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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Subbing As a Career...

No one spends fifteen plus years in school with a final goal to become a “professional substitute teacher”. While there are many reasons that a person might go into substitute teaching, making it a life long career isn’t one of them.

A newly minted credentialed teacher discovers that teaching jobs aren’t as plentiful as expected. Subbing is a way to get your foot in the door, make contacts and demonstrate your abilities in the attempt to land that ideal job you previously thought was waiting for you after graduation.

The just retired teacher can’t quite walk away from the classroom just yet. Some of the reasons might include subbing as a way to keep in touch with life long teacher friends or a pension supplement for that yearly cruise vacation.

You volunteered your time at the school while your kids attended. Now they’re out of school and on their own. That empty nest feeling is getting to you. Feeling it’s too late to start a new career, subbing at least pays something for what you used to for free and yet allows flexibility to take off whenever you need.

Laid off in a down economy, unemployment insurance ran out and not enough in the savings account to survive. No matter what they say or what’s legal, being over 50 years of age is a big negative in the competition for employment in a professional industry position. Educators refer to anyone not working for the schools or government as “industry”. Subbing is flexible enough to schedule job interviews around if they materialize. In the mean time, subbing income helps pay some of the bills until you’re old enough to start taking Social Security. This is me.

Then there is a small majority, one of which I met recently. She’s close to my age and, coincidently, attended the same high school I did. After graduation she skipped college and went directly into the workforce. She didn’t elaborate on her employment history but did tell me that a while back she returned to school and obtained her BA, Masters and a teaching credential hoping to get a teaching position.

When that didn’t happen she started subbing full time. She’s currently signed with three districts and has worked for almost every district in the area since she graduated university. Three districts will almost guarantee an assignment every school day. She has invested in keeping her teaching credential current in the hope that a teaching position will open for her. She’s been subbing for nine years and is no closer to a teaching position than when she started.

She’s given up hope to be a full time teacher as she told me she isn’t going to renew her teaching credential next year. She will continue to substitute full time until she reaches retirement age.

“I have no choice. I have to…”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Winding Down...

The last day of school is June/11 for this year. The prevailing atmosphere in the classroom is that most of the kids have already checked out.

I was asked to do a “roving sub” assignment for three of the 6th grade classes yesterday. I was brought in to work 1.5hrs in each classroom to allow the teachers additional time to catch up evaluating the “writing” ability of their students. The teachers need to complete the student writing assessments for final grades.

Each teacher I talked to before my time slot made similar comments about the kids being more talkative than usual now that they’re in the final weeks. The final classroom lesson plan even listed:

“1:50 – 2:30: Science practice book pages xxx to xxx…or just take them out to the school yard for P.E. if you feel the need to get out”

No science practice book pages completed!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Unexpected Surprise…

I mentioned earlier that the 6th grade class I was to have today, had a “low expectation of social behavior” when it came to school demeanor. I knew what to expect.

Well, I’m batting 1-2 in the “expectations” department. Today's anticipated disaster with the 6th graders didn’t materialize!

Since the last time I was in this class, the school had instituted a guideline to remove the class hoodlum whenever a sub was in for the teacher. Amazingly, removing that one kid dispelled the dark forces that permeated the social atmosphere I had witnessed twice earlier this year.

The class was actually fun to be with for a change!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hand Sanitizer Insanity…

Well, contrary to expectations about sub assignments during testing week, I’ve picked up three assignments for this week. A 2nd grade class today, 6th on Thursday and 5th on Friday to round out the week.

I wouldn’t designate the first two assignments “prime” because the 2nd grade assignment is at a school that has a reputation for “low expectations of social behavior” and the second assignment in a 6th grade class that I know has the same problem because I’ve experienced it twice already this year.

While most 2nd graders elsewhere are usually excited about school, think it’s fun and are respectful of adults. These 2nd graders lived down to the school reputation. In addition to being hard to control, one girl would constantly taunt others to start fights. “I don’t do homework and you can’t make me!” spouts the boy that just arrived mid-day from his “special classes”.

Just before lunch break, the kids were to line up and get a “small squirt” of hand sanitizer before walking over for lunch. I should have known better than to let the designated “squirter” kid handle what looked like a quart sized jug of the stuff to parcel out.

By the time I saw what was happening, several kids were lathering themselves up to their elbows and dripping it off the ends of all ten fingers.

This day could not have ended soon enough. All I could think of was decompressing for a whole day tomorrow before doing it all over again on Thursday…with the 6th graders!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Silence of the Lines…

It’s the same every year about this time. Steady work all year and then suddenly the phone lines go dark. No phone calls, no automated request calls, no email requests from teachers…nada!

That’s when you realize it is mid-May and state testing for all the schools starts this week. All teachers are required on deck to conduct and monitor the tests. Subs need not apply.

Testing ends Thursday. I have an assignment for Friday.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Squirrel Head...

I just released the 2nd graders for recess and retired to the teachers lounge for quick Diet Pepsi break.

A few minutes later, one of the other teachers came in and said that a group of boys had found a decapitated squirrel head and were poking at it with sticks. When I started to get up, she said: "Don't worry, the janitor shooed them away and carried it off with a shovel". I sat back down and finished my drink. She misinterpreted my motivation. 

Maybe it's a guy thing but I wanted to take a look!

Monday, May 03, 2010

They Fooled Me…

I don’t have that gift for remembering names. Whether it’s a curse or gift depends on circumstances.

I’m doomed when it comes to remembering 20-30 names of kids in class that I have just met or haven’t seen for several weeks. Conversely, there seem to be hundreds of kids that know me by sight and name at all the schools I work

When I arrive on campus to pick up the attendance sheet and walk the gauntlet path to my assigned classroom, I’m always greeted by name by students waiting to be allowed on playground before school. I’ll wave back and respond with a non-committal greeting response.

This last month, I’ve been working in the same 5th grade class twice a week while the teacher is getting some kind of medical treatment. After the 2nd week, I could almost put names to faces of about half the class. Even if I couldn’t remember a name, I did recognize the face of every kid that belonged in this class.

It helps remembering names when you have to use them several times a day to get certain people back in the academic instead of entertainment frame of mind. Others I might remember for unusual physical features or characteristics. On the last week of this multi-week assignment, I went to the playground to “collect” my class for the walk to the classroom.

When I was in hearing range, several kids were telling me that they had a new kid in class. Sure enough, the second kid in line was a new face I didn’t recognize.

I said “Hello, What’s your name?” to the newbie boy who gave no response of any kind.

“He doesn’t speak English. He’s from France!” the kid next to him informed me. A quick look at the lesson plan had no notes about a new “French kid” or how I was supposed to work with him.

I’m thinking: “Great! Just great!"

Back at the classroom, I started taking attendance waiting to see which name this kid would respond to.

When I get to “Sam” and the kid responds with “Here!” I repeat the name again using the first and last name I know is absolutely not French in origin and belongs to a kid that doesn't seem to be in class today.

The French kid responds: “Hey Mr. Homework! It’s me! Don’t you recognize me?”

I’m clueless. If I have seen this kid before, I don’t recognize him now.

I take a closer look at “Sam” and remember that “Sam” was the kid I mistook for a girl on that first day because of his long, dark hair, gender neutral build and clothing. He now sports a short haircut and looks totally different. He looks like a boy.

Sam: “I got a haircut because I got tired of everyone thinking I looked like a girl”, he says with a big grin, “Did I fool ya?”

Me: “That you did, Sam. You got me! I just hope I recognize you the next time I’m here”

BTW: This isn’t the first time I had difficulty recognizing boys .vs. girls