Like lots of people, I’m piecing together my income from a combination of jobs. Unlike many, I’m fortunate I’ve chosen most of them, doing lots of things I love doing – particularly handweaving and making gemstone jewelry.

This year I added a new job to my repertoire – I’m substitute teaching. I got my bachelor’s degree in elementary education more years ago than I’d like to mention, and never taught in a public school. So this felt like a real stretch for me. At the mandatory sub training this summer, other subs encouraged me to do high school, insisting it was easier. I politely declined, sure that my training would make elementary a better fit for me.

I’ve now had a few subbing gigs. Mostly I’ve filled in while teachers went to inservice trainings, spending a few hours each in different grades from 2nd to 7th. Initially I thought this lack of consistency would be hard, but it was actually a great way for me to get started, with lots of varied exposure.

I’d love to be able to include pix of the kiddies, but that’s impossible. Sure, needing to get every parent’s permission would present a challenge, but mostly I don’t think my virgin teaching days were very pretty sights, not ones that I’d happily share with the world. Here’s how my first day went…

I started in 3rd grade, right next to the principal’s office, just to add to the pressure. Those little kids have ants in their pants. They were fun, energy-filled, and eager. Cute, interested and interesting. They were also loud, busy, and hard for me to control. Giving the spelling test was easy; figuring out how to pace the planned independent seat work, on the other hand, was a major challenge. Some kids were done in just a few minutes, others were clearly struggling. How much individual help should I give Dora? What could I give Jeremy to do to keep him busy while the rest of the class worked? What did the teacher expect? Were the kids getting over on me? I still don’t know the answers to the first 3 questions, but the 4th is a definite yes.

After sending one boy to the nurse’s office because of a bump to his eye, my time in 3rd grade was up and I was on to 4th. Whew!

Fourth graders change classes, and I was subbing for global studies. Start again with a test and move to independent work. Just when I’m getting the hang of it, it’s time to switch classes and another group comes in for the same activities. Cool. I did that once already, doing it again will be easy, right? WRONG!! Every class is different, and the second class was about as different as possible from the first group. Although much more challenging in their behaviors, I liked them better. They tried to push lots of buttons, but I was on top of it – be a hard nose right up front, and then you can move to have a bit of fun. We did both, and I think they even respected me a little!

All of a sudden it’s lunch time, then on to 5th grade. No tests here, but again changing classes for science. I always liked science, and both classes of kids were fun. I was able to actively involve almost every kid in the lessons, making it better for all of us. I admit it, I completely forgot about the teacher’s edition of the book in the first class, so our discussions weren’t necessarily on the suggested topics, but they were relevant.

The bell rang at 2:55 and the kids went home. So did I. Tired, but eager to try again. Oh, yeah — the other subs were absolutely right – older kids are easier and more fun. I’ll definitely try junior high and high school, and let you know how they go. Do you have substitute teaching experience? Let me hear from you!

2 comments to School

  • I have difficulty in managing one little guy at home, I have often wondered how the teachers manage the screaming/giggling group at school. You sure did have a tough and interesting time, you can look back at and smile.

  • Scott

    I did it for 2 years. I loved sleeping with the phone and hoping for the phone call in the am. Between Friendship, Scio and Boces I could stay busy. Only one day with Kindergarten was enough for me. Longest day of my life.

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