Questions about being a substitute teacher.

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Onihi, Jan 21, 2019.

  1. Onihi

    Onihi Rookie

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    Jan 21, 2019

    Hello everyone,

    I'm new here and new to teaching so I have a lot of questions. I'm currently in the process of going through an alternate route certification program, and I've gotten sub-certified and I'm trying to get work as a substitute in the meantime. I'd really appreciate any and all advice and information more experienced teachers and substitute teachers are willing to share. This is going to be slightly long so I'll break it up into sections. If you only feel like answering one or two of the questions, that's fine too!

    1. Getting work as a substitute. I've been in the system for my district for a week and I have not seen or been contacted for a single subbing position. I've signed up for subassistant and I'm still not getting any jobs/alerts. I've read that many teachers/schools have preferred sub lists and new subs have a hard time getting calls. Is there anything I can do about this? Is there someone I can contact within my district to get my name out there? Has anyone here been in the same position and if so, what did you do? Also, can I prioritize sub positions that are more aimed towards my strengths and what I plan to teach in the future (math) over others?

    2. Teaching the class. I've done a lot of reading about what makes a good substitute, and from everything I've read, it seems that following the teacher's lesson plan to a T is what most teachers want. But I've also read that sometimes teachers do not leave very good lesson plans, and sometimes, when absences are last minute, there are no lesson plans at all. What does one generally do in that situation?

    3. Managing the children. Any advice on dealing with the kids? I know substitutes generally get more flack from students since they think there aren't going to be repercussions for it. What strategies are there for dealing with that? Does this differ much by age group?

    4. As a sub, what experiences/advice do you have that I haven't asked about. For those of you that have been subs, I'd love to hear about your experiences and what advice you might have for me.

    5. As a teacher, what are you looking for in a sub? For those of you that are full-time teachers, what advice do you have for me as a sub that would make me more desirable for teachers to contact in the future?

    Thanks in advance.
     
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  3. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    Jan 22, 2019

    I should have said. If you are lucky to work in a well resourced school then 'borrow' resources that can be used when you go to a less fortunate one. It's not theft, it is more like a Robin Hood thing.
     
  4. Onihi

    Onihi Rookie

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    Jan 22, 2019

    Thanks! I will definitely put together a bag of stuff. I'll look into putting together back up plans. In the U.S. (at least in my state) we do have to get approved by a district so I can't just go around to multiple districts without doing a lot of paperwork, however, you gave me an idea. I can probably contact private schools and make connections there.
     
  5. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Jan 22, 2019

    It’s stealing and it will get you uninvited back when the regular classroom teacher discovers materials have gone missing.
     
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  6. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    Jan 23, 2019

    Sorry, you are right. I forgot that in the US the teachers pay for many of the resources. In the UK it is different in that the schools provide all paper, exercise books, glue sticks etc. Even white board markers come from a central stock. Teachers are not expected to provide them.
     
  7. 3Sons

    3Sons Connoisseur

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    Jan 23, 2019

    I'm kind of willing to bet it's not exactly legal in the UK either, even if it's not exactly the sort of thing that you'll get thrown in jail for...
     
  8. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    Jan 23, 2019

    [​IMG]
     
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  9. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Even for the things provided by the schools we are limited on the supplies, so I would still be quite unhappy to return to my room to discover that my supplies had gone missing. We are given a supply budget for the school. It is not unlimited.
     
  10. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    Actually as a supply teacher (sub) I see myself more like this
    [​IMG]
     
  11. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    .
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2019
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  12. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    Surely
    [​IMG]
     
  13. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    .
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2019
  14. RussianBlueMommy

    RussianBlueMommy Comrade

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    Jan 25, 2019

     
  15. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    As far as "stealing" resources: you can "steal" rasources that are not things. I used to make a note remembering or even writing down certain things I've seen in classrooms, such as a unique or new (at least to me) behavior management system, or beginning of class routine, or even certain signs on the wall (I would take pictures of those)

