Monday, January 25, 2010

Other Substitutes

As a substitute teacher, it isn't always easy to identify the other substitutes. Perhaps when I walk in a room they will assume I am the teacher who I am covering for, or maybe they will in some other way exude the doubt and confusion inherent with the position. Sometimes I will run into them in the office, signing in in the morning, and once I've worked at a school long enough, I begin to know which teachers belong in which classrooms, and I know a sub the way all the other teachers know me.

A lot of the time, I hate working with other subs, because they have their own way of doing things, I have my own way of doing things, and neither of us are inherently right. It becomes somewhat of a power struggle, with the winner being the person who assumes they sub in that building most.

Sometime last week, I was asked to cover a period in this room I've subbed in a lot before. They said there was only a TA in this room, so they wanted to have a teacher in there as well. I had no problem going there, as I knew this particular TA; he's a really nice guy and the students respect him. Unfortunately, when I arrived, he wasn't there. In his place was some other guy, presumably a sub, sporting a black tie with a pattern of neon splashes. We quickly identified that we were both substitutes, and then discussed briefly the need to fill out a time sheet when covering for a TA. I don't do it. I subbed for a TA once, and never got paid for it. When I called and found out why, they sent me a time sheet, and I just never filled it in. A lot of people owe me $40. I'm just too awkward to bug them for it.

So me and splashy tie, it turns out, are both in the same position in grad school. Apparently, he subbed in this district last year too.

"I just felt so honored when they sent me that letter over the summer asking me to come back," he said. I suppose if it was your first time subbing and this was the only district you're in, then maybe you would take too much compliment from such a form letter. Or maybe he is just quite the character. Either way, every school district you substitute in will send you a letter seeing if you're coming back. It isn't because they think you've done a nice job; it's because it is easier to keep the same subs than to go looking for new ones.

Seriously?! Should I have bragged about the fourteen letters that I received?

Friday I subbed in a school I sub in a lot, and there were a bunch of teachers out. A man of such an age that it seemed he might be actually employed rather then subbing was in the room next to mine, chatting with a teacher I've seen many times before. During my lunch period, I walked over to my door to shut it and shut off the lights. That teacher was walking out of his door too and took the opportunity to walk into my room and chat with me. We spoke of school, and employment (noticing a trend here?) and he shared how he usually works in the high school, but figured he'd give the middle school a shot, just to test it out. He said he had been too lax with his morning classes, and he was going to try to be stricter with the afternoon ones, anticipating the crazy that would surely erupt once kids had had a few subs for all of their classes. "Do you know Chris and Keith?" he asked.

"Um...Chris is a really generic name," I said.

"Oh, you'd know! They're a duo; they're quite something," he said. Then he offered to help me out if I needed it, as he had apparently earned the students' respect, specifically one individual student who liked him.

After lunch, my classes were pretty small. When there are only three students in the room, and the office sends you another sub, it is pretty easy to keep the kids on task. I had a studyhall and sent a few of the kids to the library and then threatened the rest of the class with referrals if they talked. Needless to say, they stayed pretty quiet. The other afternoon classes weren't silent, but their talking was mostly about the assignment at hand, and I kept the door open for the whole afternoon. The other sub's classes were quite loud, as he had predicted, and he stopped in at the end of the day to say how quiet my classes were.

I think people make assumptions about me, perhaps based on my appearance. This guy had never seen me before, as I had never seen him. He doesn't know my relationship with that school, and with the students. He doesn't know my style of classroom management, and from the way he offered assistance, it seemed he thought I couldn't handle it. But look who couldn't handle it in the end!

Sometimes when I talk to other subs, I learn things that I need to know, such as the fact that long term or building sub positions don't come with such benefits as health insurance, or perhaps that you can collect unemployment during the summer. Sometimes another sub will have just the right words to soften my heart about something.

So I guess other subs can be OK, if their advice is warranted and given with respect. They can be OK if they aren't wasting my time trying to convince me to buy their drink supplements. Other subs are best interacted with outside of a class we're responsible for.

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