Thursday, 10 July 2014

A day in the life of a substitute teacher

I started working as substitute teacher last month as a way to get into teaching. I am a qualified teacher and I’m still looking for permanent work. I haven’t had much success in job hunting so I’m hoping subbing will help me to build relationships with schools so that they think of me when an opening comes up.

The Education Department in Queensland has a division called Tracer which allocates substitute teachers in government schools. So in the mornings, I wait to get a call from Tracer to tell me what school I’m subbing for the day. Teachers can allocate school preferences and grades so I have a bit of an idea of what to expect for the day.

Once I decide to accept a job, I quickly pack my lunch and prepare for the grade that I have been assigned to teach. I’m still starting out so I don’t know most of the classes at the schools so I plan general lessons that revise what students from that grade would know.  For example, I have students practice handwriting, do an English piece and put up some sums on the board for math.  Usually, teachers leave some work behind for the substitute teachers but sometimes I have to plan my own. If the teacher leaves stuff to do then I make sure the children do that. If they finish quickly they have to do my stuff as well.

The first thing I do when I arrive at the school is go to the administration office. I introduce myself to the receptionist and they hand me a schedule and tell me about the school. I find my classroom and scope it out. I get ideas of what the children are like and what they are learning about by looking around the room. I think of possible lesson I could teach them. I also look for any notes that the teacher has left behind for me as well as the phone. It’s important to know where the phone is and how to call the office in case something happens.

I also meet the other teachers in the area and they give me advice about what to do. Most of them tell me that I can call on them for help and I’m glad that they are so nice. I smile at any child that peeps into the window and say hello.
When the children come in, I introduce myself and tell them how the day will run. I also explain what my expectations are and how they will be rewarded. I give out stickers to reward good behavior and work. Most students love to get the stickers and that motivates them to work well.

Every class has a trouble maker and their behavior is worse than usual because I’m not their regular teacher. It can be challenging and frustrating dealing with those students but nothing I can’t handle. I try to talk to them, make them aware of the choices they make and the consequences. I also send them out of class to be disciplined if I need to and I try to get them to work. Sometimes, they can’t be reasoned with and they don’t want to learn so when that happens I focus on supervision rather than learning. I give the child some menial task to do that will keep them busy or I let them continue their activity as long as they do not disturb others. I also let them know that they will be doing the class work in detention if they choose to continue playing around.  I have twenty four other children to look after so I can’t spend time dealing with one or two unruly children.

Sometimes, the whole class can be hard to control. Working with children when they are disruptive is like trying to put out fires. Once you have put out one fire, there’s another fire you have to put out. I’ve had classes where there were children running around the room, children touching things they shouldn’t, one or two children asking me stuff, tattlers come to me to tell me things, someone crying and it’s all happening all at once. It can be overwhelming dealing with that kind of situation.

In that situation, I go about the room telling students to go to their seats. If anyone talks to me, I’m like a broken record. I say, “Not right now, go to your seat, “until they do it. If the children are still talking, I put marks on the board which I explain represents all the minutes that they will be spending in detention. I give them a big lecture and I get them to stay quiet until I say they can talk again.
Warning- this film contains profanity. 
When a class is out of control, safety becomes a priority over learning. When a class is out of control, stuff gets damaged and people get hurt so it’s important to shut down all activities until they under control. When the children become more cooperative and respectful class resumes again. I let go of any animosity after the punishment because the children need to have a fresh start. I try to organize fun things that the children will enjoy and end the day on a high note.

Some days all the children go home happy. Other days it’s almost all of them except for a few naughty kids. The naughty kids usually go home grumbling because they spent the whole day battling with me to let them get away with doing nothing. At the end of the day, I make the class tidy up their things and they go home when the bell rings. I write a letter to the regular teacher which I leave in the room; it details what happened during the day.

I find being a substitute teacher to be a good living. I don’t want to do it forever and I wish for my own class. It has been a valuable learning experience for me as I have taught different classes and schools. Before I was terrified of the idea of subbing but now I know it’s not a big deal. To be honest, I don’t really enjoy subbing because it’s like babysitting with a bit of education thrown in (Sorry if I offended any subs out there). I’d rather like my own class so I can watch them grow and help them to learn. I hope I didn't scare any aspiring teachers out there. Teaching is a rewarding career and like any career it has it's advantages and disadvantages. 

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