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Monday, March 9, 2015

The Perks of Being a Substitute Teacher

Hello internet world! It's been over a month since I last posted and as much as I'd like to have some grand explanation, I don't really have one. The month of February was just busy. I went to Virginia to see my sister's babies, we took a snowboarding trip to Park City, and a couple of our friends came to visit us this past week.

Unfortunately, I think the biggest factor for why I haven't blogged in awhile is (*cringe*) my iPhone. In all the excitement of entering into the 21st century, I got lazy and started using Instagram and Facebook as my primary modes for keeping family and friends up-to-date on our lives. Snapping a picture, choosing a filter, and composing a couple of hashtags is obviously a much faster way of letting people know what you're up to, but I miss words. Go figure -- the English teacher is a "words" person.

The biggest news of this month is that I have started substitute teaching! Hooray! I had my first gig last Wednesday and it was amazing. Most people that I meet don't get why I love it so much, but it has serious perks...

1. For once, I work only eight hours of the day. I don't take work home with me. I'm not grading or writing any lesson plans. I'm not agonizing over if I said the wrong thing. I follow the teacher's lesson plan and that's it.

2. I only deal with difficult students for 55 minutes, and then they are out the door and out of my mind. I am a professional and I treat students like young adults, but if a problem arises, I don't make parent phone calls. I don't hound kids to turn in late work. I write a quick note to the teacher letting them know what happened and then it's done.

3. I don't have time to stress about how a lesson is going to go, because I find out I'm teaching at 6 o'clock in the morning. There is no time to worry.

4. I have years of teaching experience that have not only built my confidence, but have also given me ample opportunities to handle classrooms of students that weren't necessarily my own. It's one thing to have classroom management skills in a learning environment that you've built, but it's something entirely different when you're a 'stranger' trying to take control. I'm so grateful for my year of popping into French classrooms in Bourg-St.-Andeol, for subbing in for teachers during ISA summer camps, and for starting my teaching career with a group of kids that would have much preferred their male teacher who had Samurai swords and let them debate about marijuana for a week.

5. I have the energy to make an impact. Because my focus is only on the lesson plan for that day, and not on the upcoming essay or even the essay from two weeks ago that I keep hoping to catch up on during my prep hour, I can get into the nitty gritty details and maybe even find away to impart some non-academic wisdom. I heard a great piece of advice on the radio the other week, and last Wednesday was the perfect opportunity to spread it.

The senior group had a multiple-choice exercise where they had to fill in ten blanks to a poem based on the context of the surrounding lines. After they came to a consensus on their answers with their small group, I read the poem aloud, pausing at the blanks for the class to respond with their answers in a kind of chorale reading. Before I started though, I told them that if they were going to fail, to please do it loudly, and not whisper their answers. They should have confidence in their answers and just go for it. Do your best and, if necessary, fail loudly.

6. I can reuse my lame jokes. ;)


  1. How is it that sometimes you randomly stumble upon someone who has so much in common with yourself!? Weird. I just searched "perks of substitute teaching with a young family" and your blog came up. I clicked, and I read about your very valid points about subbing. But the weird thing is that my husband and I are from Olympia, Washington. We moved to China last year to explore and work (I teach 2nd grade) before we start having kids. I am in a current state of panic trying to decide whether to re-sign in Shanghai for 1 more year, before going back to Olympia. We moved here right out of graduate school, so I never had my own classroom in Washington. So many doubts and questions, especially because we want to try to start a family sometime this Fall or Winter. So, coming back to Olympia and possibly pregnant- also hoping to substitute for a year if we have a kid. Too many risks.... or many it's perfect, who knows. Any advice you can give would be amazing. I'm worried about putting myself at a disadvantage by not getting my own classroom in WA for 3 years after graduation. I have been teaching here, but it's IB Curriculum and not CCSS. Anyway, it's nice to meet you. Thanks for sharing :)

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! What a small world! I don't know how your program in China works, but I found that just the experience of working in any classroom (whether as an assistant, lead, or even just after school programs) helps with the confidence factor that's so vital with substitute teaching. I have a few friends who subbed while pregnant and they unanimously loved it -- if you're having a rough day, you just don't work! Hope this helps. 😊