Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Results - My Sub Assignment

Okay, so Friday was my very first time in the classroom as something other than a student.  My very first substitute teacher assignment.  I was glad that it was going to be in the school where my DH works because I was familiar with it and wouldn't feel so out of place.  I was not so keen to have the class be Chemistry, since I knew I wouldn't be able to really help any of the students if they needed it.  This was a high school assignment and therefore I only had three 90-minute classes.  The notes were clear and everything was laid out neatly and easy to find.  That was a relief! 

The first two classes went surprisingly well.  They had a quiz in the first class and after that was taken up they were to start on a project Mrs. W had already explained to them the day before.  Thankfully one of the other science teachers (and my friend!) came by after the quiz and offered to go over the directions of the assignment with them again to make sure they understood what they were supposed to be doing.  They students were glad to have that, and I'm glad I didn't have to try to explain it myself, since about a third of what Mr. S said sounded like a foreign language.  I could hear this voice in my head that sounded strangely like Charlie Brown's teacher.  Wah-wah wah. Wah wah wah-wah.  My eyes probably glazed over and a bit of drool may have escaped my slack-jawed mouth.  But maybe not.  They got to work and I let them group together if they wanted and help each other out and talk.  They didn't give me any problems and I felt things went okay. 

The second and third classes were working on the same project, which they had started on the day before.  This class was slightly larger, and they were very talkative, but I was pleasantly surprised that the talk seemed almost entirely related to the assignment as they worked.  According to Mrs. W's notes, she didn't think they would get to the gluing stage of the project, but a few of them actually completed the assignment! 

I'm very glad that the third class was not the one to start my day.  They were rowdy, loud, and lazy.  Some of the students did their work and kept to themselves, but most of them just socialized and didn't even pretend to work.  I had to confiscate a balloon near the beginning of class because 4 students were playing beach ball with it.  I gave them a warning and when they ignored that, I took the balloon.  They still didn't bother to do any work.  Needless to say, not a single person in this class finished the assignment or even came close.  I feel I should mention that Friday was Cappuccino Day.  Someone genius had the bright idea to sell cappuccino and muffins in the library all day so the students can get loaded up on caffeine and sugar.  It's supposed to help raise money for the library, and does a good job of that.  Apparently some teachers take their classes down to the library so they can partake, and some students also go between classes.  I'm sure you can imagine a classroom full of already rambunctious students, on a Friday afternoon, last class of the day, who have spent the past several hours getting hopped up on several helpings of coffee and giant muffins.  I'm surprised I didn't have to peel them off the ceiling.  About 5 to 10 minutes before the final bell, a mass of students started heading to the door like they were just going to walk out.  I told them I hadn't heard the bell yet, and they tried to convince me that Mrs. W always lets them leave early.  Riiiiight. 

While I don't feel I necessarily screwed anything up, I do think I could have done better.  I felt okay at the time, but by the time it was all over and my mind was reviewing it, I realized that I should have done more, especially with that last class.  I'm not an assertive person at all, and I know that is something I need to work on. I'm shy by nature, and if I'm not comfortable in my environment I can be downright timid.  I hate that about myself.  But if I have any more classes like that last one, I'm going to need to be downright aggressive, not just assertive, to get any sort of command of the room.  It was small consolation that they act the same way for Mrs. W because she doesn't have the best classroom management skills.  I guess I should feel better to know they are always like that, and not just because I didn't do a good job, but I really don't.  I'm trying not to be too hard on myself, especially since it was MY VERY FIRST DAY.  I've never even been a teacher's assistant.  My DH says if I didn't have to send anyone out of the classroom, call for help from another teacher, or call for an administrator, than I did well.  I can be a perfectionist, so I don't quite agree.  But I'm trying to.  I was surprised that the students had no idea they were going to have a sub that day.  Mrs. W had called me earlier in the week to request me, so it was definitely a planned absence.  Maybe it wouldn't have made any difference in their behavior, but I think it might have made it go a little more smoothly. 

I wasn't really nervous about the job so much as I'd thought I'd be, but I felt so freaking awkward the whole time.  I felt like an intruder, and while I know it is my job to be the teacher and lead the classroom while I'm subbing, it just doesn't feel right.  I don't know how she runs her classroom, what policy she has for things like going to the restroom, etc.  And these students don't know me any more than I know them.  With nearly 30 students in each class, calling roll is not enough to allow me to learn their names.  



  1. Hi Surfie! Greetings from snowy Philly. Good luck with your subbing adventures! Should you come upon kids with challenging behaviors and want to read some self-reflective methods for helping them gain self-regulation, please stop by my blog: The strategies work for all ages (even grownups!)
    Cheers! ~Denise

  2. I'm so glad you survived! Now you just have to work on developing a "Sergeant Surfie" persona for the classroom. A terrified class is an orderly class. ;-)

  3. Surfie, you did well~ Give yourself a break. Like I had mentioned in an earlier post, these kids are lucky to have you--an individual who is willing to look at your own performance as a teacher. That's what a good teacher does. Try not to be too hard on yourself, it's not all black and white, especially if you're subbing.

    Sometimes I introduce myself by using a British accent wherein I'll seemingly slide out of it whilst going through the roster. It puts the kids at ease that you have a sense of humor and allows them to immediately see that you're not there to vilify them.

    Good job!

  4. Denise - Thanks for the link!

    Marvin - Sergeant Surfie? I like it! I can always start out in gestapo-mode and lighten up if they behave. I'm sure that's a lot more effective than starting off soft and then expecting them to shape up if I try to be more stern. :)

    Jenji - Thanks for the reassurance. I know I tend to be too hard on myself, but it's so hard to turn it off. I like the idea of using a fake accent. I bet I'd have liked having you for a sub. :)

  5. It sounds to me like you did a great job. It WAS your first day -- seasoned teachers take years to feel comfortable in the classroom. You did a valuable function for the school, you helped class go on (it couldn't if there was no one there) and that was the most important thing.

    Kids are rowdy w/subs. I remember what it was like in my school. The poor instructors! Hang in there, it will get easier as time goes on.

    Remember the first time you ever drove a car? How it felt awkward? I bet now it feels like second nature. I hesitated even in my vehicle then when I was learning, my already shy nature lacking the confidence that comes from experience. But now it's different. Driving is easy and fun. Teaching will be like that for you too, eventually.

    But yay, you made it!

  6. Spleeness - Geez, do I ever remember learning to drive. I drove like an old lady and was terrified that at the blistering speed of 15 miles per hour I would lose control of the car, careen into a a ditch/building/school bus, burst into a raging ball of flames and die a horrible fiery death. And I still can't drive a stick. :) That's a good analogy to use. Thanks for the vote of confidence!