Search This Blog

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Being Flexible…

Friday was the last day of a three day, pre-arranged assignment for a teacher I really like in a class I really like. The first two days it was actually fun to be there. The teacher had laid out detailed plans with books and materials logically arranged. Since I was to be there for three consecutive days, I even had the advantage of reviewing the next day’s plan before I left the classroom.

Friday, I arrived for my last day of this assignment to a school office in chaos. Thirty percent (10) of the teachers were out and they were scrambling to find subs to fill the last minute sick calls. I was SO glad I already had a class that I knew I was prepared for, a class I knew I wouldn’t have any problems with and that was “fun” to be with.

That was before the principal tracked me down while I was on morning yard duty.

“We’re having problems lining up enough subs for all the teachers that are out today. I’m trying to shift people around and I need you to sub for Ms. N in 6th today. I’ll cover your 5th grade class for the first hour until the sub I lined up for your class gets here.”

My questioning look must have conveyed my wounded confusion.

If you have a sub coming in an hour late and you are going to cover the first hour why does that involve me moving from a great 5th grade class to a 6th grade class where I know there are no plans, is a class known to be the same or worse than the one I previously described as the “day I quit” while she gets MY primo class?

As explained by prince, this sub normally only works K-3rd graders and was reluctant to agree to work with 6th graders. In desperation the prince promised he’d arrange it so she would not have to deal with “big scary kids”.

His solution was to give ME the “big scary kids” and hand over my fun class because: “You’re a guy and I know you can handle them”. As it turned out “handle” is a synonym for “survive”.

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be flexible…

Update: 03/31/2010

I was at the school and met with the teacher of my aborted three day assignment. She related that the Friday I was switched to 6th, her kids had the school psychologist for the first part of the morning, a sub for the rest of the morning and a different sub for the afternoon! She described her kids’ reactions of that day as “disorienting” at best.

In reality, I thought the school psychologist should have taken my 6th graders for the whole day. She probably could have written a couple of books on “abhorrent childhood behavior” from that one experience alone.


PamelaTrounstine said...

I hear ya. A few years ago, I was on the sub list for a district that will remain nameless but I was most often called for their middle school positions. I can't tell you how many times I came dressed to deal with 8th grade english, social studies or science and then was told in the office or even called from the room 5 min before the bell rang to cover PE instead. Of course, their deal was, if you refused, you could go unpaid. I started putting extra tennis shoes, change of clothes and sunblock in my car, etc. and telling them if I was doing that, I needed 30 minutes to go change, but even that didn't deter them. At least, however, I wasn't dying covering a whole yard in nice shoes, or burning my scalp to a crisp. I hate that bait n switch.

HappyChyck said...

Your posts make me thankful I'm not a sub (I can't handle SO MUCH of the unknown), but sometimes I get a different perspective.

Last week, a substitute said something that rubbed me the wrong way about having to sub in a different class during the prep of the teacher she was in for, "although she wasn't getting paid for it." Unless it's a long-term sub, I don't see why they NEED the prep, and as far as I'm concerned, they should be called to cover before a teacher on staff who does need her prep.

Your post reminds me that subs often choose certain classes and grade levels based on their knowledge and comfort levels. I can see where it would be irritating to have to do something other than what was expected.

But then...on the other hand... :-) ...welcome to the world of teaching, aye?

Theresa Milstein said...

I'm glad that you survived! That's pretty unfair.

Once, I got called to sub gym. When I was dealing with little kids during morning gym (before the bell rings), the asst. principal came in and was fishing around to see if I'd sub middle school. I was wearing sneakers and yoga pants, so I'm glad he didn't switch me. If I look more professional in a regular classroom, I think the day goes better.

Anonymous said...

Happy Chyck -

I tend to leave photocopying and other similar tasks for my subs during the "prep" period, so I really prefer it when my subs get their prep! (I'll try to queue up everything I need class sets of for the next month or so when I know I have a sub coming in and leave all of the masters in a pile with sticky notes as to how many copies of each.) It's hit-or-miss whether it gets done, particularly since the photocopier spends a lot of its life broken, but on those occasions when it works it saves me from spending a prep period doing it later and I've never had a sub complain about it.

I've also had subs come around with business cards and introduce themselves to other teachers during their prep. I don't mind talking to them when it happens to be my prep too, and they tend to just stick their heads in to see if I have a minute otherwise. I found a pretty good sub that way once - retired administrator who lived nearby and didn't take any nonsense.

KellyTeaches said...

While I've never had grade levels switched around on me while subbing, I HAVE been asked to cover other classes during a plan period. I realize that a sub doesn't truly 'need' a plan time, but often a teacher leaves stacks of crazy paperwork, copies to be made, stuff to grade, or things to set up before other classes. I've also had teachers leave a note saying "check with the secretary to see if they have anything for you to do" so I won't be bored. I don't like walking all the way across the school to cover a class cold for a block or two, then having to run back to my assigned room before my own next class comes in.

Yes, I realize that the principals ask me to do this because I'm a "good sub" and "know how to handle a class of kids," but sometimes I just want a nice easy day, you know? :)

Mr. Nauton said...

Those last minute switches can be a pain, but it's usually best for the students -- sounds like you were better for them than the scaredy-cat sub! Take it as a compliment to your abilities...

teachermania said...

I can relate to the switching anecdote. I retired three years ago, subbing only in the p.m. and writing a blog about education in the a.m. I hate going in cold to a class, especially if the plans aren't there or clear. So I call the teacher and have her e-mail me the schedule or tell me on the phone. I have tons of material in my garage, and often they let me teach my own lesson with some unexpected results. I would love for you to check out my blog and perhaps add me to your list. The address is
Thanks. Jan