Friday, October 10, 2008

What I Actually Like About Being a Sub

Enough with the negative, already. I am determined to focus on the positives of being a substitute teacher. While I would much, much, much, much, much, much, much rather be a full-time teacher with my own classroom and students and so forth, there are a few perks to being a sub. Here are a few I have thought of:

1. I'm like a celebrity. I can't go to Walmart or the local library without some kid waving excitedly and yelling "Hey, Miss Sub!" or pointing and whispering "I know her! She was my teacher." (This can be a curse, too, especially when I'm not dressed in my teacher clothes, but rather my working-as-a-groundskeeper-pulling-weeds-and-shoveling-mulch clothes. But we're focusing on the positive, here.)

2. I get to watch the kids grow up. In the mind of a regular classroom teacher, students stay the same age forever--whatever age they were when they left their class. But I get to keep on teaching the same kids year after year, even when they change schools. That's cool.

3. Sometimes kids call me the Candy Lady, because I occasionally pass out candy to well-behaved classes.

4. Sometimes kids remember my actual name.

Hmm... That's not much, but I'll try to think of more. I have to. It's a matter of self-preservation.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ohio is Losing Its Minds

I've been reading articles about the brain drain in Ohio--this situation we're in where Ohio's collective brain power is being flushed down the proverbial crapper. Seems a lot of the state's most educated people are forming a mass exodus out of our heart-shaped state, heading to the promised lands flowing with milk and honey and, oh yeah, REAL JOBS!

Which makes me feel like one of those idiots on the Titanic who put off getting into a lifeboat because it was just so cold and uncomfortable out there on the water.

It really is a frustrating situation. On the one hand, I worked incredibly hard for my education. I started saving money for college when I was 13 years old, working as a groundskeeper (a job I still hold, which makes me feel proud and ashamed at the same time, assuming that's even possible). I devoted nearly all my time and energy to studying hard and earning straight A's all through college (I got better grades than the valedictorian, yet I didn't get to be valedictorian...not that I'm bitter or anything). Then, after all that hard work, to not be able to get a teaching job.... I can certainly understand why so many people are leaving.

On the other hand, my family is my life, and my family is here.

It's a shame, really, because Ohio is a great place to live. Yet when the jobs are elsewhere, what choice do we have?

Ohio is losing its minds.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Jesus' Lesson Plan

This was given to me by a substitute teacher way back when I was student teaching. I found it again the other day and laughed and laughed. (I'll have to print it off and share it with the staff at the one school I work for where regular teachers don't treat substitutes like the insignificant hairs that grow on the legs of gnats.) Wish I knew who wrote it, so I could give the author credit....

Jesus Teaches a Lesson

Then Jesus took his disciples up the mountain and gathering them together, he taught them saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit...

Blessed are they that mourn...

Blessed are the merciful...

Blessed are they who thirst for justice...

Blessed are you when persecuted for righteousness sake...

Blessed are you when you suffer...

Be glad and rejoice for great is your reward in heaven...

Then Simon Peter said ``Do we have to write this down?''

And Andrew said ``Are we supposed to know this ?''

And James said ``Will we have a test on it?''

And Phillip said `` What if we don't know it?''

And Bartholomew said ``Do we have to turn this in?''

And Matthew said ``When do we get out of here?''

And Judas said ``What does this have to do with real life?''

Then one of the Pharisees asked to see Jesus' lesson plan and inquired of his terminal objectives in the cognitive domain.

And Jesus wept.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

This is what happens when you tell your friend you started a blog... (I have two posts for Pete's sake!)

My site was nominated for Best Education Blog!


I was thinking today about pencils. Mysterious little buggers, aren't they? They don't have legs, they don't have wheels, they don't have superpowers. And yet they have this uncanny ability to hop out of students' hands, roll themselves into dark corners, and disappear into thin air!

It is a problem as old as time. According to ancient Greek history, much of Socrates' most profound insights were lost forever because young Plato came to class without a pencil.

In my experience as a substitute teacher, teaching a wide variety of grades, I have discovered that the pencil issue generally begins around the 5th grade. Prior to 5th grade, students are oddly attached to their pencils and all other school supplies, becoming very distraught when one goes missing.

