Being New, but Like, Every Day

Discussion in 'General Education' started by thecoast, Mar 5, 2018.

  1. thecoast

    thecoast New Member

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    While scouring Google Scholar for literature on substitute teaching, it occurred to me that there was really only one experience difference (psychologically) between substitute teachers and permanent teachers. It is not a small difference. Paradoxically, it is something both kinds of educators have in common. Some analogies come to mind.

    If you've been in the military, then you could begin to imagine what this illustration tries to convey. So begin to envision this: Your first day at Boot Camp. Up early in the morning, you don't know what you're supposed to do next, you have drill sergeants and civilians almost literally pushing you through one station after another; you pick up clothes here, you get a haircut there, you pick up gear at another place, you get yelled at for dozing off during an underwhelming digital slide presentation, you fill out reams of redundant paper work, you get yelled at for not staying focused, and not only that, but--as Yul Brynner famously said in The King and I--"...et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." You get to the end of the day and you crash hard in your bunk. You wake up the next day in civilian clothes, with your hair as it was before. Drill sergeants come in, but you recognize none of them. Not one! You think, wha-who-huh? And you don't remember where anything is. None of the recruits are familiar to you. Yeah. Imagine waking up to your first day of Basic Training over and over and over again with different people each time. Sorry if that assaulted the beach heads of your sense of sanity.

    At least in 50 First Dates, there was video to help the girl remember the previous days with the boy, so it's not quite as good an analogy as I first thought. How about being a temp at different jobs every day, in areas of expertise that you may know very little about? That would be epically stressful, to put it mildly.

    Let's get back to what substitute educators and permanent teachers go through in common: The first day at work as a newbie teacher. Imagine you both have the same level of education, training, and experience. You both go into your own classes, meet the kids, start getting to know their names, you practice keeping your cool doing classroom management, you face interruptions, you begin adjusting to new curricula, to the school’s personality (a.k.a., getting through school culture shock) and even, occasionally, you get some teaching in. The permanent teacher goes through this and, at the end of the day, can think that tomorrow will be better, and that so will the day after that as you build social capital with your peers and establish authority and gain respect and influence with your young scholars. The supply teacher, on the other hand, has to do the same thing all over again tomorrow at another school. And the day after that at yet another school. And the day after that. Every once in a while, subs gets lucky and they get an assignment for two or even three weeks in a row with the same group of kids. But then the run is done and it’s déjà vu all over again. "Good morning, class. My name is Mr. A."

    Of all the people in the world, permanent teachers should have the greatest degree of sympathy for subs.

    For a sub, there’s the rub.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some pretty amazing experiences with permanent teachers who have given me lesson plans, kept in contact with me throughout the day and the week, administrators who have been observant enough to see that I’d make a great asset on their team and kids who have been respectful and cooperative.

    But then there are other times.

    Still, you get the picture. The vast majority of documents that came up in my search are about teachers who have permanent posts. There are scads of documents talking about teacher absenteeism and teacher attrition. It got me to thinking: The problem is not being a substitute teacher per se, but rather being new. And, as the kids would say it, being new, but, like, every day.
     
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  3. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Mar 5, 2018

    Being a sub is not an easy gig, for sure.
     
  4. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Connoisseur

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    I like subbing because of the newness. I don't get bored. And if I have a crappy class, I don't have to go back. I'm currently a sub now and think that we're the "unsung heroes'' of teaching. I think we get even less respect THAN full time teachers and often times the full time teachers don't even respect us. I look at it like "hey we're doing a job and a service for you... be grateful!'' But I hear teachers complaining about subs a lot and will be very snide or rude to them. I think some of the best and most empathetic teachers out there started as sub. They put in their time and felt the pain. It's a pleasure subbing for them because they really "get it.''

    :)
     
  5. Belch

    Belch Companion

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    Mar 5, 2018

    I'm confused. Why would the regular teachers complain about substitute teachers?

    Every now and then, I have other teachers fill in for me (and me for them), but there's no room to complain. Hell, I'm happy that they're willing to do my job because I can't for some reason.

    What's the mindset that goes on there?
     
