As I posted about before, I’ve started substitute teaching. I’ve been at it for about 6 months now, and it’s such an unpredictable job. I suppose any job that isn’t the same exact thing every single day can be unpredictable in some ways, but subbing is definitely different day-to-day.
First, I don’t always know where I’m going to be. Some days I wake up thinking I’m not working, only to get a call 20 minutes before school starts, asking if I’m available. And when I get calls like that, it could be any grade – from kindergarten to 8th grade.
Second, I most likely will work in several grades during a week. One week I did kindergarten, 2nd, and 5th grade. Despite starting my career teaching kindergarten, I was probably most comfortable in 2nd grade, though teaching 5th is always more fun than I think it’s going to be.
Third, sometimes I am in several grades in the span of one day. Some days I get to do something called “Roving” where I start in one grade and make my way to other grades throughout the day. I’ve had days where I go from 2nd to kinder to 1st, or 3rd to kindergarten to 5th. I’ve also had days where I’ve ended up in the computer lab for 2 hours, which sounds easy, but is also boring.
Fourth, sometimes I have detailed plans, sometimes I have a skeleton of what to do, and other days I come in and there’s literally NOTHING for me to go on except possibly a schedule on the board of what the “typical” day is like. I really love it when there’s something specific to do – and the materials I need to do them with are there and ready to go. On days where I only have an outline or the bones of what to do, I always have extra things in my “bag of tricks.” I bring books to read, math to do, coloring and activity pages, and my book of improv games. The improv games come in handy with the older kids. The younger kids always love being read to. This way if I’m left with 30 minutes of nothing to do, I can find SOMETHING to do.
In the rare case where there’s literally NOTHING for me to go on, I try to use clues around the classroom of what they’ve been working on. If the kids are old enough, I can ask them what they’ve been doing – what the last math page was, or what story they’re reading. Sometimes I’ve got an aide that can clue me in on something. The worst day I had was when I had to make up the spelling words based on the story they read, and pulled something together for them to do in science that went with what they’d already worked on. I’m hoping that’s the worst of it. I know that if I ever have to take over for someone long -term that I’ll eventually be doing all the plans, but that’s different, and hopefully I’ll have all the resources I need to be able to do that.
Finally, I never know who is going to be in my class. In my particular situation, I know a lot of the kids – or their siblings – because either my own kids have been in class with them or I’ve taught their siblings. Some kids are friends with my children, so I’ve had them over to my house. This is interesting, because the kids really want to call me Genevieve, and transitioning to calling me “Mrs. Miller” doesn’t always go so well. :)
I’m not the only one who’s in this boat. I’ve got at least 6 other mom-teachers on this ride with me. It’s great when we work on the same days and can chat on the playground at recess or during lunch. It’s nice to know there are other people walking the fine line between teacher, volunteer, and parent at the school. I do know that it’s gotten easier each week that I work. And it’s wonderful when I get a class that I’ve had before – where I know how the class is run and the kids are comfortable with me.
One big perk of being at this school for years and getting to know the teachers is they trust me to do things like take the kids on a field trip.
Being a substitute teacher may not be the most stable job in the world – some weeks I work almost every day and some weeks I don’t work at all – but it’s the perfect situation for a mom who wants to get back in the classroom but also wants to be free to go on field trips, or stay home with a sick kid. And I’m pretty darn lucky to be working in a place where I know the kids, parents, and teachers.