Subbing Frustrations

Discussion in 'Substitute Teachers' started by ihollywould, Dec 9, 2011.

  1. ihollywould

    ihollywould Rookie

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    Dec 9, 2011

    I am so grateful this forum exists.

    I work for five different school districts as well as a substitute staffing service for charter schools. My overall list of schools I sub for includes well over 200 schools. This means I have been employed every single day since school started the day after Labor Day.

    But it also means that I sub in a different school nearly every single day.

    Does anyone ever feel any of the following:
    "I have no relationship with staff and administration. Sometimes I'm so temporary I can barely muster the wherewithal to tell students my name."
    "I am constantly memorizing a new set of rules for every school every day and am starting to get so confused that I'm unable to really enforce anything."
    "I never know if I'm doing my job well because I never get feedback, so I just keep doing the best I can, even if it's awful."
    "I want to dye my hair blue just so people remember me."

    I feel so incredibly transitory. I enter a new school building with new students, new staff, new schedule, new rules every single day. No one remembers me. I get zero feedback on my job performance unless it's atrocious (whoops, sorry there was "tension" between me and the students who I asked to put away their cell phones - yes, this was real feedback left on my Aesop site).

    Urgh, someone commiserate with me. I feel like a ghost.
     
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  3. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Dec 10, 2011

    Is this your first year subbing?

    As you get to know staff, you may find that certain schools request you more often than others and you won't need to be at 200 different schools to have a daily job.

    I know that it's frustrating, especially not getting any feedback about your job performance. But honestly, if you continue to get requested for jobs and have a job almost daily, you must be doing something right.
     
  4. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Dec 10, 2011

    I agree wtih mopar.

    And I think you have to force yourself to push way out of your comfort zone and to speak to others in the building-- to become a bit memorable.

    Perhaps you could start with the secretaries-- whoever it is you report to when you check in. I would imagine they're the same people each time you return to a particular school. Make a point to be polite, to engage in some small talk-- something. Be "that nice young teacher who subbed for Denise" -- the one they remember next time.

    Perhaps you could also make a habit of checking in with the teachers on either side of your classroom each time you sub-- just a "good morning, I'm ihollywould."

    It's going to take some time to build relationships in a number of different places at the same time. But be patient. You'll get there.
     
  5. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Dec 10, 2011

    The only subs that I know are the ones that take a minute to pop into my room and introduce themselves or the ones that the secretaries suggest to me. So, definitely great ideas as to building rapport.
     
  6. Zabeth

    Zabeth Rookie

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    Dec 10, 2011

    It takes time. Much of what you write is very true, but as Aliceacc and mopar say, there are things you can do to combat the isolation you're now feeling.

    Some of the things I do are to leave good notes at the end of each day (I use an "End of Day Feedback" form that I've developed), learn children's names quickly and do my best to call them by name, smile at the secretary, sit in the staffrooms on breaks (even when I'm feeling ignored -- sigh!), and offer myself at the office to help other classes out if I have extra planning time (this I don't do every single time).

    Your goal is to present yourself as professional, caring, flexible, and open.

    Other teachers notice and talk to one another about that great sub in room 10. But it takes a lot of time. I'm in my third year of subbing (now thinking of making this my career) for a board in Canada, and each year it feels like I need to work to re-establish my reputation from the previous year.

    Keep writing! We're here to help AND commisserate!
     
  7. ihollywould

    ihollywould Rookie

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    Dec 10, 2011

    Yep, just coming up to my one year anniversary of subbing. In fact, I think I was licensed December 14, 2010, so that anniversary is in a couple of days!

    I grew up in a family of four engineers and this meant that social intelligence took a backseat to academic intelligence. As a consequence, I am pretty stunted socially so these very simple suggestions you gave me had never occurred to me, especially about introducing myself to teachers in neighboring classrooms. That's brilliant!

    I am fortunate that one school that I see come up a LOT in AESOP is my favorite school and the principal has commented to me that they "love having [me] here." That's a pretty good compliment!