    - leave notes to the teacher. Always start with thanking them having you in their class. Never ever complain. Do not call the kids bad or horrible, just matter of factly describe how it went, and use your words carefully. You can say you had a hard time getting them to do their work or follow diections, but don't say it's a horrible class, etc. Once I found a note on the desk from the previous sub (I guess the day before) and it was so negative, all she did was coomplain about the horrible children. yes, I read it. The kids were a handful but not horrible and I would never say that.
    - if you want to sub again, TELL the teacher ! they don't know, so if you tell them you'd love to be back, if they like how you did things, they will keep you on this list.
    - make business cards and leave them with the note. Leave 2. On your business card note if you have a masters and or your credential or if you're in the process. Often substitute teacher don't want to become teachers, they have a bachelor and it's just a job. Most teachers prefer someone who is / will be a teacher.
    - eat lunch at the teacher lounge and engage in conversation of appropriate but don't take over. Don't bring up work unless they ask, often teachers don't want to talk about their day during lunch. Ask them if it's ok to leave business cards. Often they have a bulletin board.
    teacher lessons:
    - yes, try to do everything asked. Teachers often leave way too much work to be done just to make sure you don't run out of work and then there's too much down time. I just wish they would tell you that. So when I got a sub, I would leave a note on what I expect to be done and what are extras they can do. Definitely note everything that was or was not done.
    - find a way to stretch out the lesson if you need to. Sometimes teachers leave too little.
    You can turn a reading into a discussion, journal writing, (reflection, opinion, etc). This can take up 5-10 minutes and sometimes that's all you need.
    - it is a good idea to have some lessons with you all the time just in case the teacher called out last minute and there is nothing left. I was subbing high school so I at least had some great controversial topics with me to turn into a discussion, persuasive paragraph or even persuasive essay. Obviously this wouldn't work with math, but you can usually find a math text book and assign problems. But you can always have them write about something relevant to the subject, global warming, something with animals, etc. Having the students do something (and learn) and keep them under control is better, than nothing.
     
  16. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Jan 26, 2019

    1. Getting work as a substitute. This is the toughest one, because you have to wait for them to call you. When I first started subbing I made myself available to more districts. Within a relatively short time I cut back to one main district, a strong second, and a much weaker third - period. They were all within 6 minutes of my home. I agree that once called, if you enjoyed the classes, share with the teachers. After a while you get tired of who did what wrong in a tone that sounds like you hope to never set foot in that class again. When you get a chance to help out above and beyond, do it. It never hurts to get to know the school secretary, because if you live close, and they know it, you may get the sudden calls when a teacher has to leave after arriving, etc.

    2. Teaching the class. Yes, when possible, follow the teacher's lesson plans to a T, even if it is busy work or a movie. However, it helps to have a little Mary Poppins in you, where you can think on your feet, maybe use personal experiences to beef up a weak lesson, or fall back on your strong suit. I used to have a book to read aloud and Brain Quest cards in a couple of grade levels in my bag at all time. It was often the difference between a glowing report about cooperative classes vs. classes gone wild. I only subbed through 8th grade, and eventually I concentrated on MS. Know your audience and be prepared to meet them at their center of interest to a certain degree.

    3. Managing the children. Every sub develops tricks of the trade. Sometimes I would put a name on the board with no explanation, never breaking my stride in the lesson. More often than not, these were the students who were doing everything right. On some days it was my trouble makers. Repeated trouble makers just silently saw tally marks go up next to their name, but no break in what I was doing. Because I did sub in the same district a lot, over time the kids could figure out which was which, and that is just consistency. I was never afraid to praise, but much slower to threaten consequences I couldn't guarantee. Once again, I would try to have something in my bag of tricks to fill gaps, which markedly cut down on negative reports

    4. As a sub, what experiences/advice do you have that I haven't asked about. Go the extra mile without complaining. I would pick up a class where a teacher needed to attend an IEP meeting that was going over projected time without a whimper. I would make sure that if I had duties, I was prompt and where I needed to be. I always made sure to leave a note, with as many positives as possible. I would make sure that all papers/work were paper clipped together so that no student could claim the sub lost their work. I never borrowed supplies off a teacher's desk, even carrying my own pens and extra pencils. I would try to at least straighten up the room before I dashed out the door. Teachers notice. Find out how to use the DVD player, smart boards, speakers, do the lunch count and attendance promptly, and in any way possible, make the teacher's reentry to the classroom less stressful. Over time, learn names of staff, writing them down for yourself if you have to. A smile and use of their name is better than not having a clue who they are.

