Blue Suede Shoes

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 06 2011

The Substitute…

Just about nine weeks into my second year, I had to have my first-ever substitute today. (Really thought I could make it two years without one…) I can’t explain why I was so anxious about it… perhaps the horror stories I’d heard from other teachers, perhaps the fact that my 7th period misbehaves chronically even when I am there. It was the best kind of day to have a substitute, though: I was still in the building – the hallway, in fact – at an all-day professional development for math, and there was a fair amount of opportunity to check on my room students.

I had talked to several students I trusted yesterday about helping the sub and keeping an eye on the class for me. I didn’t get any class-wide negative reports from the sub, and no students I ran into after school told me any horror stories, so that was a good sign. The biggest win for the day was that I ended with 32 calculators, precisely the number I started with. (Another win is that I bought a combination lock for my cabinet last night (thank goodness CVS is open 24 hours, because I’d completely forgotten about that until 11:30 p.m. yesterday) and I stupidly put it on the latch and forgot to lock it until I noticed during a pop-in 5th period, and everything was still untouched inside.)

I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t trust my kids, because I do… when they’re with me. I think we can all attest to the fact that there’s a difference between how some students act when their teacher is around and when their teacher isn’t. (See: snacks stolen from cabinet earlier this year when I was out in the hallway.) Heck, students act differently for different teachers. In particular, I noticed my room was cleaner than usual at the end of the day, but the little mess on the floor was mostly from the Post-Its I taped to my desks for desk numbers, which annoyed me because the students have been good for the most part about leaving them alone when I’m around.

All in all, I guess there wasn’t anything to be worried about. I had planned pretty well, and kids were more or less doing the work when I popped in, and now I have 6 folders of worksheets to “grade.” Today makes me feel a little better, I guess, about taking a day off. Next Thursday, I might need a half-day sub, but all my students will be testing that day, which should be simple, as long as the sub can keep students from talking/cheating. There was one miscommunication in the afternoon, when another teacher told me he’d run into a pseudo-administrator (I’m just not certain what his role is, but he deals with discipline and truancy and gang prevention, I think), Mr. G., in the hallway who said he was heading to my classroom. Assuming the worst – and stunned because it was my 6th period algebra class, which, with the exception of one uncontrolled outburst yesterday, has been damn near perfect this week – I sought out Mr. G. after school to ask him about what had happened, especially since the sub made no mention of any incidents that would require administrative interference. It turned out that Mr. G. was just checking on my class and the tardy list because I’d told him yesterday that I would be out, not because anyone had been out of order in class. Whew.

Another win for the day was that I got two hugs from students after school out of nowhere, one from the sweetest girl ever, and the other from a senior I only had for a few weeks (he’d already passed geometry; there was just a glitch in the scheduling system). Oh, and I had one student stay for tutoring until 5 p.m. I wanted to go home before then, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him to leave. He was working so hard, trying to get all the equations correct, and he’s a student who has some motivation issues, so I definitely didn’t want to discourage him. A long day at school definitely felt shorter when he walked out the door with all the triangle problems from the past few days completed and correct!

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