  6. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Ah, but that was one of my favorite parts about being a substitute! Maybe it's my acting background, but I loved wandering in and out of classrooms, always improvising but staying within the basic script of the lesson plans. I used to refer to myself as a "gypsy educator" because I loved the constant change instead of routine.
     
  7. thecoast

    thecoast New Member

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    That's a very good question, Belch. I know that, as a group, some people view teachers as overpaid babysitters. That trickles down, especially if the person subbing has less education and overall preparation to teach. (In some states, all you need is a high school degree to qualify to substitute). But I think it's not as simple as that in many cases. There are substitute educators who show up and do as little as possible. One bad experience with a substitute can taint the experience of a school. Like one bad cop giving all cops a bad name. But it would be interesting to find out what other factors underlie the mindset.
     
  8. thecoast

    thecoast New Member

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    I think the novelty of work is exciting--unless you have a badly behaved batch of students who are (pun intended) acting out. :)
     
  9. thecoast

    thecoast New Member

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    I have to agree with you, Leaborb192; that has been one of the truly wonderful things about subbing: I don't have to go back. And that has been the case at two schools. You can't pay me enough to be disrespected.
     
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  10. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Connoisseur

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    Yeah I go in and if I can tell it's going to be Hell... even if it's just one kid... I say "Well I only have to make it through the day and I have the option to send the kid out.'' Then -- POOF -- the day is over! I then see teachers who have to deal with the same P.I.A kids everyday and they really don't get an escape, because as we know... those kids are NEVER absent! They can send them out, but then they come right back.
    :(:roll:

    The only downside of subbing imo is no consistent schedule so it makes trying to get a "teacher's bladder'' a pain. But I subbed in the middle school yesterday, FIRST time with 7th and 8th graders, and had a really great day. I really only had to supervise three classes while they worked on a project and the counselor taught the 8th graders so I got to just observe. I confronted my MS "fear'' yesterday. The 7th graders still acted like small children (like in elementary school which I'm used to) and the 8th graders were like comatose zombies... It felt awkward watching the counselor try to teach, she basically was talking to herself as a room of eyes just glazed out. But none of them were disrespectful or bad or anything like that. It was a refreshing change. And I have to say I quite enjoyed my convos with the 7th graders; as they were working on their projects, I just chit-chatted with them. I did get some "Like why is the weirdo sub talking to us?'' attitudes, but there were also some great kids as well.
    :)
     
  11. miss-m

    miss-m Habitué

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    Mar 6, 2018

    In many districts, subs are not fully certified teachers. They lack the training and experience to manage a classroom, and that’s frustrating to come back to. I have a year and a half of subbing experience and the same amount teaching. Good subs who are retired or certified teachers are hard to find or in high demand. Subs who leave the room trashed, leave reports of craziness that never happens on any other day, or the kids HATE are far too common.

    One of my subs last year left sunflower seed shells on my table along with most of her food trash. Another told my students their writing was wrong and not good enough and my mentor teacher told me the kids were severely discouraged at the end of the day, even though they’d been doing exactly as I instructed. Another walked out of a classroom this year the second I walked in even though I’m not the classroom teacher and there were still students in the room. So yes, I complained about those subs.

    Subbing is understandably difficult on everyone; but there are also too many subs who just don’t know what to do in a classroom.
     