    5. As a teacher, what are you looking for in a sub? I admit that what I hope for in a sub is an honest attempt to get the work done that I have left or sent in. If that's not going to happen, let me know why. Because I work in an all SPED population, I do need to know who acted out, who challenged authority, who left the room without permission, who riled up the rest of the room. I would prefer that you stay out of my personal snacks, since there will only be a couple at any given time. They are in a locked drawer for a reason. If any student was terrible, let me know if you wrote them up the day of. Don't use write ups as idle threats. If some of my students were wonderful, let me know you wrote a positive write up for them. That way I get to brag on them and recognize their effort. I know my students won't be the same for you as for me, but it will help if you get a feel for what I hold them accountable for and don't be gullible enough to believe everything students tell you. Call their bluff, call the teacher next door. As soon as the students know you have verified what I would do if there, you have a better chance at being effective in my classroom.

    FYI, I loved subbing. Because I narrowed the age range that I was most comfortable with, I was in my element. If you have strong suits, use them. I never understood subs who would come in and read the paper and assume they had done a good job. Don't sub if you don't really like kids.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2019
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  17. showmelady

    showmelady Companion

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    Feb 11, 2019

    I have been subbing for over six years and first, let me tell you that I LOVE THE JOB!

    1. getting work. Where I work the subs are employees of the school district, but the assignments are done thru an outside source. Teachers post their needs, , sometimes with specific info and mostly not. The outside source then contacts subs in the district to attempt to fill the assignments. Some assignments are posted in advance of need, and others are sort of 'emergency', like if the teacher wakes up sick and cannot work that day. The assignments are posted on a web site and I can look at those upcoming and accept assignments in the 'future (I currently have assignments two months in advance) Also, teachers can request 'preferred' subs, and I do get some of those, as several teachers ask for me particularly. I prefer short term (the longest term I have ever done was two weeks and one day, music, and by the end of that time I was totally SICK of Mary Poppins) LOL

    2. Most times, when the assignment is in advance, teachers leave a detailed lesson plan, from what times each segment of the day is (maybe one page) to detailed sub plans that can be several pages long. (I ALWAYS try to be at the school at least a half hour before the designated time, to give me time to go over the lesson plan). In emergency absences often the teacher has a standard absence lesson plan to follow, or sometimes other teachers in the grade group take care of seeing that I have a plan. Mostly, teachers leave quite a bit of work, enough to keep students busy and on task. If there is little work, I can always find something on the internet that is in line with items on a short lesson plan (for example, for science and learning about arctic animals recently, I found a couple of NatGeo videos for the students and we talked about the info they gained from them). One thing I ALWAYS expect to have is an accurate class roster, and an accurate dismissal schedule! I want to know exactly who I am responsible for and exactly how the kids get home!

    3. Managing the children. I usually try to stay with assignments in elementary (up to 4th grade) but I have subbed in middle school and high school. My policy to manage the students is simple. I AM THE BOSS. They do NOT run the class. I make myself familiar with the general rules of each school I go to, and ask about teacher expectations. But my word is LAW. I do NOT argue with the students. We follow the teacher's plans as closely as possible. If I find that a student is not wanting to do as told I will sometimes try to make that student my 'helper' and that often works. But regardless, if the students do not follow directions they are aware that I will leave notes for their teacher, or if the teacher has left directions for discipline, I follow them. In all the years I have subbed I have only had to write an office referral three times. I hated even doing that, but some behavior issues cannot be ignored (like the time a student pushed me, or the time I found a toy gun in one of the kids backpacks)

    4. Other advice? Engage the kids. They all have something to contribute, and often their contributions are hilarious, or heartbreaking. Show the kids that you care for them. For one student I have been supplying (periodically) some art supplies because he is an outstanding artist. Sometimes I give them materials, and I collect backpacks for those who do not have them. I keep a supply of pencils (I can replenish it all the time, just with the pencils I find on the floor in the halls) I give them paper, notebooks, and STICKERS. Kids love the stickers. I have a ton of them I found at the Goodwill store! Cost me about .50, and have enough for quite a while. But another piece of advice is, if you don't really like subbing, don't do it. The kids know if you are not happy and they respond. That makes you and them unhappy and unproductive.

