Going to start subbing - what do I need to know?

Discussion in 'Substitute Teachers' started by Radical Dreamer, Jan 21, 2015.

  1. Radical Dreamer

    Radical Dreamer Rookie

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    Jan 21, 2015

    I recently finished my credential coursework and I'm about to start subbing. I'm all cleared to work in one district, and I plan to apply to another one as well.

    That being said, I'm terrified. I actually have subbed about 4 or 5 times in the past, while student teaching, and also when I held a paraprofessional position, and they actually went just fine. However, I have never arrived at the start of the day to a completely unfamiliar school site to sub.

    What are the absolutely essential things that I should know before I start? What do you wish you had been told when you started subbing, but nobody did? I'm actually especially worried about how to handle attendance at the start of the day, as I don't know how to do this, and I imagine it might even vary from site to site. Do I have to send a kid back to the office with something?

    I've also been having a tough time finding positions. I emailed some contacts that I've made and gave them my ID number, and now I'm waiting. When I wake up at 5 in the morning, I receive no phone call, and when I look at their online system, there are no postings. This despite being in a very large school district that reportedly has a dire need for subs.
     
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  3. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    Jan 21, 2015

    The biggest thing for me has been secondary attendance haha. I wish someone had told me the first time I subbed secondary what the expectation was for taking attendance -- every hour? just first hour? I did finally find out that for middle school at least I need to take attendance every hour and send it to the office. (Though I could have saved myself a lot of trouble by just asking...)

    The biggest thing probably... just be flexible. There's no one set method for subbing because every class is different, every school is different, and every day will be a completely new experience.

    Positions can be tough at first, but just keep at it. It will pick up; check your availability, make sure your contact information is right.

    My only advice really is to just jump in and don't be afraid to ask questions in the office, nearby classrooms, etc. Get there a little early so you have time to look over the plans without panicking about when the kids are going to show up -- and don't try to memorize the whole day. Read up to your first break (usually lunch or specials) and then use the break to breathe and regroup for the next part of the day.
     
  4. misswteaches

    misswteaches Companion

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    Jan 22, 2015

    Fake It

    I've been subbing for only a few weeks, so that sense of nervousness (and/or doom) is still very fresh for me. What I have learned so far is to show confidence and authority in the classroom. Yes, it's okay to ask kids for help with the SmartBoard or with classroom supplies, but being obviously unprepared is a great way to submarine your management of the class. PRETEND that you know what you are doing! If you hear, "Well, Mrs. X lets us...", it's okay to respond with, "Today I'm your teacher and we're..."
    As far as actually becoming prepared so you can have a little more genuine confidence, I second what Miss M said above -- concentrate on the lesson up to your next break; arrive early; ask for help from neighboring teachers. I also look up the teacher on my school district website before going. In my district, teachers are required to have a personal page with a blurb about their classroom or their teaching. This doesn't always help (and your district might not have this) but sometimes it helps to know just a little bit about the teacher for whom you are subbing.
    My district uses AESOP for placements. For the first two weeks, I had nothing. Then, for the past three, I have worked every day. Now I have almost no jobs in February. I'm not sure how it all works, but keep trying, keep checking online and calling in. If your experience is anything like mine, when it rains it pours!
    Finally, be confident in what you are doing. Many substitute teachers have no educational background. You have studied your eyeballs out, learning about educational strategies! You student taught! Most importantly, edcuation is your passion. Experience will come as you put yourself into situations that are terrifying. :thumb:
     
  5. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    Jan 22, 2015

    And the fear DOES fade. I still get a little rush every time I go into a new room, even after 4 months, but it's an exciting rush instead of OHMYGOSHWHATDOIDO. ;)

    Right now is slow for me as well -- the districts I'm in use SubFinder and smartfindexpress. All I've found since school got back is pretty much half days and building sub jobs for IEP meetings and stuff (I bounce from room to room as needed). It's been REALLY hard to find jobs, so don't worry about that too much. It'll pick back up. :)
     
  6. TNSub

    TNSub Rookie

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    Jan 24, 2015

    My advice is that new Subs are best Subbing for Special Education first... at least in my district, there's always required to be two professionals in the room if it's a classroom that has the most severe cases, and for the students that are capable but simply behind in some ways, it still tends to be a small class with about 5-10 students.

