms of substitute teaching.

As a sub, you are on your feet

I learned very quickly that it's a very psychological game, this subbing. You walk in at a disadvantage. Kids see it as a day off for them, and any sign of a substitute teacher backing off WILL be taken advantage of by observant young 'uns. Sitting down is that very hint that they're getting to you...that you're losing steam and need a rest, and THAT means that you've given away some of your control. Even when you think they're calm, such as silent reading time, as soon as a sub's backside hits a chair, anarchy reigns. They're always watching you.

So, by the end of the day, feet and legs are screaming for some compassion. Do I go home and soak in a hot tub?


I go for a run.

And dream of the day I have my own classroom so I'm not walking in every single day at a disadvantage.

Until then, I should probably ask Santa for a good pair of work shoes.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Welcome to my journey!

I'm starting this blog to record the things that happen while subbing. Each day is different than the previous day. There are successes and failures and everything in-between. I know that if I don't keep some sort of record, I'll forget things.

So, if you're reading this blog, I hope you find it enjoyable. Sit down, relax and join me on my journey!