    5. I have not really asked the teachers what they look for in a sub, but since many of them ask for me again, it must be what I am doing.

    I love the kids. Some I first met 6 years ago are now in middle school and high school, but when I see them at the Walmart or at a restaurant they still say hi. Some even run up and give me hugs.

    Hope you get the jobs and enjoy them. It is very rewarding.
     
  18. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

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    1. Most of the teachers left very detailed lessons, but like you mentioned sometimes jobs were last minute with few or vague lesson plans. Generally the other teachers in the building were wonderful about helping me get settled and answered any questions I had. Use the other teachers in the grade level as a resource. They can probably tell you about the routines of the room, recess times, lunch and attendance procedures, etc.
    2. I always brought some activities with me that would work for most any elementary room (kindergarten was tricky) such as flash cards for playing Around the World, a Koosh Ball or something similar for reviews, a picture book appropriate to the grade (generally I grouped books as K-2 or 3-5) that I could read to them and we could discuss. This was always a hit with the kids, and the questions were to help them build their comprehension.
    3. Set YOUR rules at the start of the day, but keep them general. I had five. Follow directions quickly. Be flexible-I will follow the schedule as closely as possible, but I won't to everything exactly as your teacher does it. Check in with me personally, and wait for a response, before leaving the room PERIOD. Every teacher has different restroom procedures, but I needed this for safety purposes because I didn't know the kids. Be respectful, don't argue. Make your teacher proud. I told every class that I would be leaving a detailed note letting the teacher know how the day went, what we got done (or didn't) who was helpful and responsible (and who wasn't).
    4. Technology doesn't always work, and even when it did there was usually a password or something I needed to log in to the system. Usually I could use the teacher's I was subbing for if they left it, but sometimes I didn't have access to the technology so I had to come up with another idea on the fly. Try to keep close to the topic they wanted covered. Ask kids what they know about the topic, have them share ideas, write them on the board, have them ask new questions about the topic, and take a "field trip" to the library to look up the answers. I also asked the kids to help me figure out the technology if I didn't know what was going on. They loved being the experts.
    5. BONUS TIP This worked for me, and I used it at every job, but if it's not for you that's OK. I always carried a couple of baby name books to every job. Since high school I have been fascinated with names, their origins, meanings, etc. So after I went through my rules and expectations I'd pull out the books and ask the kids who knew what their name meant. Some did. Most didn't have a clue. Sometimes kids would tell you why they had been given their name. Cue the books. I'd ask who wanted to know more about their name and look up a few (or whatever I had time for). The kids loved it. It helped form a relationship between us which means they felt a little more important and were more likely to buy into my rules. It gave me a chance to cement names with faces a bit better. I also got a good look at behaviors and could pin point who I would need to keep a close eye on. This was one time they never tried to lie about who they were.
     
  19. zmp2018

    zmp2018 Rookie

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    Feb 22, 2019

    1. Getting work as a substitute.

    This is a tough one. I am employed by an outside agency. While I work in the district, I am not employed by it. This agency has me signed up with seven different districts, so I rarely have trouble finding work. I am now what they call a "building sub" where I go to the same school every day and have the secretary put me where she needs me. I love the consistency and guaranteed five day a week of work. A lot of school districts like building subs because they know who they will be getting every single day. Look around for these positions!

