Survival Teaching

I’ve worked as a substitute teacher for almost four years. My first day as a sub was October 20th, 2006. I taught English in a high school I can’t remember the name of. Sandalwood or Englewood. Both are schools in my town.

That was a good gig. Made me feel real good about teaching. I decided not to go back to that school as it was too far away. The Cost/Benefit analysis of subbing at schools over 30 miles from my house wasn’t good.

I have had to do lots of planning as a sub. I have subbed long-term assignments in the past. One was a 55-day stint teaching English. I had to come up with the lesson plan and implement it and get the students ready for the FCAT and such.

That wasn’t a cakewalk either. I was the fourth sub called into that class in just as many weeks. All the other subs fled screaming due to the atrocious behavior of the 9th graders. They’d chased away their original teacher and 4 subs. They wanted me to be the sixth person to flee. I did not give them the satisfaction. Had I ran off, they would have been that much worse to the next person.

The next school year I served a 90-day stint. My official gig was to be the short-term aid for a student that needed help, but since he didn’t come to school but nine times during that whole time, I was put to work wherever the school needed me. One day I covered for seven people.

At that school, no joke, I have subbed every class there at least twice. I’m actually thinking of bumping that estimate up to 3 times per class.

Like I said before, I call subbing “survival teaching” – it’s all about being able to think quickly on your feet. You might get called in to teach math and get stuck in the gym… or answering phones. You do what you do because you do what you do. You have to be a jack of all trades.

I sub in a medical class, the students ask me how I’m qualified to teach that class. I tell them about my years as a CNA. I sub the legal class, I tell the class that I research the law in my spare time and am on the board of directors for a small political party. I sub the computer class and proceed to tell the class about the computers I’ve built.

I sub in the gym and everyone knows I don’t know a thing about jumping rope.

Routinely when I’m called early in the morning for an assignment, it means the teacher called out spontaneously (it wasn’t a planned absence). In these cases it means there are usually no lesson plans. A lesser sub might declare “free day” and let the kids run wild like a pack of wild hyenas, not me. I seek out a teacher of that same type of class and find something for those students to do.

If they can’t find something, I find out where the students are in their book and pick something a little further on and assign that as though the teacher assigned it. If I have to do problems on the board, I do it.


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