Sunday, January 15, 2006

I know it's a drag, but please...

Friday I had a substitute. I was at a Writer's Project Renewal. I hate being out of my room; I conceitedly feel as if no learning or work can be done while I'm gone. I'm going to be gone again, on Wednesday, because Mom's having oral surgery, and it's going to take four hours. I need to take her there, and be ready to take her home and play nursemaid to her. I love my mom, but I'm not looking foreward to it.

Now, I've heard horror stories from subs who talk about teachers who leave no lesson plans. Horror stories of rotten children who appear to be the spawn of Satan. Horror stories of all kinds. I've never subbed, but I feel for the subs. Walking into a room cold, particularly a room of hormones in sneakers, which is what my eighth graders are most of the time, can't be fun.

However. You don't have to sub. Most people don't. We have only two subs this year we can count on. Most of the time, we are subbing for each other, because our district doesn't see fit to pay as much as the other two districts in our area. I've also been told that although there's money for in-services and teacher training, we can't get enough subs to cover teachers who want to attend. How lame is that?

What I'm saying is, I know how hard it is, even if I am not a substitute teacher.

But. We are in this together, Mr. and Ms. Substitute. We have to work together. What follows is what I do for you when you are present in my absence, then a list of what I'd like back from you. If you think, dear substitute, or any other dear reader, I've left something out, please feel free to add it in.

Here goes:
I will leave you clean and clear seating charts on clipboards. I will leave them in a centrally located area, and tell you where that area is. I will also leave overhead transparencies on the top of the seating charts, so you can easily mark students who are absent, or acting up, without trying to figure out names to write down.

I will leave you a detailed lesson plan, all handouts marked with post-its, and any other information you will need in a letter left on my desk.

I will leave an overhead transparency on the projector, with an agenda of the day's activities for you to show the students.

I will list the names of students who tend to act up, and also the names of students who you can ask for help.

I will have asked the "helper" students in advance to assist you.

I will leave clear instructions about how students should turn in homework, and whether or not they may use the hall pass to "go to the bathroom" etc.

I will always thank you.

Okay, Your turn:

Please do not bring your guitar and play for the students instead of following the lesson plan. None of them have contacts in the music industry.

If I've asked you to play a tape-recorded version of The Pearl, for the students to follow along to in their own reading books, I don't mind if you stop the tape for a moment now and then to clarify something. However, please make sure that in 45 minutes, you've gotten past the first page.

Don't yell at the students. Yes, they can be rude, but that shouldn't be a surprise. I mean, they are 13 you know.

Don't come in with a cold and threaten them with "Be good or else I'll breathe on you."

If they students are watching a movie, please don't hand out pencil cap erasers. I'm still finding bits of them around the room, 13 weeks later.

Try and notice if erasers, crayons, playdoh or what not are being thrown around the room. Stop it if you see it.

Please don't leave me a note, like my sub did Friday, "periods 1-4 were great. A number of kids in period 5 were talkative and disruptive, all period." If you don't tell me their names, or at least mark them on the seating chart, I can't do anything about it. Should I punish the whole class?

Please don't ignore my notes or rules. If you're worried about being a "cool sub" you're still too young to be doing this.

Have I left anything out?


Michael McVey said...

Oh my, oh my. You have captured the implicit contract we all expect to follow with our substitute teachers (and supply teachers as we used to call them in Canada). If I was supposed to be out for two periods, I had to spend two periods worth of time preparing. I have, too often, seen my plans and detailed notes left unopened on my desk next to a scribbled note from the sub claiming, "Sorry, I couldn't find your plans."
A guitar? That was great. I had an expert Navajo flute player. Well, he said he was an expert. He lit incense, told stories, and dismissed the class 30 minutes early.
I actually subbed for a few months and know it can be rough, but it was only after I had my plans trashed by a sub that I finally understood the reason for the shunning I received in the staff room. At least that only lasted until I had made my reputation as an adequate sub. Hard to beat adequate in sub-land.

nobodyknows said...

I had a sub for two days last week and am afraid of what I'll hear when I return.

Last time I had a sub who did not follow my lesson plan. Instead, he taught a lesson on World AIDS Day, which was very kind and generous, but it put us behind schedule. Secondly, he listened to his iPod all hour long until he felt like doing his own lesson plan.

The girls in my classes also told me that he made them feel uncomfortable, calling them "beautiful," and talking about their "gorgeous eyes."

I've already learned that my sub from last week did not return to my students a set of papers they were to revise.

I feel the same way you do, though. I just do not trust anyone but myself to teach my classes.

Anonymous said...

One quick thing: I've already written something akin to the "Period 5 class was disruptive and rude." What this translates to in Sub Speak is this: "2/3 of the class was a nightmare, I don't know their names and I couldn't get them organized for the 45-50 minutes they were in the room." If I write something *that* generic, it was a really bad group.

Otherwise, I've heard of some of the things other subs do and ... just ... I'm just amazed. These people got teaching certificates? Last time I was in an elementary school, one of the teachers told me this one sub brought in - wait for it - a gerbil and had the kids play with it. That was it. She threw away the sub paper and didn't do most of the lesson plan. I wouldn't let her sub for me!

Beth's Reading List said...

Wow, what a wonder you would have been to sub for! I subbed for not quite a year in Los Angeles, specifically in middle schools and high schools in the more difficult to find subs for areas of the district. I couldn't hack it and decided education was not the field for me. But the idea that a teacher would leave not only a lesson plan but also a seating chart and a sheet over the chart for marking - wow. Just, wow.

OKP said...

Let's of my subs bragged to one class how he was released from his last job because he assaulted a student who was "mouthing off". Another hit on my freshman girls, and eventually was arrested for various creepy and illegal acts with minors. Yet another simply left for 25 minutes because he was double-booked as a coach.
I try to frontload my kids in case they have to drive themselves for the period. I'll be gone three days before a break next semester, and I had better have those plans locked and loaded ASAP.
I loved reading the list and hearing the echoes of my own thoughts.

gsand said...

I will leave clear, accurate answer keys and not ask you to lead any discussions that are too subject specific for any generally educated person to teach.

Please don't change answers in my teachers manual or answer keys or undermine my authority by telling my students that I don't know what I'm talking about. I really do.

Gloria said...

I sub in 1st-8th grade classes in Bakersfield CA. I am 52 and on my way to a credential.
My biggest regret with subbing is lack of feedback. I know I make mistakes, and I want to learn from them, your input is very helpful. I leave a phone number with my notes, but I have never received a call letting me know how well I did for that teacher. There are very few schools where a principal even walks through the classroom....I know its not their job to "train" me. My own children tell me about the subs they get in highschool--it's a crying shame.

Polski3 said...

Fun post....but so true. I have been fortunate that most of the few subs I have visit my classroom have done most of what I asked them to do. At my school, we had a recent incident with a sub., this sub is a retired teacher who has been nicknamed "Sleepy" by some of the staff. "Sleepy" apparently was having problems with some students in an Eighth Grade Class when he hollered at an Afro-American student, "WHY DON'T YOU GO BACK TO AFRICA !" This of course, led to the termination of "Sleepy" being a sub in our school district.

Gloria, sorry the teachers you sub for won't call you to let you know how you did for them. If you subbed for me, I'd let you know. IMO, feedback regarding subs is something that needs to be addressed. Good luck with getting your credentials.

sexy said...