Today I'm subbing for a half day in a vocation/agricultural classroom. The teacher is at a meeting, first hour is a planning period, and second hour is taking an exam. It looks like I'll actually have to do something 3rd hour, and then I'll be finished. As to what I do, she has left some plans. I'll let you know how those go later.
For now, I need to tell you about Friday's subbing, number 24.
It was a low day for me. Block classes of 90 minutes each, teaching French and Poetry. I guess I should be grateful it wasn't French Poetry, but I'm not. Instead I am grateful for the intervention of a fellow teacher. Not that she intervened in a class, but... I'm getting ahead of myself.
It was clear from the start that the students in this classroom didn't like their regular teacher and that they considered me a holiday. Very clear. As in, they told me that they didn't like their teacher and they considered me a holiday. With the first class I started by asking about why they were taking French, and this came out. With the other classes, it just sort of came up.
I made the French class work. Our opening conversation got us off to a good start, they did their work as usual, then I offered to let them play a language game like I would do in Korea. They had fun with it, and I think were sad to see me go.
The English classes were tougher. She left a full lesson on poetry, and I tried really hard to lead them through it. I encouraged answers, I read the poems for the lesson. I had them write answers to the questions. All in the plan. It seemed to me that if the teacher leaves a full plan, it is my responsibility to try to follow it.
At the end of the day I was writing a letter to the teacher about how lousy the day had gone, how disrespectful the kids were, how the French students were not satisfied with their learning experience, and how annoying the day had been. And that was before I had discovered that I had locked my keys in the car that morning. I had filled a page and was working on the back when a teacher popped her head in the door and asked what I was doing. I told her, and she suggested that it probably wouldn't do any good.
She had worked in this district as a sub for three years, she said, and at some point had decided to recast herself in a better role than "Substitute Teacher." And she told me that if I wanted to enjoy what I was doing, I should do the same.
"You," she told me, "are a field trip that they wouldn't be able to take if the teacher was here. I'm sure you have all sorts of colorful experiences. Promise the kids something else, then get through those lesson plans as fast as you can. Then take them on a trip. You'll be surprised at how quickly they will be hypnotized, and the questions they will ask. But if you insist on following the lesson plan to the letter, you will often be an obstacle that they will do their best to overcome."
She continued: "Don't worry about the forms and paperwork, yours or the teacher's. Nobody looks at that stuff. The district and teachers don't want to alienate any subs. Teachers will take your notes too seriously, passing on a multiplying the stress you've had. They don't really care if you finish or follow the plans they leave, as long as the room isn't a mess and no one gets hurt.
"So take some time and tell them a story. Or two. And let them ask questions. You will have a good day, they will have a good day, and on the evaluation form you just write 'good day, happy to come back'."
And so, today when I get to 3rd hour, I'm going to try to implement this philosophy. The teacher was here when I came in, and left specific plans: a practice quiz (real thing on Monday) and designing flyers (my spell checker is not happy with that. Fliers? Help!) for an event almost a month away. And that's it, for an entire hour. I'm definitely telling some Peace Corps stories.
Wish me luck.