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 Enthusiast

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    ,
     
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  5. Belch

    Belch Companion

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    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 Enthusiast

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    ,
     
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  11. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    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 Enthusiast

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  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 Magnifico

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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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