Substitute Teaching

I’ve done five substitute teaching assignments so far, and I have mixed feelings about it.  Some of it is good, some of it is bad, some of it is…well, babysitting.

My first assignment was with the alternative school.  I thought I could make a difference but instead I got run over by the students. I should have sent some of them to the principal’s office. I don’t think I want to teach that again.  I’ve pretty much been run over by the students in most of the classes I’ve taught.  One of them even snuck out of class on me and she was called down to the principal’s office.  This was the last time I taught.  I managed to keep a hold of the remainder of the classes (just barely) and I was feeling so stressed when I got home that I took a Klonopin.

In my last therapy session, I talked about substitute teaching.  My therapist said I glow when I talk about teaching.  So why am I sucking down benzos in order to deal with it?  Why do I feel so stressed out?  I thought I liked teaching?  I do like teaching college.  That’s what I want – a college teaching position.  But tonight, even the thought of teaching college stresses me out.

Hopefully this will pass.  I have to get back on the horse again, but I don’t think attempting the alternative school is the right horse to ride.  Can’t I have a nice English or Social Studies class?  Well, I could have but I didn’t click the assignments quick enough – someone else got to them before me.  (It’s a computerized system. If I don’t accept the job online, then I’ll get a call in the morning if there are openings.)  All I can do is keep checking the website for openings, and turn my phone on in the morning.

As for now, I think I will call it a night.

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6 thoughts on “Substitute Teaching

  1. Don’t give up on teaching by a substitute teaching experience! I was a great student…until a substitute and then even I ran over the teacher. I bet you’re a great teacher and teaching college or advanced high school could be a great fit for you! Hope you get some jobs you like soon.

    • Thank you. I like college teaching, but it’s hard to get those jobs since there is so much competition. I like helping students succeed. I could teach at a private or gifted and talented type school, I think. Those students are generally more motivated to succeed. Or maybe not, and I’m just delusional about the whole prospect of teaching secondary school. I am applying to teach at a lot of colleges, but they all want research labs and I just feel like I don’t want to research anymore. Trying to obtain grants, write papers, all of that on top of teaching – it’s exhausting. There is an old saying… those who cannot do, teach. Really that saying should be… those who teach, do more. That’s the reality of it. Every school wants you to be good at everything – teaching, research, university activities and so few people can actually do that. Usually you are either a great teacher or a great researcher. Both rarely happens. Based on my student evaluations, I’m not terribly great at teaching and I know I’m an average researcher. But I do love teaching and sharing what I know. It’s just really hard to find a job that fits these days.

  2. I think the new situation is just overwhelming you. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when you are doing something that you’ve never really done before. Teaching kids is hard work, especially as a sub. Kids will think that you don’t have the same authority as a regular teacher.

    It’s hard to be the bad guy, but I think you should start sending kids the office. When I started teaching, that’s about all I could do with the 5th grade group. The older they get, the more rebellious they are. That’s why I generally like the younger kids. They are still afraid of authority and don’t often feel like testing me.

    I think the job is good for you, even if the stress level is high. And I think once you get your feet a little more wet, it will come easier. I think that’s a difficult thing for people like you and me. There is a certain learning curve in new positions, and it’s hard when we try to stack ourselves up to veterans. It’s an unfair comparison.

    Take it easy, and I know you can do this. I think teaching is something that you really love, and I think subbing is something you can really get the hang of. It’ll just take some time. In the meantime, read up on effective behavioral management in the classroom techniques. I know I had to brush up on a lot of ABA while I was teaching. It can work.

    Oh, and use token economy! Find out what kind of “prizes” you can bring in. Kids love that stuff,. I used to bring in stickers and chips and things like that. It worked great for behavioral management, because all of the kids wanted to earn a prize so badly. Even if it was just for the sake of bragging to their friends. Then word will get around that Mrs. Monday is the coolest sub ever.

