So, I’ve been back to work as a substitute teacher for about a month and a half now. It’s been about 22 years since I’ve been a substitute teacher. I did it for one semester after I finished my student teaching and then I worked as a teacher for 8 before taking time off to stay at home with the kids.
Over the years, I’ve heard people say that they can sub “for easy money” as well as a flexible schedule. I have no idea what these people are talking about. Subbing is not an easy job, nor is it for anyone who doesn’t like kids. That being said, I have come across several subs over the years that seem to HATE their job and I wonder why on earth they’re doing it. It’s not easy to get hired as a sub these days, and honestly? The money isn’t great. (Perhaps in certain districts it is better than where I work, but honestly? No one’s rolling in the dough.)
I’m in the fortunate position to be able to sub at the school where my kids attend. Not only do I know a lot of the kids, but I also know a lot of the teachers, since I volunteer a lot. It’s nice to be somewhere that’s comfortable. However, when you sub, it’s like you’re auditioning every day you have a new class. I really do my best to learn the kids names before the end of the day. This can be tricky if I’m in a big combination class with over 60 kids, but it’s my goal to make a connection with the kids and leave knowing that if I’m back in the classroom I can call the kids by name again.
This week has been a really diverse week in the life of a sub.
Monday I was in 5th grade. Fortunately, I was able to do a 4-day gig in the same 5th grade class. I already knew a lot of the kids, but after 4 days I REALLY knew the kids. It was great to feel so familiar with them and to know where I was going for those days. Monday was the 4th day of this assignment.
Tuesday I went in not knowing where I was going -whether I would be a roving sub, going from class to class, or if I were in one class all day. When I got to school I learned that I’d be in the K-1 combination/inclusion class. The farthest thing I could posssibly do from 5th grade. Other than trying to get to know all 63 kids, the day went very well, and I was in excellent company with the teachers, aides, and other sub that were there.
Today I was in 1st grade. This was nice – I was in a class I’d spent two days in. The beginning of my day was ridiculously frantic and forgot my glasses in the car, but once we settled in it was fine. I knew the kids – they knew me – and I had parent helpers for the first hour plus. I was there a half-day, which was also nice.
Tomorrow I’m in 5th grade again, but a different class. This is my daughter’s class, which will no doubt embarrass her, but be fine for everyone else. I am very familiar with this class, since I volunteer almost every week. Bonus? We’re going on a field trip. This will be the first field trip I’m doing as a sub – hopefully this will be fun and no one will be lost. (kidding. sort of)
Friday I don’t normally work. I teach knitting to the 3rd graders in small groups, so I try to keep this day free. After a full week (almost) of working AND having my husband out of town, I’m really going to savor my Friday morning. (Or maybe I’ll drive to Burbank to finally deposit some checks I’ve been carrying around for a month.)
Being a sub has been a great way to become familiar with what happens in each grade. It also lets me hone some long sleeping skills – like getting a group of 30+ kids to settle down and follow directions, practice my patience, and my memory skills. It also helps with being flexible.
I won’t say being a sub is especially hard or unpleasant at all – it’s just not a cake walk. If you’re doing it right, you’re not just babysitting – you’re teaching, or at least facilitating or supporting the learning that’s been taking place before you step in. And if you’re miserable doing it, this isn’t the job for you.