A 3rd grader's reaction to a lost pencil: "Where's my pencil? I can't find my pencil! I don't want to borrow a pencil, I want my pencil! Move over, I need to look for my pencil. Hey! Teacher, Jimmy has my pencil! It is too mine! It has that bite mark from when I stuck it in the gerbil cage. Teacher, make him give it back, he's wasting the eraser!"

A 6th grader's reaction to a lost pencil: "I don't have a pencil."

Teachers who have their own classrooms (I hate you, by the way...just kidding...mostly) often set up procedures for dealing with lost pencils. Some dock points for students who come to class without the necessary supplies. Some make students give them something as collateral for borrowing a pencil, as in, "Here's a pencil, give me your shoe." (Not a solution I would recommend seeing as how 5th grade is also around the age kids begin to get stinky.) As for me, I've taken to searching the classroom and halls at the end of each day. I gather up all the lost and lonely pencils that have escaped from their owners, and I recycle them back into the system.

One time, while teaching 4th grade, I handed out a pencil I had picked up off the floor of the middle school. A student halfway across the room exclaimed, "Hey, that's my pencil! It has that crack in it from when I ran it over with my bike!"

Highly unlikely, but hey, you never know.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Life As a Sinking Sub

I think I may be losing my mind.

Some people figure I'm already a couple tacos short of a combination plate for willingly plunging into my third year as a substitute teacher. But it isn't the substitute teaching itself that's causing the marbles to fall out of my ears. I've already come to terms with the nuances of substitute teaching--the incomprehensible lesson plans ("Can anyone read Mr. Smith's handwriting?"), the classroom doors that lock behind us during fire drills (subs don't get keys), the kids who switch seats in class ("Forget it, buddy. I'm never going to believe your name is Nancy."), and the million other things you get used to, and eventually master, when you've been a sub for several years.

I'm okay with the act of substitute teaching. I am not okay with being a substitute teacher.

See, I have this bachelor's degree in education. I am a licensed teacher. Three years ago I graduated at the top of my class from a prestigious university. Teaching is in my blood, my cells, my DNA. It is all I have ever wanted to do. It is who I am.

And I live in Ohio, where teachers are a dime a dozen, and none of that matters.

I substitute teach because I cannot get a "real" teaching job, and this is what is making me lose my mind. I am changing from the inside out, and I don't like where this metamorphosis is heading.

The other day, while working at the local middle school, I met a new teacher who had been hired for a position that I had also interviewed for, but (obviously) not received. This teacher (who had no idea how passionately I coveted her job) came across the hall to see me. She introduced herself. She smiled. She asked how things were going, if I was getting along okay...and I was seized with a hatred so intense that it actually frightened me.

It was as if I had split into two people. On the outside, the Nice Miss Sub smiled and nodded and tried to converse in a civilized manner. But inside, there was this Evil Miss Sub controlling my thoughts, my emotions, my soul.

New Teacher: Hi! How's everything going for you over here?

Nice Miss Sub: (Big smile!) Oh, just fine.

Evil Miss Sub: I'd be even better if you dropped dead, you witch. (Only Evil Miss Sub didn't say "Witch"....)

New Teacher: Are the kids behaving for you?

Nice Miss Sub: (Bigger smile!) Oh, sure. They're perfect angels.

Evil Miss Sub: How dare you patronize me! I don't need your help. I've probably been teaching longer than you have! Whose butt did you kiss to get this job, anyway? (Only Evil Miss Sub didn't say "butt"....)

New Teacher: Well, let me know if you need anything!

Nice Miss Sub: (Biggest smile yet!) Will do! Thanks!

Evil Miss Sub: (Not worth repeating.)

The thing is, I really am a nice person (didn't I censor Evil Miss Sub's thoughts?). It's just that every time I get passed over for a job, every time I get the cold shoulder in the teachers' lounge, every time a kid tries to trick me because he figures I don't know the rules, every time I have a wonderful day of teaching and I wish with all my heart that this were my classroom...every time, I feel a little piece of me wither and harden, turning me into someone I'm not.

So I figure I have a couple of options. I can grow angry and resentful (been there). I can cry and grow despondent (done that). Or I can try to see the humor, the bright side in my life as a sinking sub.

That's why I'm here.