Thing’s I’ve Learned From Becoming A Substitute Teacher

It’ll be easy” they said… “It’s easy money, just sit there and watch the kids“… the lies!

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In my recent quest to keep my bills paid and food in my stomach, I’ve picked up what is essentially my third job now- on top of my 17 credit hour course load. My understanding was that this job would hardly be a job because I’ll “just” be a sub, so there’s virtually no responsibility and no strings attached. Not to mention, I get to “make my own schedule”. What’s there not to love? HA..! I think I’ll write another post tomorrow about what it’s been like so far for me as a sub, but in this post I want to talk about some valuable lessons I’ve been learning.

Substitute Teachers Are NOT “Just Subs”

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Even substitutes usually see their selves as “just subs”, including me- until recently. The general consensus seems to be that substitute teachers just watch an absent teacher’s class, which severely oversimplifies the job. Teachers fail to leave sufficient sub plans, students are prepared to behave wildly, and substitutes are walking into an unpredictable environment. A substitute needs to be more than “just a sub” from the moment they walk into that school. Substitutes are teachers, temporary guardians, and essential to school operations, yet most of us won’t see it that way. Since changing my attitude towards my new job, I’ve actually found to have a little more success, even with “bad” classes. Knowing my value to both the student and the school has changed my approach and demeanor in the classroom.

Everyone Is Over-Worked and Under-Paid, Including Substitutes

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Teachers, administrators, janitors, substitutes… everyone. Between the lack of pay and lack of support, I don’t see how the people who take up these positions stay. Sure, some may do it because they truly love teaching and have a passion for helping children succeed, but I think a lot of school workers are exhausted. Personally, I think far too much responsibility is lifted off of parents and placed onto teachers and administration- yet, these same parents are prepared to cause a ruckus when someone mishandles their child due to a total lack of empathy, mixed with being pushed over the edge. I also can’t help but wonder what kind of support is being given, if any at all, from the school board.

Ultimately, the requirements of the job aren’t the only reason I say they’re all under-paid. Teachers and administrators have an incredibly important job to do. They are literally supposed to be preparing the next generation of people to enter the world. Not only through educating them in the basics, but through teaching life skills, like relationship building. There’s no way that they’re being paid enough for that.

Classroom Management Training Should Be Required For Anyone Working With Kids

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When I became a sub, I learned these things: don’t block doorways to prevent students from coming in/going out, don’t put kids into closets as punishment, and don’t ever touch the kids. Of the 1.5 hours or so that I spent sitting there, there was nothing that I learned that I couldn’t have either learned in less time or learned at home, virtually. However, what should’ve been mentioned to me was how to manage a classroom of 16-25 children who are expecting to have enough power to scare me away. It took me asking to have a student removed, and being told there was nothing that could be done with them, for me to realize that I must be doing something wrong.

Since then, I’ve taken quite a lot of my personal time to study classroom management. I’ve learned basic things such as walking around the classroom, asking students if they need help, and referring to myself as a “teacher” and not a substitute. I’ve also learned how to tell the difference between disrespect and disobedience, and how to respond to each. I’ve even learned that there’s nothing wrong with treating a kid like the adult they think they are, when they want to get smart! (Finally, a good way to put my smart-ass remarks to good use.)

They Really Are Just Kids

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When it comes to taking an authoritative stance, this realization has been great. I’ve had children tell me they’re tired of looking at my face, making demands from me, and even invading my personal space. I’ve come to realize that they do it to get a one-up on me. They know that they’re just kids and that I have the ultimate authority over them, but they want to see if I know. Today, I had two students come and ask me if I was mad at them and I simply responded with “nope! What do I have to be mad for? Ya’ll are the ones that have to pass these classes and survive the real world..” They were checking to see if their behavior had “struck a nerve” with me or gotten under my skin. When they realized that I wasn’t phased by their antics and that I had made the choice to back-down, rather than send them all to ISS, they calmed down a bit.

When it comes to thinking of the future, now that’s when I feel bad. The majority of the children that I’ve worked with so far have been black or latinx and their perception of the world will be distorted until they graduate. They are being taught that life is filled with chances, that people will listen to them when they try to explain a screw-up, and that they’ve got an upper hand over authoritative figures in their lives. Many don’t seem to have a stable parental/guardian home-life and some have become hopeless as early as 6th grade. They come to school just because they have to and take out their frustrations out on each other, fighting and even killing one-another. They have no idea that the real world is just waiting for them to come on out and graduate so that they can be thrown into jail or early graves.

I Can’t Do This Job Long-Term & I Don’t Want To Be A Teacher

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Despite having changed my classroom style, having some good days at work, and being asked many times to be a sub for other teachers, I’ve come to realize that this job just isn’t for me. For one, I’ve got bad anxiety (in general) and dealing with children makes it flare up even worse. On most days, I can hardly even eat. Second, teachers and students spend far too much time indoors for my liking. I’m the type of person who likes to be able to step out for some “fresh air” every 2 hours or less. Finally, the pay for this job just isn’t worth it. I make about $10 an hour and I think I could make that working somewhere that is more-so my “thing”. In fact, I’d dare to put this job on my “never wanna work at again” list, along with the Food Lion bakery/deli. Sure, if I were a teacher, some things would be different, but I still don’t think it’s worth the pay. Actually, I think it’s worth even less for teachers, who work for salary and often don’t get a break during the day- on top of being caught up in after school activities and meetings. No thanks.

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I am curious to know about other people’s experience as teachers and substitutes though, especially other people’s viewpoints on what needs to be fixed with schools today. I for one and 100% anti cellphones at school and I think serious measures should be taken to enforce a no-tolerance policy.

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