Substitute teaching is the bomb. Literally. I often feel like I might explode or implode. Maybe both at once. How would that work? I can’t say because my teacher was gone that day and we had a sub.
Recently, I reluctantly emerged from retirement and a nice, prolonged nap on the couch in order to go back to teaching. It took almost five months to get my California and Nevada licenses renewed. These are renewals. In other words, if I haven’t committed a capital offense in the interim, why does it take so long? By the time I started work, school was almost over for the year.
During that time, I got a bit in debt. Now I’m digging my way out of it, somewhat successfully, but keep getting hit with new surprises. Like the fact that property taxes doubled. Why? Because we bought a place that needed improvements and we improved it? And this is how you repay us? Nice.
Substitute teaching is gratifying in one respect: the shortage of teachers being what it is, the schools love having substitutes. We used to be the lowest of the low. Wannabes, noses pressed up against the classroom windows, begging to be recognized as viable members of society. Now, we are greeted with tossed flowers and marching bands.
And at the age of almost 70, I was offered a full time teaching position. Which I promptly turned down. They wouldn’t give me a job in 2011, and now, when there is no way I’d want to put up with what it entails, they offer me one? I don’t think so.
As it stands now, I never have to talk to a parent, make a lesson plan, or go to meeting. I can leave at 3, toddle home, and take a nap on the couch. That is what I majored in, after all. I’m very good at it. I’m thinking of designing a Udemy course: Napping 101. Except every time I sit down to write the curriculum, I fall asleep.
Aside from all that, getting up at 6am is absolutely the hardest thing I’ve had to do in a while. Being done at 3 compensates a bit, but not much.
The first few weeks of subbing were a cold dash of water in the face. I sincerely believed that the kids in a small town would be sweet and nice, so much nicer than the kids in the wicked city. Boy, was I wrong.
Unless my memory has gone kaflewy, they are worse than big city kids. I had some pretty bad days in Vegas when I was subbing, but eventually I had long term assignments, like my ESL class. The kids were new to the US and some barely spoke English. I loved that. They were the best kids ever, not having learned to be snots yet, and hence, were un-corrupted. It was great.
The middle school here is my metier. Elementary kids require too much supervision and the high school is on block schedule or something. That leaves sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. The Golden Mean. And I do mean, mean.
My first week I subbed for a teacher whose every class was out of control. One eighth grade girl who was routinely in trouble, came in late one day while everyone else was working. She sat down, pulled her desk closer to the person next to her, and started talking. I told her to change seats and to refrain from talking. I didn’t care whether she did the work or not. She ignored me completely, got out of her seat and went to talk to a group sitting on the floor, working. I told her again to quit talking and sit down and she, without even looking up–I can barely write this–held the palm of her hand up and out and facing me.
And kept talking.
If I didn’t know I’d end up in county jail for an undisclosed length of time AND lose my job, she might have ended up against the wall. But I am nothing if not restrained. I would hate lockup. The cots are uncomfortable and I probably couldn’t count on decent coffee.
Had I done anything remotely like that to a teacher when I was growing up, it would be the following Tuesday before I woke up again. I have to say, the girls “outweigh” the boys when it comes to trouble making and snottiness. Not sure why; maybe it’s an opposite sex thing. My mother always said boys were easier. She had two of each, so she knew a bit about the subject.
Administration is supportive and ready with a hall monitor when I need them, although one administrator has gone out on maternity leave. I shall miss her. She gave the classes essays to do when they messed up and I liked that. They were quiet, they wrote without a murmur, and they didn’t dare say anything.
I was exhausted at the end of each day, even on minimum days. It stymied me, because I wasn’t digging ditches, after all. All of it had to be mental. I confessed to a friend that I had very strong negative feelings towards the kids.
(We all know what I really said, so there’s no need to repeat it here.)
He gave me some excellent advice, which I will impart to you. He told me that I never had any authority, so I needed to let that go. This reminded me of that handy co-dependent advice, so I was right there with that tip. Letting go is a special skill I haven’t mastered yet, but that’s okay. I have the gist of it down.
He added that I cannot make a kid do what they refuse to do, so I should just do what I do, and they do what they do. I actually tell them when they ask me if they “have to do” something the teacher left for them, to wit, “I can’t make you eat, breathe, believe in God, or do your work. It’s totally up to you.”
He also told me that if I don’t engage with them, I can’t be angry with them. That my audience is composed of the ones who listen, and eventually, hopefully, the others will follow suit. As a substitute, I don’t even have to care if they learn anything.
After that, I began separating the satellites from their demi gods and goddesses, and ignoring the latter altogether. Each and every time I move one of them, they protest, as if changing seats is a worse punishment than writing essays on why they should be nice to substitutes. I really don’t care if they sit in their assigned seats, but they quickly lose any privilege afforded them by unmercifully abusing the privileges.
The kids actually take pride in making subs quit. If they can get them to cry first, it’s extra points.
How did the dreaded adults find this out? A group of kids were overheard plotting that very thing, and kids, like so many petty criminals before them, announce their plots, and tell us their conspiracies.
I told them to “bring it,” that they probably wouldn’t do much that I haven’t seen already. I added that contrary to their beloved opinion of themselves, they weren’t unique or different from every other kid in the lower 49.
Why they want subs to quit, I don’t know. Without subs, they’d either have to be crowded into another class, or they’d have another sub. Do they really think they’ll be sent out to play instead?
My take is that most kids are clueless and don’t learn well, anyway. After all, they don’t want a bad report from a sub, and they don’t want to have to write essays when they get into trouble, but they keep doing the very things that lead to those outcomes.
What else is that but the definition of insanity? Welcome to our future, people.