    One thing I'm finding particularly challenging is fighting the urge to get others to like me. I know it's not my role to befriend the students - my role is to: 1) Make sure the students are kept safe and that rules are enforced and to 2) Follow the absent teacher's lesson plans. I am getting better at standing my ground and supporting the teachers and staff, rather than try to get on the students' good sides.

    Ugh, substitute teaching, retail, and food service: three jobs everyone should have to do in their lives.
     
  8. Zabeth

    Zabeth Rookie

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    Dec 10, 2011

    And remember: you are an EXTREMELY valuable member of the professional team, whether you're ever told that or not. It is YOU who is keeping things running smoothly and on track in the teacher's absence. Never short-change yourself!
     
  9. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Dec 10, 2011

    At this particular time of year it's probably easiest to make that small talk. You can compliment the Christmas scarf the secretary or teacher is wearing. You can talk about Christmas shopping or the lights or the weather prediction. You can talk about how excited the kids are or how snow in the air makes them even more excited. Or about how lovely a teacher's Christmas door looks, or whether it's OK to promise to read the kids "The Grinch" as a treat if they behave.

    Lots and lots of potential small talk from this time of year. All of which will help you make connections with the people in all those schools, and will make your time spent there so much more pleasureable.
     
  10. ihollywould

    ihollywould Rookie

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    Dec 10, 2011

    I'm pretty good about leaving a detailed, honest note at the end of the day, both in print and on AESOP.

    I have a lot of trouble with learning students' names, mainly because I have been working in charter schools with populations of students from other cultures and they have names I've never seen before; and, as we know from being teachers, having no prior knowledge means it's harder for new knowledge to cement itself in my brain, etc. I do my best, especially in elementary schools when I have the same group of kids all day.

    I like your suggestion of sitting in the staff room at lunch break, but I will have to ease into doing that. I generally feel very uncomfortable at lunch time around strangers because I do not eat at work (I get serious indigestion when I eat and teach) and become very self-conscious about the explanation I need to give, then the questions and comments ("You need your energy!" "I couldn't do that!" "Get to a doctor!"). Also, I'm an introvert and after subbing for a bunch of strange kids, I need a bit of private re-charge time. I think that if I want to succeed and be remembered, I'm going to have to work hard on being more open and social with other teachers in all the buildings. It just feels so futile to me, though - getting to know a new set of people every day and thinking I may never see them again.

    Thank you for your advice - I will take it to heart!
     
  11. ihollywould

    ihollywould Rookie

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    Dec 10, 2011

    I subbed in a school on Wednesday where the students were all decorating their homeroom doors for a contest. It was so cute and they were very creative and talented. That same day, they held the sixth grade science fair and my role was just to sort of walk around and make sure the kids were on task. I had so much fun just talking to the kids about their projects.

    I always feel like I have more fun, I'm a better teacher, and both the staff and students like me more when I have a legitimate thing to teach - something I know a lot about and am passionate about. Granted, that's extremely rare in subbing, but those moments make me realize I am indeed cut out for teaching. My glee over the kids' work at the science fair is proof enough; when I subbed for them yesterday, they remembered me and sat SILENTLY while I read to them from Animal Farm. Several of them told me they really liked me. And it was because I knew the kids by then, they knew me, I was teaching in my content area and grade level, and I was teaching something I knew really well.

    I'm just extremely, extremely frustrated with being "just a sub" right now. Gotta pay my dues though, right? All teachers sub, right?
     
  12. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Dec 10, 2011

    Secondary English has always been incredibly tough, at least around here. (lots and lots of wannabe writers turning to teaching English.)

    And subbing is generally considered to be the best way to get your foot in the door.

    That said, do you have a resume out at every single public, private and charter school within an hour's drive? Hit google and see if you've missed any. And consider emailing a cover letter and resume to each school; there's always the off chance that someone will need to leave over Christmas break and your timing will be wonderful.