    These students always tend to have the best behavior, are easiest to handle, and with the extra help in the classroom, there's always someone to walk you through how to do things. In my district, we can choose to actually be a Special Ed assistant for that particular day instead of the full-fledged Sub for the day, and this may be the best choice of all.

    Second to that, High School is the best bet. All of the Students are firmly aware of the exact schedule they are supposed to adhere to, and many students are willing to help. You do have a lot of behavior to deal with, but trust me, it's simply less than Elementary or Middle. However, Middle is not that far behind - and depending on your confidence and teaching style, Middle can be that perfect ground.

    With attendance, it does vary, but I've had problems with students skipping class after they take the attendance to the office - so one of the schools I go to started sending student aids to collect the attendance from the classrooms. Simply ask the office what they do. Other than that, it's simply checking the names off the roll and writing them on an attendance sheets.

    One of the hardest challenges of the day is calming the students down to take roll, as it's due pretty quickly after class starts. It will be very hard, but I don't scream or fuss. I ask, sometimes quite sternly, "If everyone can settle down, I can begin to take roll. We know what to expect." If the class calms down to a few whispers and small voices, that's enough for me.

    If they don't calm down, however, I announce to the class "I'm sorry, but I asked the class to settle down. I will not fight with the class. I have an assigned seating chart with student photos [even if I don't], and I will begin writing anyone up who continues to talk." Then I pull out a form and scribble a bunch of malarky on it, and it tends to calm them down immediately.

    Once you get that roll call out of the way, jump into the lesson as absolutely quick as you can, being quick to snip out any behavior problems you see. Once you get the lesson complete and work passed out, I personally let loose and realize that it's a Sub Day, and the students will fight with you all the way, and that the Students who want to work will, and that all you can do for the ones who don't is simply walk around every now and then, warn them when they're getting too loud, and generally letting go some of that nervousness that a principal will walk into the room.

    As long as the students simply aren't screaming and throwing things, some students will be loud and will not work, and some will work hard. I personally try to complement the ones who are working, and if nothing else, have a little fun with the ones who don't. I've found that if I walk around and chat with the stubborn students, they actually tend to start working sometimes.

    If it gets severe, I say "Your teacher specifically wanted me to write down the names of anyone who isn't working. Again, I have the seating chart with photos and I will write your name down." And again, pretending tends to go a long away. But keep in mind you'll probably never have a perfect class unless it's Honors or AP. The rest of students of today's time tend to really be a handful, and there's a lot more integration with mental and behavioral conditions in normal classes than there truly needs to be.

    One last thing, I try my best never to "ask" a student their name if I truly have to write them up. What I'll do first, is stop the behavior, take a sneak peek at whatever their name is on their assignment, and fill the form out without asking them anything. Students really look down on Subs who don't know anyone's name, and they think that Subs who "remember" names just from roll call are geniuses that they don't want to mess with. If you're unsure if you've gotten the right name then... don't even in turn the write-up, just throw it away. No one's any the wiser.

    If possible, when you take roll, if you see a student who's causing the most problems, put a dot by their name as you find out their name during roll, and use them as an example. If that student still talks during your lesson, then use that one student to say, "Bob, I asked everyone to settle down, please get to work." The fact that you use a name right off the tongue will blow their minds.

    Other than all that, I personally don't get excited about dress code, cursing, or miniscule tardies. Especially in High School, most of the teachers are just as laid back about it. I've never given a student a tardy unless they're 45 seconds late or over (if I can see them coming in the hall, that's fine), I've never said anything about dress code unless it's just plain severe and there's actually private skin showing, and I don't know what it is, but students who curse make me laugh more than not.