    2. Teaching the class.

    To be frank, if you are subbing for secondary, most likely you will be more like a glorified babysitter. Most teachers (in my two months of subbing) leave an assignment that the students do independently or in a group. Elementary is different because you are with the kids all day, so you will likely do some teaching in that area. My school district requires teachers to leave general vague "emergency" lesson plans for instances where the teacher cannot create a plan for that specific absence. I subbed for a teacher that was at school but then left fifteen minutes before first period because she was sick. She did not have a plan, but she went home and emailed her students the lesson plans. Thankfully, technology makes it easy for most teachers to throw together a lesson.

    There have been a couple instances where I had to think on my feet. This one teacher for whom I subbed got sick on her way to school and called off. She thought she left an article on her desk for the students to read that day, but it was not there. I did not want to give them so much free time, so I improvised and had the students read a similar article, do a quick-write, and then do a partner and then whole-class discussion. She was so happy that I improvised. I have had to deal with very vague lesson plans to very specific lesson plans. I love the teachers that tell me which classes might give me problems. As you continue to sub, you will be able to improvise a lot more easily.


    3. Managing the children.


    Managing the class is always the scariest part for me as a sub because I fear losing control. Students naturally act differently for a sub because they know that they do not know things that the regular teacher might know. I suggest acting tough from the start and clearly stating your expectations. As time goes on, you can lighten up a little (depending on the class). It is always easier to start off tough and lighten up than start off easy then toughen up. Do not make threats that you will not implement! If you tell a student you will write him up, you better write him up!

    Pick your battles! I usually hate cell phones in the classroom, but that is a battle I am not fighting with teenagers as a sub. If they do not do the assignment, fine. It is not my grade; it is theirs.


    4. As a sub, what experiences/advice do you have that I haven't asked about.


    Remember that you will have good days and bad days. You could be the best darn sub out there and still have classes that just blatantly do not care about your presence. Ignore it. If it continues in that particular school or district, you do not have to go back!

    Smile at the other faculty and staff. Become a part of that school even if you are only there for a day. Try to make conversation. It makes you look good and also makes the administration remember you.

    Most of all, have fun!
     
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  20. showmelady

    showmelady Companion

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    Mar 3, 2019

    I LOVE the idea of the book with name origins/meanings. I need that book!
    A couple of other things I thought of. First, I always check with the office staff to see if there is gong to be any kind of drill (fire, tornado, lockdown, etc) I do this to try to avoid letting students use the rest room when I know the drill will happen. It dawned on me that I had never been given any kind of info as to what to do if a student was out of the room using the rest room when the alarm sounds, so I try to be prepared and not allow students to eave the room at that time.

    Another thing I always ask for is TWO copies of the class roster. One usually goes to the office with attendance, and I need the other so I know who I am responsible for. I have had teachers eave a class list, but it would only have the student's FIRST name. I need the whole name, in case of emergency.

    I ALWAYS want an up-to-date dismissal list. Some teachers have left a list and I may have 23 students, but only 21 names on the list! I want to know who is a bus rider, who is a walker, who is a car rider, who may go to another classroom to dismiss with a sibling, or WHATEVER. But I need to know.

    If the teacher does not leave a password/login info for a smartboard, I can use my own, but that means sometimes I cannot access their dojo, or some specific site they use for a lesson. I wing it.

    One of the best things about the job of sub is that you get to know TONS of kids. I see the students all over town, at stores and parks and libraries. It is REALLY great when some kid runs op for a hug in the Walmart!
     
  21. Educare India

    Educare India New Member

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    Mar 6, 2019

    Thank You for the information.
     
  22. Nicolebeason

    Nicolebeason Rookie

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    Apr 27, 2019

    I take the opposite approach as a sub. I will make sure lessons are covered and will make sure kids are safe. However, I won't make a big battle over every little infraction (not to say I won't respect the discipline problem) but I'm not going to get too worked up over behaviors and enjoy the students.
     
  23. UpperMidwest

    UpperMidwest Rookie

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    Apr 29, 2019

    I have never taken materials from a class and never will. But is it stealing if I take a piece of gum/mints from the teacher's drawer, and "borrow" it? I have done that many days when there are many pieces of gum/mints. The teacher probably thought a kid took it (if she noticed at all).
     
