Ideas on education, the English language, and the teaching profession.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Notes on Substitute Teaching Part I

As requested by some people, here are some live accounts of my lovely job as a substitute teacher taken from different e-mails I wrote while working. I got a nice taste of just how little regard a person required to have a college degree receives at a school.

"I'm glad you were given a break. I could sure go for one too. The class I'm subbing for at the moment is really making me an ugly person. They just can't keep still and read. They're supposed to be advanced placement and all that, but they're all immature brats. I do my thing walking around talking down the rabble rousers, but it's pretty futile. Oh well, another bad report. Still, I have to keep things at an acceptable for the good kids that are doing what they're supposed to. Only for their sake do I admininister discipline because I really hate doing that stuff."

"Sorry to bring up work again, but here I am, and man, this lesson plan is terrible. Allow me to tell you "The kids should get their books and read the whole period." What shit is that?! Is there a grade at the end? No. Is there any assignment to be done? No. Is there any accountability at all? Not at all. What can I do? The whole class has books in their hand while they go on stupidly. And no one has assigned seating letting them jabber on with their friends before I have the move them myself. Two classes over 30 kids and the rest over 25.

Hold on. I'm going to have to take this sucker out. Referral!

Ah.... sweet tranquility. It's funny what a difference one student can make. It's such a pain to pull out the big guns but what's done has to be done. Fortunately, this last class is looking much better. Eh, stupid kids. Really Rita, if you ever got aquainted with kids your age or younger, you'd understand why young people get no respect at all. They're absolutely idiotic sometimes.

Now, I take a deep breath. I'm so ready for this week to be over. Waking up before sunrise again and again is taking its toll. I think I've been spoiled with previous assignments I had because today and half of yesterday were pretty tedious. Man, when was the last time I had an advance placement class? It seems like all the jobs I'm doing are the classes full of dregs. This is depressing. I'd like to tell you that these are the exception. There are a whole bunch of good kids with a future, but they're such a narrow lot. They're like endangered animals in the school world. I'm still unsure how things will be when we have a kid."

"Right now, I'm on a subbing assignment babysitting a World History class. Unfortunately, I'm having to encounter the lowest common denominator that seems to grow and grow as time passes. They all speak Spanish and there's not a blue eye to be seen. The all-star cast that I'm with today is Akram, Aldo, Mario, Marco, Perla, and Mayra. A good group of kids that have issues with basic reading comprehension.

Ah, ok, now I've settled them down. I feel like a sheep dog having to bark at the sheep so they do what they're supposed to. It's a workout sometimes. But, I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else at the moment. It's just funny to reflect sometimes."

"Subbing has now become something as routine as J.C.Penney. I know the procedures, nothing surprises me, and the days go by swimmingly. Taking on another class is like taking on another few customers. Behavior problems are like returns. A really bad kid is like an angry customer. I'm unfazed. I think the kids appreciate that. Heh, it's funny when a kid guiltily looks up when I tower above him catching him in the act of eating candy. I tell him to share with me, and all is well.

Right now, I'm in the middle of fifth period. The last period I tricked a student into logging me in. Heh, I'm so clever. Unfortunately, there isn't much amusement online. I read the paper and some sports news, gaze at a few comics, get my chuckle then it's back to the riveting Plutarch. It's hard to take as a historical document since much of it so far comes from myth. Then again, I've been doing Theseus and Romulus. The founder of Rome and the founder of Athens. It's just a hard thing to tell."

"Heh, it's funny looking at this one kid. He's a pale red head boy and the only white kid in the class, plus the only one with glasses. I just want to remark "My oh my, what are doing here?" But, that'd be inappropriate. He doesn't seem to look alienated, so that's good." -I found out later this kid was hispanic and spoke Spanish.

"Ok, had to quell a bathroom request. Ugh, these kids are really weasles sometimes."

"I get the bad feeling that today is going to be a long day. I’m in my second period right now, and none of the kids are doing their work at all. You see, being the 8th substitute they’ve had, any sense of accountability has completely been drained from them, and well, they don’t feel like doing French anymore. What’s more, they’re given a long-term group project of something they don’t seem to understand. This is what you call royally screwing the sub in a classroom quagmire. I’ve done this before in a Math class a few weeks back as you know. What I’ve learned from that experience is that it’s an impossible battle. Therefore, I’ll concede defeat and let them waste their time and be the babysitter.

Ah well, now I have the older more advanced classes and they’re much more cooperative. Still, the lesson plan was crummy and vague. They’re supposed to make some kind of lesson plans for the lower level French classes about French geography or something. I told them to look at the assignment make what they can of it, and go with it. So far, most people have been doing just that. I check on their progress ever so often. Some of them were reading Canterbury tales or American History! Heh, I actually talked books or history with them before getting them back on task. Yeah, I’m cool.

I know, I know, it’s just my job, my job, my job. How can I make this interesting to you? I really try. But, maybe there’s just no getting around it. Once something becomes an actual occupation it loses its luster in conversation. It was much more intriguing anticipating than simple recounting. Oh well."

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