    The important thing is simply not to get too nervous, have some fun, and get to know the students and staff in the school. Things tend to be a lot more laid back than Subs expect when they first walk in, and remember, if a Sub Department wants to fire you, they'll do it for whatever reason, much of it not to do with you. They certainly have no reason to fire you if Jimmy Bob doesn't complete his worksheet for the day - trust me, the teacher probably has just as hard of a time.

    Just relax, and everyone makes mistakes on their first day. I've been Subbing for a year and have made every mistake under the sun, and after a year, I can just now go into a class, have complete confidence, and have it go pretty darn good. If nothing else, it simply takes a lot of time to build up a strong skin against the students!
     
  7. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Jan 24, 2015

    One thing that can make your life easier (and I didn't figure this out until towards the end) is that in secondary, when you get your attendance sheets for each class, make a copy of each.

    At most schools you will take attendance in each class period, and then send it up. If you send it up, how do you know who the student is that comes in late, and how do you mark it?
    So by making a coy, you also note the absences on that one, as well as the tardies because you keep it. You can make checkmarks for negative behavior, or note who was a helper, great behavior, etc, and leave it for the teacher.
     
  8. 2j2baz

    2j2baz New Member

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    Jan 24, 2015

    I have been subbing for a few years now. While in school for my Masters and now that I have graduated. It can be nerve racking at first. I used to work through AESOP but found it was hit or miss and never could count on work. I now work as a permanent building sub. I go to the same building each day and I am placed in various classrooms. If you can get that, I think that is best. You get to know the students and best of all the district gets to know you if a permanent job opens up. A lot of districts hire within. Good Luck!
     
  9. Guitart

    Guitart Companion

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    Jan 24, 2015

    Someone said to sub SPED. I agree. Many times the teacher saves a reward day for subs = movie day! Kick back and watch a DVD with some of the best behaved students. Support staff are usually in the room with you or frequently check in.

    When I went back to school to get my teaching cert, subbing was not heavily covered. It was assumed most of us would sub for a semester or a year, but we had little instruction on it. Luckily, I had been a para and a sub prior to going back to school. I was the class resource on subbing.

    One bit of advice I told my class: be the role model for district rules. Dress the best, wear your lanyard/badge, and refrain from chiming in on teacher lounge gossip. Even if teachers are bending rules, as a sub you cannot afford to.
     
  10. heatherberm

    heatherberm Cohort

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    Jan 24, 2015

    I use an app called SubAssistant. You can tie it to AESOP and SubFinder accounts (it links with other systems as well, I think, but those are the two I use) and set it up to send texts, emails, or notifications when jobs are posted. I started using it a couple of months ago and it's helped immensely because I know as soon as jobs are posted and can snag them quickly. It is, unfortunately $7.95 a month but there's a free trial so you can try it out and see if it works for you. For me, it's totally been worth it. There are ebbs and flows anyway, but I'm not missing out on things as much. I also sub in three districts, at a charter school, and at a special ed agency so if it's an option, don't be afraid to add places to your list of possibilities. It's definitely helped fill out my schedule and it's nice to experience multiple places.

    Other than that, my biggest piece of advice is, don't be afraid to ask questions. For me, attendance/lunch count and dismissal are the biggest bugaboos because even within the same district, every school is a little bit different. The only way you can find out how things work is by asking. I do mostly elementary so a lot of times one of the student's classroom job is to take care of attendance and lunch count but not always. Ask in the office and don't be afraid to ask the kids although as someone else said, ask with confidence and if it's something less important, don't be afraid to say, "We're going to do it a little different today." In my experience, you can pick out pretty quickly which students are going to be helpful and honest. (And God bless teachers who leave a couple of names of helpful students.) For classroom routine stuff, it will also help if you get there earlier than you need to so you have time to go over any notes and plans, look around the room, and then ask questions about things you're unclear on. In elementary schools at least, the other teachers in that grade level are usually a big help because they often have some idea what's going on in the classroom.