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence, Lulu. I got a call this morning but I didn’t answer it. I know they wanted me to teach the alternative school but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Those kids aren’t trying desperately to get their diploma like the vice principal tried to sell me, but rather they are the ones who have been left behind in our educational system. It’s really sad to think about it. And then they get projects to work on like word find. Seriously? A junior or senior in high school doing word find in sociology? And it wasn’t like this is just a sub thing. One kid remarked ‘not again’. And the second handout had coloring pages attached to it. For high school? Isn’t that a bit insulting?

      I don’t think I am allowed to bring anything in for the students. We were told that if a student doesn’t have a pencil, they should borrow one from another student if the teacher hasn’t left some out for them. (Someone asked if we should bring one with us for the students.) If we can’t have pencils, how can we have stickers?

      I’m only signed up to teach secondary education. I didn’t really want to deal with the younger ones. Besides, my background makes me a better candidate for secondary school, and I decided to start subbing as an experience to see if I wanted to teach secondary school. The problem is that I berate myself for every mistake I make. Little things from letting them run to the bathroom or the library to the girl escaping my class. (I think she ended up suspended.) So I run out of self-confidence and they can smell that.

      If I’m the actual teacher for the class, I can say, “My class, my rules” but when you are a sub, it’s not your class and therefore not your rules. They know that so they feel they don’t have to play by your or even their teacher’s rules. Maybe you are right about the principal’s office. I will keep that in mind. And thanks for the info on behavioral management. If you have any specific links, can you email me? Thanks.

      • Yeah, that’s incredibly insulting. I see the problem there. These are kids with behavioral problems, not developmental or cognitive deficits, right?

        Ouch, those rules are really binding! I don’t understand why you wouldn’t be allowed to do things like that.

        They can sense the lack of self-confidence. I’ve had to force myself to project an air of authority and remind myself that my decisions are based in fact, not feeling. Here’s a good trick I’ve learned. I find the brown-noser first. It’ll be a little different of a process for you, because you have older kids. I let that kid be my informer. That’s the kid that will tell me what’s been going on in class and will usually point out the kids I need to watch out for. That’s the second kid I identify is the ringleader. And that’s the kid I usually go about taking down a notch. Because that’s how the kids work, in little social clicks. Take down the leader, and you become the leader. For me, that was removing the kid from the class entirely.

        I’ll try to root around for some links for you, but I basically got all of my stuff out of a book. I would say just go into google and type in classroom behavioral management or ABA for teens or something.

  3. The coloring thing? These are children – young adults – with situational (bad home life, pregnancy, etc.) problems. They don’t appear to have any cognitive or developmental deficits, just bad behavior. If someone gave me their worksheet as a teenager, I would scoff at it. Even the middle schoolers that I taught today had more challenging work. (Or at least on the same level.) How do they expect these kids to graduate with any self-respect?

    The school system has a lot of rules that make it difficult to be nice to them. Today, the teacher’s notes said do not let them borrow pencils – ‘just say NO’. Seriously. One class was so disruptive, the teacher’s aide went and got the principal to come down and talk to them. And as haywire as that class was, it’s nothing compared to some of the other classrooms I’ve been in. Since when can students listen to their iPod while doing work in class??? I totally don’t get that. Some places they are allowed to have food in class, other places no. It’s bizarre how much different the schools on the ‘bad’ side of the tracks are compared to the ‘good’ side of the tracks. And I live in a relativity benign area. Imagine what it is like in the inner city?!?

    I actually had an informer come in to class early today. She told me who to watch out for. There was just one table that didn’t want to any put effort in and would laugh and giggle. You ask them to stop talking and they say, we aren’t talking, we’re laughing. ??? So I would go over and stand by them. They would get quiet for a while, then go back to their talking later. (So the effect wears off.) One kid today asked me to stop looking at him because I was scaring him. Well, if he wasn’t talking all the time (and kicking the table) then I wouldn’t be looking at him, would I? They don’t like it when you write down their names. The teacher asked for notes, I gave her notes. I wanted to send two of them to the principal’s office, but I couldn’t find the number I was supposed to call in order to notify them that the student would be coming. I was really short on patience by the end of the day and just on the edge of sending someone – anyone – to the office. The last class was pretty well behaved though.

    It’s a sigh of relief at the end of the day. How could I possibly teach full time? Is it somehow better than being a substitute?

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