In the Suburbs / No mistaking this sub as the enemy
Published 6:32 am, Thursday, September 15, 2011
Irene came and went, and schools in Fairfield started later than usual. There was talk that we were already using our future snow days.
As a substitute, beginning my fourth year, I paid little attention to the start of school and figured that it would be at least late September before I received my first call. Wrong!
As crazy as it may sound to some, I love this work and really enjoy the students, especially at the high school level I sub in the middle schools, too). And I have made some very strong connections with teachers, secretaries and house masters over the past three years. So I get called pretty regularly.
I middle school classes for five years in the Chicago suburbs, so I have no concerns about classroom management. I just go with the flow.
While most days go very smoothly, there is an occasional blip. This week, for instance, I was Mr. Physics. While my subject areas are English, journalism and social studies, I have supervised cooking classes, shop, math and business, among others. I just can't allow students to use equipment. That's the law where subs are concerned.
On the day I was Mr. Physics, I could just sense that Murphy's Law was in play, especially since I received the call at 6:45 a.m. and the high schools start at 7:30. Fortunately, I always get up early and only have a couple of last minute things to do, but I honestly didn't expect to receive a call that day. So I started my day rushing to get to Fairfield Warde, which, thankfully, is five minutes from my house.
To my good fortune, especially since the teacher had left several items to be copied, it was activity day, so classes began at 7:53 instead of 7:30. However, there were very few free copiers, and I had a lot of copying. I made the class with one minute to spare and the door was locked. But the principal was in the hall, and he let us in.
I've learned that once I get behind in my routine, things go down hill rapidly. For this particular day, there were two videos that had to be shown on the computer and I had no password to get into the computer. Once we solved that problem, I hoped that the materials I'd handed out were collated properly. They weren't, so I had to explain that to the students, who were very understanding.
It was a double period, and remarkably, we covered two videos and work sheets. I was just hitting my stride when the video just stopped during third period. "Oh! Epithet," I thought, as a very helpful student tried restarting it. I finally gave up and called the IT person, who couldn't fix the problem either. By then, the students were past paying attention, so I simply allowed them to talk quietly.
Since the next period was a break, I decided to shut down the computer and just reboot before the next class. It worked, and we had no further problems the rest of the day, except for a stuffy, warm classroom.
I've concluded in the last three years that most of my classroom woes come from technology. They don't train us in IT at the sub level, so we're at the mercy of the equipment, which, by the way, is generally different from class to class. Thank goodness for tech-savvy students. They are a sub's lifesavers.
And this early in the school year, as I've seen from my other two subbing assignments, the teachers aren't ready to turn their students over to robotic technology. Most of my work has been to supervise reading and work sheets.
I take my work very seriously. I want any teacher to feel that he or she can trust me to work with the students on their assignments. And I like to feel that I go the extra mile. I've asked housemasters and other teachers for help with chemistry and math to be able to assist students, and I've studied Spanish/English dictionaries to help students with basic exercises. I owe the students my commitment.
In my own subject areas, if I can honestly do some teaching, I will, and I always stay within the teacher's boundaries. I have been most appreciative when teachers for whom I've subbed gave me some latitude to actually teach.
From my perspective, it looks like a busy year for me. I'll look forward to my phone ringing early and often. I love being on this education stage, because everyday brings a whole new scenario and regular improvisation.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.