Substitute teaching is a weird job. It’s even weirder when you’re working alongside teachers you had in school. But I can confidently say the practicalities of this job are awesome while I’m in grad school. Today I have a snow day. I never thought I’d get to have those again!
I’ve taught art, math, English, Spanish, science, health, social studies, special ed, choir and gym. I’ve had kindergartners, seniors and everything in between. I’ve gotten hugs from third graders and cold stares of death from sophomores. Overall though, it’s been fun.
I typically speak to adults, teenagers, children and animals the same way and sometimes in the classroom this catches kids off guard. When a student launches calculator across the room my first reaction is to say, “Ahhh don’t doo thattt!!!” using the vocal tone of a muppet. When high schoolers are talking instead of even pretending to do their work I repeat over and over, “okay everyone where are your pencils. You can’t do this without a pencil. Alex seriously pick up a pencil. Why is no one holding a pencil.”
It takes me a while to learn their real names and no one is ever sitting in the correct seat, so usually something comes out like “señor” or “chica.” If someone is reading Harry Potter, they are officially named Harry for the rest of the class. A lot of the time, I know a few names and use those students as geographic references for calling on other students. “Hey kid next to Tico,” or “I need the girl talking to Mark who isn’t Taylor.”
I never expected to have to say, “Joey put down that ukelele,” during math class or “Boys stop bench pressing her she needs to sing with the altos” in choir. Both happened in high school.
This sounds like mayhem (some days it is), but for the most part my days run really smoothly. We get our assignments done. We learn some things. No one is maimed or seriously injured (except when I taught gym), and the room is neat and tidy for the teacher the next day.
Some students ignore my existence altogether, but most of the time I come home with a few good stories. Here are a few from the last month or so:
Fifth grade boy walks into homeroom, looks at me, eyes huge, turns and runs back to the hallway.
Boy: “The sub is a girl!!”
My co-teacher hands back a paper to third grader named Mason.
Teacher: “I didn’t realize you were a doctor until I read your name on this paper, Dr. Mason.”
Mason: “Oh I’m sorry. I put my last name on it too so you’d still know who I was.”
Fourth grader named Landon has a question.
Me: “You know, my brother’s name is Landon.”
Landon: “Yeah, it’s not very common. I’m thinking of having it legally changed to Sebastian.”
Sixth grader is working on a problem set in math.
Al: “Miss Evans, John is asking me questions that are unrelated to math and it’s distracting.”
Me: “Wow that is the most grown up complaint I’ve heard in a long time. John are you asking him questions that are unrelated to math?”
Me: “Okay don’t do that.”
I instructed my kindergarten art class to start drawing the things they are most thankful for while I wrestled with the DVD player. Obviously every kid came up to me to show me every time they finished drawing anything.
Kid 1: “Miss Evans look! I’m thankful for scorpions!”
Kid 2: “I’m thankful for my family, my dog, my house and stilts.”
Kid 1: *Scorpion is now colored green* “I’m thankful for poisonous scorpions too!”
Every day is another problem solving adventure. I think that’s the best part of this new gig.