    But you're right. There's something incredibly magical about teaching content you enjoy to kids you enjoy being with.

    So hang in there, keep building contacts, keep connecting with the kids, and make sure every principal in Minnesota has your resume. Something will come up, maybe sooner than you think.
     
  13. ihollywould

    ihollywould Rookie

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    Dec 10, 2011

    I'm doing what I can, but in my estimation, there are probably about 350 schools in my metro area alone (Minneapolis/St. Paul) - expand it to everywhere within an hour's drive and I'd be sending out resumes to probably 1000 schools. I'm pretty vigilant about looking for new postings - I check every day and am usually filling out new applications twice a week or so.

    My dream job is teaching Honors English/Creative Writing at an arts magnet school in the metro area. Someday I'll do it! I student taught in an arts magnet program and had a long term sub position in an Honors/AP English course, so I've had a taste of the dream - just makes me want it even more though!
     
  14. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Dec 10, 2011

    So email all those schools; 20 or 30 a night.

    Don't wait for a new posting. Just email a cover letter and a resume.
     
  15. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Dec 10, 2011

    Another tip that a few subs in my building use is attaching a business card to their letter for the day. If I noticed that they followed my plans and the kids seem to understand and my neighbor teachers thought they were good, then I file those business cards for later use.

    I don't remember a subs name because I've never met them, so the business card helps me to remember their name.
     
  16. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Dec 10, 2011

    My favorite comment to hear about a sub was that they had good classroom management. My students walked quietly in the hallways, worked quietly and finished their assignments.
     
  17. Joy

    Joy Cohort

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    Dec 10, 2011

    It's very easy to feel unnoticed the first year of subbing. This will be my third year and I have been able to build up a good reputation with many of the teachers, principals, and secretaries. It took alot of work and some time! I sub in six school districts so I still have a few days where I do sub in new places. First of all, you are there to do an amazing job following the teacher's plans, maintaining the class, and leaving detailed notes so that the teacher will know exactly what happened. After you have made sure that you are getting that done, you can try to do your networking. I think however, that doing a really good job for the teacher that you are subbing for is the best way to network. I always leave a business card and I print my own matching paper with my name and phone number to leave my note on. It makes it look professional and you want your name to get around so leave it on everything you can!

    Be friendly and genuine to the secretaries. Sometimes they are reallly busy in the mornings and really don't have much time to talk. Before you check out for the day though, you can make some extra effort. I don't always eat in the teacher's lounge because sometimes I don't have time. If I have to look at more plans for the afternoon or grade work, I skip it. I try to make it in there at least once a week. That would be a good way for you to ease into it.

    If the teacher leaves a seating chart, use it. It can be a great help in learning the kids' names. I have found that once I see a name written out, it is way easier to remember. Learning names quickly will start getting easier.

    My content area is music and I really wanted to start doing more subbing in that this year. At the begining of the year, I ordered postcards from Vista Print. I put that I was a Licensed Music Teacher and that I was certifed in K-12 Music Ed, Level I of Orff, and Level I of Kodaly. I mailed them to each music teacher in all of the distrcts where I sub. I have gotten so many calls and requests because of these! They looked very professional and I have seen them hanging in so many teachers' rooms.

    I wouldn't worry about feedback. Once you start getting requested back, that will be your best feedback. You can pretty well tell yourself how the day went anyway.

    Hope things go well for you!
     
  18. ciounoi

    ciounoi Cohort

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    Dec 10, 2011

    Holly,

    Good luck in your substitute teaching! I subbed for years and know that it can be difficult.

    A few things that I learned over time that helped me come to terms with the issues of subbing that you mentioned are:

    1. I am very very shy and often avoided the lunchroom just so I wouldn't have to talk to people. However, many teachers would hunt me down, talk to me, and ask for me back! I just did my best every single day and tried not to worry too much about if anyone was noticing me. I was friendly to everyone and tried to treat everyone with respect. Nobody noticed much at first, but with repeated visits to the same schools and after a few months, teachers started to notice. It just takes a while sometimes.

