Friday, March 21, 2014

TALES OF A SUBSTITUTE TEACHER: Optimistic Teacher's Bubble Bursts

I subbed 9th grade English and all I got was a lousy headache and this paper sculpture!
I open the door of Room 1015 and hover near the entrance. Upon seeing me, rather than the regular teacher, most of the students inevitably ask, "Do we have a substitute?" The answer seems fairly obvious to me.

Perhaps I should be warmed by the instant joy that follows. Perhaps I should be flattered when they blurt out, "We thought you were a student". With each new class that I greet, I am hopeful that we will have a fruitful 55 minutes together.

After taking attendance I pass out the assignment, ask them to take out a separate piece of paper and a pen. At the first request a few people do what is asked. At the second request a few more have paper and something to write with. I walk up and down each row, and personally ask the remaining students to get out the necessary things. A few students still don't make a move.

Just as I'm thinking substitute teaching feels more like babysitting, students of child development are required to carry and care for baby dolls the whole day. This particular public high school also has a daycare on campus.
It's not just this lack of response that begins to deflate my natural penchant for optimism. It is also the incessant high-volume conversations volleyed across the room despite my asking for quiet. It's also the phone use that continues on-top-of-desk, under-desk, in-pocket, and in-backpack despite repeated requests to not use phones. And it is the abundance of barely-done classwork that I collect at the end of class. Period after period, the routine goes something like this. The behaviors become predictable, and it seems as thought I am merely running a daycare.

I decide not to take it personally, but choose to blame the "bad day" on the tough crowd, the typical treatment of substitute teachers. and a bad choice of classwork. What would you do if you had no formal introduction to Shakespeare, had not yet begun to read "Romeo & Juliet" in class, and yet, on the eve of spring break, were asked to answer 4 pages of questions on the literary devices used in the story?


It takes a lot to bum me out. I am a half-full kind of girl. I don't mind challenges, because the break throughs are all the sweeter.  I guess what I am saying is that being a substitute teacher has its moments, that a lot of kids do not behave well in school, that if I had known that we were doing "Romeo & Juliet," I would have studied up on it a smidge, and come to class prepared to parlay some of the insight that I got from reading the story in Tr. Janet's 9th grade English class, and that spring break is here at just the right time.

at one point in the day, I actually did this, and inevitable went "south" again.