As the blog’s title suggests, this blog is about my journey through teaching. When I began it last year as a student teacher, I fully expected to continue it as a full-time, credentialed teacher this year. While I am delighted to say that I am, in fact, a credentialed teacher, it turns out that I must do a bit more wandering before meeting my own students.
In other words, I am am teacher without a classroom, a vagrant educator, a substitute teacher.
With a shortage of middle school history jobs in my area, I realized toward the end of summer that I would probably need to sub this year. Talk to anyone about substitute teachers, and you’ll probably hear horror stories of how they and their classmates made their lives miserable. That alone made subbing seem daunting, but that was nothing compared to my overwhelming disappointment.
The path that brought me to fully embrace teaching was long. The journey of earning my credential was full of challenges. I feel like I’ve been working toward becoming a teacher my whole life. Having climbed what I thought would be the last mountain before the wondrous country of teaching, finding out I still wasn’t there yet was very discouraging.
Then I began to look for the good in the situation. While my journey has been long, I have learned valuable things at each stage. I realized that subbing would hold a world of benefits:
- I’d gain experience with classroom management, experience in which I am lacking.
- I’d get to see a wide variety of classrooms.
- I could learn techniques from hundreds of different teachers in one year.
- I would learn to work with all kinds of students.
- I’d hopefully find which faculty teams I would want to join and which I would want to avoid.
- I could make connections with teachers and administrators at schools to improve my chances of a job next year.
- After a challenging and exhausting year, subbing would be a refreshing break before plunging into my first year (which people tell me is harder than student teaching).
The list continues, but these are the most relevant reasons.
Now I’ve been subbing for about a month. Overall, it’s been enjoyable. I’ve only had to leave one bad report for a teacher. I’m learning new things every day.
But it has also been very challenging. I struggle with change, and every day brings a plethora of new things. Some days I go to sleep not knowing where I’ll be working the next day–and that can be stressful. I have yet to teach at the same school twice, so here is a small chart of the things I don’t know when I leave my house:
While not knowing where to find any of these can be challenging, perhaps the most basic one is not knowing where the bathroom is.
The most challenging thing, though, is not being able to form relationships. Relationships are the biggest thing that draw me to teaching. I want to get to know my students, to pour my love and knowledge out to them all year, to recognize when they’re struggling or when they push themselves to some new achievement. I want to be someone they can trust, someone who has their back and is safe. And I want to know my coworkers, to learn from them and learn with them.
All of that is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to do when you meet a new group of students every 50 minutes or so.
In light of this, I’m trying to figure out how to excel as a substitute teacher. For me, this means helping the students continue to learn in the absence of their regular teacher and making sure no one goes crazy or hurts someone else. It also means encouraging, inspiring, and caring for each student I encounter, no matter how short our time together may be. I want to make them feel like they matter, and to spur them on toward loving each other and seeking truth.
What do you think it takes to be an excellent substitute teacher? Let me know in the comments below!