Remember back to your school days when you had the pleasant surprise of seeing a substitute teacher in the classroom? We all whooped it up a bit, figuring on an “easy” day – goofing off a little, and certainly not having much work to do or homework at the end of the day. I don’t remember really causing much trouble other than having a little bit more relaxed behavior and perhaps a pass or two out of class, but that’s about it.
If I could go back in time, knowing that I would sub as an adult, maybe I would have been kinder.
After a couple of years in Beijing, I decided to check into substitute teaching where my girls go to school. Exploring the options, I found that many international schools welcome substitutes with varying degrees of requirements. The pay is pretty good for a day’s work, and I get to keep in touch with what’s going on. Sometimes, I even get to be in my girls’ classrooms. It’s always a lesson to watch the dynamics of ever-changing friendships and the mystery of growing up in today’s world. Personally, I love the opportunity.
Some days are much harder than others, and I can come home completely exhausted after being with one or more classes. I marvel at teachers’ abilities – both ingrained and learned – to manage the many different personalities of one classroom. How do they get students to listen? How do they keep them on task? How do they figure out what motivates one child versus another? I often have trouble with my two children at home, yet these teachers do so with close to 20 individuals at a time.
It also baffles me at how, even at very young ages, some children see substitutes as prime targets for the day, trying and challenging every moment. Sure, their routines are off and they will test the waters, just as children do. And as a sub, you don’t want to take too many liberties in someone else’s classroom. But the biggest challenge of being a sub (for me) is to be flexible enough to change my methods to make it work for all of the kids. And, of course, to get us all through the day seamlessly.
Challenges aside, I love substitute teaching and would suggest that any parent who has the time to consider it. Contact your school to find out the requirements then set your own schedule. You earn some decent spending money, stay more connected with your kids and school, and you can sharpen your own skills at the same time.
And kids – be nice to the sub!