  12. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Connoisseur

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    "leave the reports of craziness that never happens on any other day''
    It's because the students truly "let loose'' when a sub is in the room and say / do things that they would never do with their classroom teacher. 1. Because the classroom teacher HOPEFULLY has clear set expectations for behavior, etc. and the sub doesn't necessarily know all of them and 2. the students have even less respect for subs than they do their classroom teachers. I was just in a room the other day where the kids were acting crazy and I kept asking "Would you do this if your teacher were here?'' And they responded ''no.'' If their regular teacher is kind of a hard -ass / severe disciplinarian then they won't act out, but what power does a sub have? And I think that they know this. I don't want to come in and just yell at the kids or be a complete a** hole to them... but I think that's kind of what they're used to so when you DON'T do that, they take advantage. So yes, the sub could have issues with kids that the regular teacher wouldn't. I think about how the kids just complained, for example, about the work /lesson that I had to present... they kept making comments like "This is boring,'' or "Why do we need to do this lesson?'' I KNOW that they wouldn't say that to their teacher because they'd be too afraid to.
    And yes maybe there are a lot of shi*** subs out there... so what? Teachers don't need to treat them like garbage. If they want better subs, make subbing more enticing with better pay and benefits? Otherwise, don't take days off. I consider myself a really good sub as I'm a certified teacher with experience, but even I get treated like a child (seriously the way one talked to me... OMG!) by some of these teachers. I get that they may have had bad experiences with some subs, but that doesn't mean you can treat ALL subs that way.
    I may be younger than the teachers, but I'm not an idiot!
    And a lot of kids "hate'' subs because the subs TRY to compensate and be hard - asses just to get through the day. Kids don't like that especially if they're used to a certain way or style. But if the teacher doesn't leave comprehensive notes about management and whatnot, which has been the case too often for me, the day won't go as smoothly as it usually does. This is why I don't sub in the early elementary if I can help it because if I don't do things exactly ''right'' the whole day can be thrown into a tizzy. But the teachers never leave me comprehensive notes about classroom management and procedures, etc., which are just as important -- if not MORE - -than the actual academic lesson plans. Ya know?!
    :)
     
  13. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    To be fair, teachers have zero control over pay rates and benefit packages for subs. Furthermore, sometimes taking a day off is not optional. Surely you know this.

    I think there's a wide stretch between being frustrated at a sub who is ill-prepared for the job and "treating them like garbage". I've had terrible subs (really, really terrible), but I've never treated anyone like garbage. Are there teachers out there who are rude to subs? Yep. Are those same teachers probably rude to their regular colleagues as well? Yep.

    Rudeness is never okay, and I hate to hear stories of times when teachers are rude to subs. I also hate to hear about, and experience, times when subs aren't prepared or willing to do the job they signed up for. It is frustrating to come back to a mess, or to see photographic evidence of a sub sleeping at my desk, or to find my snack stash destroyed, or to find controversial statements written on the board (like that Sandy Hook was a conspiracy with paid disaster actors), or to learn that a sub used racial slurs against one of my students, or any number of other issues. Most subs are great, but some are not, and it's fair to be frustrated at the not-awesome ones. Most teachers (in my experience) are great, but some are not, and it's fair to be frustrated at the not-awesome ones.
     
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  14. vickilyn

    vickilyn Virtuoso

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    Mar 7, 2018

    OP, I started out as a sub, worked virtually every day for only a couple of districts, and did this for 8 years. Subbing, earning respect, giving respect, is a two way street. If you think the teachers are out to be rude to you because you are a sub, then you have never taken the time to view this from their perspective. I limited myself to just two districts so that I knew the kids, understood what the teachers wanted and expected, and it yielded me more jobs that lasted multiple days in a single classroom, which changed how the students perceived me, and how I perceived what the regular teacher was asking them to do.

    If you are new to subbing, give it some time, get to know your clients on more than a first name basis, and figure out ways to engage students with something educational should lesson plans be less than stellar. Teachers and admin will be impressed that it wasn't a wasted day, educationally, and you will get a different "vibe" from these clients when you walk into the building. This comes from my personal experience, as does what I am going to say next.

    I no longer sub - I earned my certificates, added more degrees to my education, and still take classes and PD to grow as a teacher. I love my subs when they do the work that I send in, attempt to maintain structure, and don't let the students run rampant while I am out. While I am out, I take my responsibility to prepare lessons and send them in seriously. I also will leave cheat sheets about students who are helpful, and those who will tell bald-faced lies, which helps subs be successful. Whenever possible, I request a sub that has worked well for me in the past, which kind of negates the whole "doesn't know the kids or rules" thing you discuss. I have never met a teacher who didn't appreciate a great sub, but have heard horror stories about the ones who have no business in a classroom. Which one you are, or will become, depends on your mindset and effort.

    Best of luck.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2018
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