    Discipline-wise be firm upfront. It's much easier to loosen up as the day goes on (if they can handle it) then it is to start too loose and then try to get things under control. I haven't had a super bad experience with any class (yet) but they will definitely know if they can push you around.

    Other than that, take a deep breath and try to relax. You'll catch on quickly, I promise. It gets easier the more you do it and it's kind of fun to try out some different ages. If you show up on time, work hard, and follow plans, schools will definitely use you.
     
  11. LisaLisa

    LisaLisa Companion

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    Jan 25, 2015

    A word of warning: Know what kind of class you are subbing before you accept the job. Special Ed is not always easy. It depends on the class...

    Many of my students require toileting so the aides are out of the room for extended periods of time. You may be left alone or with less staff than you thought. Sometimes if the aides know the teacher will be out, they will call in sick. It does happen.

    If you are subbing as an aide you may be doing the toileting - typically you get paid more for this type of job. Consider the challenge of this with older kids.

    You might have kids with extreme behavior because their teacher is out. If you are teaching older students, they are bigger, stronger, and have more experience with their behaviors. Now the screaming starts.

    Just a word of caution. I've been teaching Special Ed for longer than I can remember. I wouldn't sub it anymore.

    I have a terrific class and outstanding staff. You might not be so lucky as a sub. Just look before you leap.
     
  12. Ms.Blank

    Ms.Blank Companion

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    Jan 25, 2015

    Agree with the above...my third day of subbing EVER was in special ed. I got there, and it was the severe class. The kids were all in wheelchairs and had feeding tubes. It was a really difficult (although good!) experience for me. I didn't feel adequately prepared to sub for them...I simply couldn't provide these kids with the care they needed. Pretty amazing that to be a special ed teacher, the route is completely different from doing regular ed...but to sub for it, they'll take any warm body with a bachelor's degree. *steps off soapbox*
     
  13. bbelton60

    bbelton60 Rookie

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    Jan 25, 2015

    I only speak as somebody who subs secondary, never elementary. Just do exactly what the regular teacher tells you to do. Usually it's give them a work sheet or play a movie. Just be sure to take accurate attendance and make sure nobody gets hurt. This is what I do. I usually spend each period chilling in the teacher's chair and browsing the internet. Never had a problem. Ever.
     
  14. anna9868

    anna9868 Habitué

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    Jan 26, 2015

    RadicalDreamer, I understand you so well! I was in a very similar position. I went student teaching first, I then subbed for 8 months or so, It was the the most nerve racking experience of my life. At that time I was very unsure of myself, didn't have any experience, was too self-conscious when I didn't know answers to kids' questions, etc. As a result, that made me afraid of subbing for years to come.

    Since then I taught in preschool, worked for 4 years as a substitute aide in all the different kinds of special education rooms, from sever to autistic, had experience with kids outside of school (including teaching my own kids), all that helped me overcome my fears and come back to teacher subbing. I was still terrifying in the beginning, but very quickly got better.

    I sub for 2 agencies, only for elementary, that's my age. At first I was willing to try everything. However, after dealing with a bad district where I was praying that kids don't strangle each other while I'm there (it was a regular K class!) I signed off that district and now only go to schools in good districts.

    Unlike other subs I cannot boast of strict discipline. I agree it's important, however, I cannot be strict, not in my nature. That's why I don't do middle and high, I'm sure there it would be so much harder.

    Most classes I go to I'm able to survive and make most of the kids work without being too strict. Sometimes, it doesn't work, oh well, I tell myself, at least kids had a good relaxed day :)
     
  15. MLB711

    MLB711 Comrade

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    Jan 26, 2015

    FYI -- I have subbed grades 5-9 for the past few years.