  24. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Best to bring your own. You never know who has touched what is in the drawer, or how long they may have been there. Work on the assumption that it is always best for you to be prepared, and, technically, what is in the desk doesn't belong to you. Unless somewhere in the sub plans it specifically says to help yourself to any goodies in the drawer, don't assume it is OK.
     
  25. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Apr 29, 2019

    Not yours. Don’t take it.

    I’d also not be happy to think a kid took it. They know my desk is off limits.
     
  26. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Phenom

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    When I subbed I had a big bag of stuff that had every color marker, pen, and highlighter I could ever want. Lots of pencils and blank paper. I don't think I ever borrowed anything from a teacher's desk unless it was an emergency.
    I have a thing where I won't eat or drink anything that has unknown origins LOL People just think I'm picky but it's more an EWWW factor. It would never occur to me to take something from another teacher's desk, food or otherwise.
     
  27. Baroness

    Baroness Rookie

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    May 1, 2019

    If you have followed the lesson plans the teacher has left and all the kids are accounted for and unharmed, then you have done well!
    As far as resources go, there are plenty of free things online that you can print up and ask the office folks to have copied for you if you don't have any plans.
    I know my school usually has their list of regular subs who get called first. Only when they have exhausted the regulars do they call any new subs. Be patient. They will call eventually.
    Good luck!
     
  28. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    May 2, 2019

    Firstly...gross. The thought of going into a teacher's classroom, and eating a mint/gum/etc from the desk without KNOWING where it's been makes my stomach churn. The thing is, you have no idea where those candies/mints/gum have been. You have no idea if they were confiscated from a nasty student, or even if they were used in science class for things other than eating and those are the left overs. You don't if they've been laced with laxatives or something worse. You just don't know. Now if the teacher specifically leaves a note indicating that there's some candies in this location you're welcome to have some then feel free, that's a horse of a different color.

    And the reason I warn you about this, and I want you to be aware, is because of two reasons: for one, I am a science teacher (for now) and we preach lab safety at all times. The way my classroom is set up and designed it is with the assumption that we are ALWAYS in a lab environment. Lab safety rule #1: DO NOT EAT OR DRINK IN THE LAB. It really makes me cringe to think that a teacher would come into my classroom and eat a random candy that they don't know the history of because I know what goes on in a science classroom. And secondly I know right now I have mints in my desk which have been laced with chemicals that react to sodium chloride (table salt). And I have no idea what would happen if a human were to ingest them. That's why they're in my drawer, in a bottle labeled DO NOT EAT. (Don't worry they're being used in a lab this week and will disappear but still.)

    And yes, I get the idea that it's "just a mint". But still, if it's in the teachers' desk, personal supplies, etc etc, it is still THEIR stuff. Unless you have permission to have a mint/gum/etc, it's still their stuff and you shouldn't be going through their things, shouldn't be taking those things without permission. You really shouldn't have any reason to be going through a teacher's drawers unless you have specific permission to do so. Which brings your own highlighters, pens, etc. And I say this knowing that I'm not going to be at my current school tomorrow - I'm going to be at my new school - and I'll have a sub for my science students. I have a sub I know and trust and know that she'll be able to handle the limited plans I have for her. But I also know that she's not going to rifle through my stuff, dig through my desk, go through my things, eat the laced mints...

    Not only is it a safety thing, it's a trust thing. You are a GUEST in that teacher's house. You wouldn't go into your neighbor's house that you barely know and start going through their kitchen drawers, so don't do it to the classroom teacher.
     
  29. Baroness

    Baroness Rookie

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    May 2, 2019

    In my school district, there is substitute training that you must attend before becoming a sub. Does anyone else's school system do this?
     
  30. UpperMidwest

    UpperMidwest Rookie

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    May 2, 2019

    I get where you are coming from. I guess if I were a regular teacher I would not care if a sub took a mint or gum from me--it would be "meh"...no big deal. Especially if there is like 50 in a jar. As far a safety goes...I probably would not take a mint from a lab.
     
  31. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    May 3, 2019

    It's also a respect/trust thing. Unless you were invited to have some — that's a different story — you still had to go through that teachers things in order to find them.
     

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