Life of a Substitute Teacher: An introduction, and my first two days

It’s been a long time since I have written a blog post, but I figured with my current job, it would be the perfect time for me to revive something that long died out to me, and to serve as memories and even mental lessons for me to learn from as I progress in my time as a substitute teacher.

To preface how I landed in substitute teaching: I was laid off from my full-time office job at the end of September last year. I began applying to as many jobs as I could with the intention of having employment reestablished as soon as possible. Unfortunately, my hunt has come up dry as of the writing of this post. I turned to substitute teaching because one of my main philosophies in life is to be somewhere wherever help is needed, and one area in particular that I feel needs help is the classroom.

My journey for substitute teaching began in December last year when I applied to be a substitute teacher. The application was straightforward, and soon I got a welcome email with a Microsoft Office Form link to know when I would be available for an interview. My interview was in early January, and it was between me with a group of other applicants and a representative of the substitute teaching company. Afterward, I had an offer letter, and I began my orientation later that same day. After all of my required documentation (transcripts, references, certificates of training completion) was sent in, I was scheduled to go to the sub company’s office for fingerprinting and to get my ID badge. After the fingerprinting, it took another two weeks before I could officially begin working as a substitute teacher, and when my Frontline access would be granted.

My first day ever as a substitute teacher was this past Thursday. It was at a middle school in a rougher part of town. I was originally supposed to only have a morning-only shift, but later on it turned into a split shift, which would finally make its way into being a full day between two classrooms. I walked into my first classroom thinking that the students would be easy-going, but it was anything but that. The students were definitely not in their assigned seats, and I had to rely on my neighbor to provide the lesson plans, since the teacher I was filling in for did not have them. After about 15 minutes, a support teacher came in to calm the class down. While the students did not want to necessarily listen to me, I made mention that I would call the office if they got out of control. I had regular teachers in both rooms with me at all times, and without them, I don’t know if I would have even survived the day. My afternoon classes were worse. In this class, I actually met the teacher who I would be filling in for, as he was going home early. There was little respect from the students towards him. There were at least two students per class that were not chaotic, and I managed to help them whenever they needed it; after all, middle school math is something that is doable for me, so I acted as a tutor in some capacity. What I did not like though were the last two classes of the day where there was that group of students that compared me to Peter Griffin (context: I am large with somewhat short hair and wear glasses). The last class was terrible. I had to run down to the office to grab administration just to get the students to do their work, and by golly were they even rude to the administration. Some of the students were pulled out of the room and sent down to the office for further disciplinary action. After this experience, I was pondering whether I should come back to this school or not. The administration, teachers, and staff ALL had my back, which I am thankful for their support despite the roughness of the students at this school.

Friday was a non-student day, so what could have been my second day as a substitute teacher was a non-work day for me.

Today—Monday, February 19th—was a much better day. I was at a high school instead of a middle school, and most of my students were very much respectful. The teacher I filled in for today teaches World History at the Honors and AP levels. I allowed the students to talk as long as they kept their voices at a reasonable volume. I believe that socialization is very important, which is why I didn’t get strict about no talking, which in my past experience as a high school student, I have had substitutes dictate that there was to be no talking. One recurring thing that happened through my day today was that I had to send my rosters to the school’s Student Affairs office, and picking a student per class to do it was something. Several students wanted to take the rosters to the office as a means to get out of class, while others did it actually help me and stay quiet to themselves. Another recurring theme to today’s job was students continually remarking that their classmates I had sent to either take the attendance sheets to the office or to go use the restroom would never return—but they did. Finally, the last class of the day was a study hall-like class, and it had a lot of absences. This class was the most quiet of them all, and I didn’t need to mention that they could talk if they wanted to.

Well, that’s an introduction! Tomorrow I sub at another high school (different school), and the subject is Business Technology.