    It's a rush. I started in 4 new schools this year and the first day in each of them was a combination of terrifying, exhausting, and exhilarating. I tried to arrive at least 15 min early on the first couple of days so I had some time to find the school, get parking, get oriented in the office, find my room, find a bathroom, and look over the plans. I concentrate on the plans up to my prep period or lunch, then use break time to ready myself for the second half of the day.

    My biggest advice is that if you have a question, ASK!!!! First of all it shows that you care about doing a good job. Second, that's how you make connections. The more connections you have, the more jobs you have. If you do something wrong, especially your first day there, people will be understanding. Also, if someone really needs something from you, they will call. I always apologized, said I was a sub and new to the building, then gave them what they needed.

    My second biggest piece is to organize things in a way that makes sense to you. If the teacher has all the handouts in a pile, separate them so you know where things are. The more prepared you are, the more the students stay with you. Sometimes students said (nicely or rudely) that their teacher did it differently. If they were nice, I would respond nicely that I was their teacher today and I would like to do it my way. If they were rude, I would respond with a little attitude. That usually put them in check and got them at least partially on board.

    For backup activities, use your resources!! I checked in closets and drawers and cabinets for any activities I could use with extra time. I also looked for construction paper, because you can often have them make some kind of poster relating to what you just taught. I always had some crossword puzzles and connect the dot puzzles (with like 150 dots - keeps them busy for at least 20 min). You can also do Sparkle (you'd be surprised how many middle schoolers love Sparkle) or Scattergories.

    As far as special ed classes, it took me a while to work up to those. Honestly I think some of the toughest sub jobs I've had were as a paraprofessional for a student with special needs. I agree with LisaLisa to look before you leap into a special ed environment. I used to sub a lot in the Life Skills class, but it took me a few months of consistent subbing in the school to actually feel comfortable in that environment.

    Overall subbing can be so much fun if you want it to be. Have fun with it! Admin isn't looking in on you unless you have kids leaving the room without permission or fighting or something insane like that. You can play games and be a little looser than a normal teacher could be.
     
  16. anna9868

    anna9868 Habitué

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    Jan 26, 2015

    I found Sparkle is the game even 4-5 graders get excited about!

    I agree about the fun part. I usually carry a few activities around, book of fun poems, brain puzzles, etc. If there is some free time I play a game with kids, or do puzzles and activites, and both sides enjoy it.

    Oh, one more experience, although it also goes against many others. I find it actually easier to listen to kid's advices on little "administrative" things, such as, how attentance it taken, how they chose lunch options, etc. I sub in too many districts/schools, but only elementary.

    I heard a few times an elderly teacher/aide scolding kids saying why they talk without being asked, they should not be talking or giving advices unless a teacher talk to them. Not in my opinion, I welcome kids' help (usually).
     
  17. Radical Dreamer

    Radical Dreamer Rookie

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    Jan 26, 2015

    Thanks for all of the advice.

    I'm getting my Multiple Subject Credential, so I will only be subbing grades K-6. I will not be subbing high school or special ed. (unless I get to a site and they ask me to).

    I'm planning to sub my first day tomorrow. The district uses SmartFinderExpress, so I am going to browse the postings and pick one. For the most part I have no idea if the schools will be good, and I have no guarantee that there will be plans left for me, since it will be a position that was called out the day of. I'm just hoping that I get a good class and that detailed plans will be waiting for me.

    I'm worried that the day-of postings will be difficult schools. I student taught at an easy suburban school, and the teachers pretty much had their preferred subs lined up months in advance.
     
  18. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Jan 26, 2015

    Just because a teacher calls out the same day of the absence, it doesn't mean that it's a bad school. It can be the best school in town, but the teacher fell ill on the morning, or had an emergency, etc.
    Always go in with the best expectations, but be prepared for a tough crowd just in case.
     
