Sunday, April 23, 2006

On the Importance of Subbing

I read the March copy of Scholastic's Instructor magazine this morning. Mrs. Thinker's pregnancy makes it hard for us to go to mass any more; if only I had that going for me during football season.

Anyhow, they were mentioning teacher blogs and I saw a quote that I really liked from Mr. Lawrence at Get Lost, Mr. Chips. The part that really struck me:

One thing I'd like to add to that is that I think substituting for one (1) year should also be mandatory for all new teachers regardless of age. No, this is not my way of getting back at everyone because of my sometimes great disgust with subbing. It's because I know of too many people who walked out of college and immediately got a full-time position without having to sub one single day while the rest of us have been toiling at it for a while. Substituting is like the hazing process before getting into the fraternity. It keeps you on your toes, it shows you that not all classes are peaches and cream, that not all kids are the same, but also teaches you to adapt. Going from school to school and at the different levels (elementary, middle and high) gives one a well-rounded peek at the whole of the district and not just one sector.

This is so incredibly accurate. I student taught in the fall, substituted from November to June, and was hired into a 1st grade job the next year. One of the folks that I taught with had student taught in the spring and walked right from student teaching into a full-time position. I had taught 100s of different kids in 10 different school in 3 different districts; he'd taught 22 kids in one classroom. I'd dealt with

  • middle schoolers asking me if I was gay,
  • a near fist-fight in the high school,
  • parents disliking me because who was I to hold their child accountable for anything,
  • serving time in the behavior intervention room (long, long, loooong day),
  • not getting support from the principal after breaking up a fight on the playground,
  • and having an EBD kid smear crap all over the bathroom walls

...and all he had to go on was one nice class of 22 first graders.

Subbing hardens you. Subbing makes you think. Subbing teaches you how to punt when the lesson isn't going well, how to organize your day, how to fully see just what the kids are doing, and so much about classroom management. A good substitute teacher is worth just as much as a good classroom teacher, and maybe more. I know that when we have workshop days we all argue about who gets to request The Good Ones and who gets their name tossed into The Lemon Lottery.

Anyhow, I think that if my friend had subbed at all he would have survived his first year and would be flying high today. He didn't make it, though. One year and out the door because of classroom management and parent problems. Subbing fills in the blanks that student teaching can't. It's excellent experience, even if the experience sometimes isn't all that excellent.


Blogger -llm. said...

I know someone who quit teaching before December of his first year. I couldn't imagine how you could go through two years of a teaching program and not have an idea of whether or not you could do the job. But there he was. A smart man, Masters from Stanford, years of working experience, in his 40s and he just quit. Couldn't do it. If he had subbed before starting teaching he'd have known. I think it's an excellent suggestion.

I started subbing before I entered my teaching program and it was wonderful. I learned a LOT and I knew it was where I wanted to be.

6:35 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

This post completely freaks me out. I'm doing Alternative Certification, which means I could land in the classroom without even student teaching. I work full-time at another job and can't really afford to quit for a maybe-paycheck from subbing...? Feel free to comment at my blog with suggestions and advice.

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