Substitute Teaching: Ups and Downs

Substitute Teaching

In May, 2015 I graduated University with my teaching degree. Over the following summer I applied for and obtained my teaching credentials or license. At the end of summer I followed my husband to his training duty station since he had approved family relocation in his orders. Because of the length of our stay at this training station I chose not to look into full time positions, within education.

I knew I wanted to get my feet wet and to continue to build experience in my field. I didn’t find it ethical to apply for jobs I knew I would have to leave before the end of the academic year. Because of all of this, I chose to apply for substitute positions.

I work for our local school district and a local charter school. I have subbed kindergarten through high school at both of these. I do like subbing elementary by far. My ideal substitute schedule would be 3rd through 6th grade. I don’t mind middle school at the charter but the local district, isn’t the best. There is prevalent drug and gang issues in the area, and unfortunately that seeps into the middle schools. I don’t sub at the high school level very much because I look a lot younger than I actually am. Students mistake me for a new student, and instantly that puts an awkward balance in the classroom. I’m not their full time teacher, so they want to test boundaries and have a little fun at my expense, sometimes. It’s just part of being a sub.

The primary reason I enjoy subbing for the elementary ages is I get to teach. Elementary teachers, 9 times out of 10, will leave a full lesson plan for you to execute. They don’t expect it to be done to perfection, or necessarily to completion, but you get to teach. Around the upper middle point is where worksheets and videos start to become a thing. At this point, the students are a little more independent and able, in theory, to execute a small learning segment on their own. Nothing wrong with that, however, the kids tend to get bored and behavior issues, sometimes, come out.

I’ve learned to start each of my days out the same. I write my name on the board, introduce myself, and tell the kids some stuff about me. I let the kids know what we are doing for the day and my expectations. If their teacher leaves a discipline plan for me I tell them that I will be using it. I do try to be laid back, because their routine is off. If they have a snack I let them eat it, or if there are leftovers from breakfast that kids didn’t want, and the fridge is in a locked closet (happens sometimes) I let the kids have the perishables throughout the day instead of waiting for snack time. I let them talk or work with a friend, unless other wise specified in the substitute notes. I always collect whatever work the teacher has assigned for use to do for the day. For elementary grades that tends to be enough to keep the majority of them on task. They don’t want to disappoint their regular teacher.

I have learned the insanity that comes from a poorly determined classroom discipline policy. The same goes for routine. The teachers I have subbed for that have a classroom routine vs those that do not, is astounding. Giving the students ownership and expectation over their classroom just brings out this character building that I wouldn’t have expected. They like to have a job, they want to have a job. Not all the time, but for their week, they do.

I have students that ask me to come back and sub for their class when I am in the hall with a different class. Kids write on the white board that I am the best sub ever. I’ve had student confide in me personal issues, which I then have to tell to a full time teacher to ensure the communication protocol is being followed.

I am excited to move in a few months (well, not really, but for this I am) so that I can begin to apply for full time teaching positions. I’m looking forward to having that opportunity available to me. Will I always teach full time, most likely not. I love teaching. I love the flexibility that subbing comes with. I will sub or teach for a long time. I know that much and I am glad to have had this opportunity to sub for this school year!

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