  19. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    Jan 27, 2015

    Plus the reputation of a school doesn't always match reality.
    My favorite school to sub in is considered a "difficult" school. Other teachers in the district always look shocked when I tell them I love being at this school. Yes, I've had most of my difficult days there... but the students are mostly really sweet and the staff is welcoming and wonderful.
    Often schools are labeled as "bad" or "difficult" schools just because they're highly diverse and the families have a lower median income. That can lead to new kinds of situations and some new issues, but it doesn't make the label accurate. It would take some adjustment if you student taught in a well-off suburban school, but only because of some of the different attitudes that can come out haha.

    If your district uses SmartFindExpress, you probably won't have any trouble getting jobs ahead of time. Obviously that depends on the district as well, and how early teachers take off, but I've had whole weeks planned by the end of the previous week because of the search range feature. XD
     
  20. TNSub

    TNSub Rookie

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    Jan 27, 2015

    The "worst" school in my district is also my favorite. It is a school with a primarily "urban" student base - the type where every student is walking around with pants on the ground and rapping out loud in the hallways.

    And though the behavior isn't exactly better than any other school, I find that the attitudes are. In other schools where there are better backgrounds, I've had a lot of attitudes, especially from the sports teams that believe they can do whatever they want to.

    With the "worst" school, however, yes, there's just as much behavior, but when I get onto the students about it, they tend to turn it into a joke rather than trying to insult me. And for me, that goes a long way.
     
  21. Radical Dreamer

    Radical Dreamer Rookie

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    Jan 28, 2015

    Just finished my first day. Signed up for a 3-day assignment in a 2-3 combo class.

    At first things weren't looking good. The assignment start time was listed as 8:45. I accepted at 7:45 and left immediately. Between traffic and missing an exit, I didn't get to the school until 8:35. At the front office, I was relieved to find out that classes didn't actually start until 9:15.

    After that scare, I went to the classroom, but I couldn't find any plans. I asked the teachers next door and I asked the front desk staff. They checked fax and emails but found nothing. Finally, someone said that the teacher was actually coming in, and then she went over the plans with me during an early 45-minute prep period during a PE session.

    The rest of the day was actually pretty ordinary, and I'm feeling very relieved.
     
  22. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    Jan 28, 2015

    Sub start and end times are usually close to the teachers' contract times - so you get there before the kids (sometimes only 10 minutes, but hey -- it's something) and leave a little after they do.

    Glad everything went pretty smoothly other than the morning rush! :)
     
  23. Radical Dreamer

    Radical Dreamer Rookie

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    Feb 3, 2015

    It's actually very rare that I can find a position ahead of time using SmartFindExpress. It's almost all day of.

    I'm in a district that has a dire need for subs though, and there are actually a ton postings AFTER schools have started. Does anyone have experience accepting and arriving to an assignment after school has started?
     
  24. Ms.Blank

    Ms.Blank Companion

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    Feb 3, 2015

    I've done it once (I normally book in advance, but one day I didn't book a job...woke up, then decided I wanted to work haha). The day would have started at 7:30, but no one could be found, so I got the call at 9 and headed over. The principal and the librarian were taking turns in the classroom at the time. It was kind of madness, since I walked in and was told to just "go". To top it off, it was kindergarten. However, I was told by both the principal and the office manager that even if I were to forgo the lesson plans, just my presence there was super helpful to everyone (they could go back to their normal jobs), so no one would be upset if the lesson plans didn't get done. I was told to just "make it work and get through the day".
     
  25. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Feb 3, 2015

    Bottom line is that getting called once the day is in session is a way to endear yourself to that district. If you accept the position, it should go without saying that time is somewhat of the essence. If you are someone who can't go with the flow and accept that it will almost certainly not be your typical, organized day, then this is not the job for you. On the other hand, if you can go with the flow without being freaked out, the districts will love you and it will impact the amount of work that you get - and it won't all be after the day has started. In this day and age of computer postings, there is still someone in every district who remembers who helped out when no one else would come. Since it is usually admin covering the classes until a sub is found, that will be who remembers your name. ;)
     

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