    2. Every day, I focused on being the best dang teacher that those kids may have had for less than 8 hours! I tried to learn names (a strength for me), wasn't afraid to give out some consequences, and perhaps most importantly, I tried to make learning interesting. I would try to weave in stories about my really stupid cats into everything I taught, and the kids responded well. Teachers might not notice you, but if their entire class starts waving at you when you pass by the room, they might be a little more interested in you!

    3. It takes time. A long, long time. I'm not sure where you are in your subbing experiences but I started when I was fresh out of college and was totally clueless. I learned by trial and error, and it was only after about two years that I just got really good at subbing. You could dump me into many different environments and I could just roll with it. But it took me all that time to get there... and I had way more out-of-control classrooms and teachers who thought I was the worst ever than I care to admit before that.

    4. Finally, there are approximately 2738492 substitutes out there trying to get noticed - every day. It might not be you, it might just be the market. As someone mentioned, there are a lot of potential English teachers out there. That could be dragging you down as well.

    Good luck! Hope you find a job soon... it's back to the drawing board for me, too... just in time for Christmas. :)
     
  19. missythemom

    missythemom Rookie

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    Dec 12, 2011

    I just started subbing myself (literally, I just started last week lol) so I don't have much advice, but I do want to offer you some (((hugs))) and tell you that I really hope that things feel better to you soon. It must be so hard to deal with being in a new place everyday, so much to remember and to get accomplished. I would think I would be feeling a bit overwhelmed with it all so the fact that you are still out there each and every day putting your best into what you do, speaks volumes about your character and ability :)
     
  20. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

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    Dec 12, 2011

    Not feeling like a part of the staff, having a hard time remembering school procedures, etc. all come w/ the territory of subbing. I used to do it for 10 yrs working for no more than 2, maybe 3 districts at a time & even then, it was brief. I only reguarly worked w/ 1 district the entire time. I'm the type of person who's used to solitude, so not feeling like a part of the staff, etc. made no difference to me. As long as I enjoyed working w/ kids, is the main thing. At least substitute teachers never have to really deal w/ the parents much. At least, that's how it's been for me. Even after subbing for as long as I have, it's tough to feel like a part of the staff, especially the kind of class I subbed for mostly, which was LSH (language, speech & hearing), which is a VERY isolating job as it is even when you're permanent.

    Fortunately, I'm not the type of person who's life is my job, like it is some peoples'. To me, yes, I want to enjoy doing my job, but as far as making friends, etc., sure it's great, but I don't depend on it or need it.

    Just keep doing the best you can & work toward your ultimate teaching goal. When you see that working at too many different places causes you to not do a good job, cut back. Good luck!
     
  21. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Dec 18, 2011

    I think it's important to talk to teachers as much as possible. Unfortunately you don't get to see the teacher you're subbing for, but you can introduce yourself to the neighbor teachers, and they can always fill the regular teacher in. Then, when you're back in the same school, make a point of walking up to the teacher you subbed for before, and introduce yourself.
    Also, I always left my business card, and always made it a point to write in my notes: "I loved your classes! Please let me know when I can come back" or "I'd love to come back, please let me know if you need me again".

    I got to know the teachers in the schools pretty quickly (middle school) and I was always asked back. Neighbor teachers often asked me to sub for them, just based on our 2 minute conversation, and my control of the class in the hallway when they were lining up.

    Now that I am a long term sub, I finally got to pick my own sub for the first time. There are a few subs who the kids don't like, or the subs can't control the classes, and 2 of them are always late (we're talking 45-60 minutes late, have no idea how they're still employed). There is a new sub, and based on my 10 minute conversation with her, I knew she would be excellent: good classroom management, strict but friendly. She was everything I thought she would be, and the kids absolutely loved her!

    So I'd say the 2 most important things for a sub getting jobs and getting to be known are: good classroom control and personality.
     

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