Thursday, February 7, 2008

School Daze

Just like I knew it would, substitute teaching is causing me to appreciate having my very own classroom. Not that I ever took it for granted, but in the same way that not being able to eat meat on Fridays during Lent makes me glad that I’m not a vegetarian, I miss teaching (for the record, what I am doing now is decidedly NOT teaching). One of the best things about being a teacher is that connection with students—what all those teaching textbooks refer to as “rapport.” As a substitute teacher, I am only with a selected group of students for an hour (unless I’m in an elementary school, which is a whole different kettle of fish). There’s no time to learn anyone’s name. And frankly I don’t really care to. If you’ll indulge me in a little shameless self-promotion, I must say that I am an incredibly organized person. Anal, some might say (which would be very accurate). Thus, whenever I had a sub, I would like to think that they found lesson plans that left little room for confusement. Any materials that s/he would need would be right there on the desk. The room itself would have a sense of order to it. (I’m not so sure about the students, but during those few times I had to be absent, their actions were beyond my jurisdiction.) I know now without a shadow of a doubt that I will go out of my way to be accomodating to substitute teachers in the future…provided I get the opportunity to teach again one of these days. Not that I’ve had any bad experiences. Sure, I had to pull a Spanish assignment out of my ear due to an unexpected absence which meant that there were no lesson plans. Alright, so I didn’t see a stack of tests on the back of the desk under some other papers and gave out the wrong assignments. Big deal if I only misplaced a classroom key for 45 minutes. No worries. I’m actually learning some things as well. Geography: Finding all of these schools scattered around the south Puget Sound area may present a challenge due to my ineptitude with maps (remember, my “job” in Germany was to get people lost). But I am getting the hang of it. I know I-5 quite well. (For those of you not in Washington, Interstate 5 is the lifeline of western Washington…which is why traffic is a continual nightmare.) Biology: I am discovering precisely how long I can stand it until taking a bathroom break. I’ve really been knocking back the Nalgene bottles full of water, which means that I am perpetually performing my own mental version of the “pee pee dance” until either a planning or passing period provides relief. (Sorry if that’s too much information.) Mathematics: When was the last time you had to do statistics word problems or solve for x? Enough said. Criminal Justice: This could also fall under the heading of “detective work.” I had no idea I was this good at spotting cell phones and iPods. Of course, many students don’t really feel the need to hide their electronic devices, so it’s pretty easy, but I will admit to a begruding respect for those who take the risk of hiding it in a purse, backpack, or hooded sweatshirt pocket. Physical Education: Slightly related criminal justice, I feel the need to take several laps around the classroom during a class period. This is to ensure that students are actually doing what their supposed to be doing…or at least not doing anything too deviant. Plus, it’s a good opportunity to actually get some exercise during the day. Culinary Arts: I make a mean peanut butter and jelly sandwich, if I do say so myself. Besides the fact that I could literally eat one every day (I often do), PB & J is a safe lunch that requires no refrigeration or warming in the microwave. This is an important consideration for one who doesn’t always know where the teachers’ lounge is or precisely how long the lunch break will last. May I recommend Swedish ligonberry jam from IKEA? Sociology: As a passive observer with few ties to the random assortment of students I come in countact with, I find it quite interesting to just watch how they interact. It’s truly not my fault that I overhear their conversations when they do little to censor themselves in my presence. While I can’t think of any particularly earth-shattering or surprising information that I have gleaned, it’s really pretty enlightening. Child Development: A fancy term for babysitting--and come to think of it similar to zookeeping. As I’m not really teaching anything, I am basically providing adult supervision so the students don’t run amok. Computer Science: I debated whether or not this would be better classified as Business. You see, I find all these sub jobs via the internet. With the shrewdness of a day trader, I am constantly checking the online sub finders for any openings. The good ones go quickly, so you have to be on your toes. I constantly have three browser windows or tabs open on the computer. Language Arts: I’ve saved the best for last, of course. Although cursory, I do a bit of writing in the form of notes about how the day progressed. (And, of course, this blog post that I am composing during this particular teacher’s planning period.) However, the majority of my time subbing is spent reading. I am literally devouring books. For once, I actually have the time to be the voracious reader I’ve always claimed to be. I am currently working my way through my bookshelf of used bookstore finds, but if anyone has any recommendations, please send them my way! So there you have it. The life of a substitute teacher. It's a, tough, job. But somebody's gotta do it.


Ben H. said...

I suggest reading "Another Roadside Attraction" by Tom Robbins, one of my favorite authors and Seattle native. That particular book deals a lot with Washington and the weather there, as well as a whole cauldron of other fun topics.

Anonymous said...

You must truly be a dedicated teacher to have not mentioned the two huge benefits to being a sub -- Not having papers to grade and not having to deal with angry parents. Also, in my experience as a para-educator, I've noticed on many occasions that organizational skills are not a prerequisite to being a teacher! -- Jody K.