Monday, February 16, 2015

The care and feeding of a substitute teacher

At the one year anniversary of my retirement, DH and I sat down to take stock of our financial situation. I discovered, to my disappointment, that we were not where I thought we were on our financial road. I had not adjusted my spending to match our reduced income (imagine that!) and we had used more from our savings "envelope " than I had realized.  If we wanted to continue to travel with our still working friends, I would need to find a way to add to our income stream.

While I love my quilting business, it doesn't really result in much income. The general public doesn't understand the costs involved in making a quilt so my profit margin is slight. If I charge what a quilt is actually worth in materials and labor, I have little or no business.  So in order to have some business, I charge less than I should.
Now what to do to add to the income?  Retail? Nope.....don't want to work nights and weekends.  Public library work? Same thing, nights and weekends.  Childcare?  Nope....only if it is Mr. Perfect or his equally perfect sister and I could not charge to care for these perfect babies.  And the whole idea of working is to earn some money.  Fast food? must be kidding!  Too out of shape to get into the fitness business.  Not even gonna consider cleaning houses when I have a domestic goddess that does that for ME!  What am I trained and qualified to do? That's it...I'll register as a substitute teacher in my former school district. (I do miss being around the kids so it's a win-win.)
I made all of the right calls, filled in all of the paperwork (not easy to remember some of that 40 year old information), and finally got approved to be a substitute.  At first I intended to only sub for the librarians in my former district but these ladies are a healthy group and the calls just weren't coming in so I decided to venture into the classroom. Of course, I set some limits for myself....No kindergarten, first grade or pre k; No math!; No high school (those big kids scare me!).  
I started accepted assignments carefully and discovered that I didn't hate it.  Oh I got stuck in a few math classes when I was asked to cover some classes other than the job I had accepted and those did not go well.  But no one was permanently injured and I learned that I really do hate math. Of course my favorite assignments are still in the library and in my former school.  I'm still remembered somewhat fondly by the kids there and this proves that absence really does make the heart grow fonder!
But I've learned a few things by being on the other side of the employment contract and I've learned that even though I like the kids in the classes, there are some schools that I just don't like and that I will avoid in the future. The rest of this blog post (rant) is really for my teacher friends so some of you can just stop reading now....unless you want the view of the classroom from the sub's point of view.
So here are my suggestions for teachers to keep in mind when preparing for a sub or encountering a substitute in your building
1.  All of us who are subbing appreciate a well written lesson plan and for the most part, the plans I have found are quite good. 
2.  If your lesson plans involve the use of technology (even something as simple as watching the morning announcements or taking lunch count) please leave the password for your computer and bookmark the site I need on the desktop. Also please do not assume that we know how to use your document camera and digital projectors.  There are many brands of these out there and they all operate slightly differently. Some of us are older and don't know how to use a smart board. Yes, I know that the kids can show us but we actually like to look slightly smarter than a second grade student.
3. Please leave the lunch and recess times in your plans. (Believe it or not, we can't always believe the kids).
4. Please ask your grade level buddies to check on us.  We need to know we are not alone.  The absolutely worst assignments are those in which the entire grade level is gone to attend training.  Then you have blind subs leading blind subs.  And you know that some subs are better than others....just like there are good teachers and great teachers.
5. Please leave plans for dismissal. All schools are different and we want to do it correctly for student safety.
6. (This is the big one) If you are a teacher and you see a sub in the hallway...BE NICE!  If we sit down at lunch with you, don't ignore us. Let us join in the conversation. We are generally nice people or we wouldn't be doing this.  Yes, I am more than likely older than you are but I still have most of my brain cells. I might even have some experience that might be helpful to you. If you cannot acknowledge that I exist, you can be fairly certain that I am going to find out who you are and that I probably won't take a subbing job for you.  If you cannot speak to me, you certainly don't value me enough to leave your students in my old and gnarled hands.. And if you do not value a good sub who will follow your plans to the best of her ability, that is a loss to your and your students.

I guess you can tell by point #6 that I have encountered some less than friendly teachers. It's the truth but it has also made me reflect on the way that I treated subs when I taught. I'm not talking about subs that I used...I probably left them way too many instructions. I'm talking about the way I interacted with random subs at lunch, dismissal, during hallway duty or at recess. And I'm certain I was guilty of the behaviors that I dislike the most....I'm sure that I did not make the effort to include them in the conversation...after all, I'll probably never see them again! I didn't offer to make sure that they knew how to use all of the equipment and I know I rolled my eyes and said something like, "what did you expect....she's a sub!" I did develop friendships with the subs who seemed to always be in our building  but I wonder if some good subs chose not to return because I wasn't as nice as I could have been. 

Being a substitute teacher isn't easy but I'm glad I decided to give it a try. I'll probably continue to do this part time job for a few years and I know I will be selective about the jobs I take. I won't change my mind about pre k, kindergarten, first grade, or high school (unless it's in the library).I don't wish illness on my library friends but I do wish they weren't so disgustingly healthy.  (I am assuming here that they actually have me as a preferred sub and that I did not do a bad job for them or that they did not like me when I worked with them and will not let me darken the door to their domain!)

 And you can be very sure that I will never knowingly take a math job!