Design Teaching

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 31 2012

What would your school do?

I’m coughing up phlegm and my nose is a chapped cherry red from constantly rubbing against tissues. Our history and math teachers are both out on family emergencies. One of them can’t make it back for another week.

That leaves one grade level teacher for the 7 hours we have our kids every single day. 7 hours with 99 kids. 99 kids whose only guarantee is that they will find a way exhilarate, inspire, and exasperate you.

What would your school do?

Mine told me to stay at home and rest.

Note: This was written a month ago and posted just now… we’ve all recovered, now!

Edit: At my school, we try to use as few substitutes as possible. Our message to the students is that we respect and value you as individuals, and, every moment counts. Unfortunately it’s hard for a substitute to be consistent with those two messages… This time we did hire a substitute for one of the days I was out (the history and math classes were covered by our two awesome deans as well as the sixth grade math teacher who cleared their schedule to help out), and when I came back I needed to reteach the objective as well as spend some time debriefing with the students, many of whom were upset because the substitute’s predominant classroom management strategy was to yell.
Furthermore, a ton of the work we do at my school is not directly in the classroom, but rather in holding each student accountable for each piece of their homework everyday and getting to the bottom of every student issue (from potential bullying, to writing on the wall, to coaching students on how to have a productive conversation if someone jostles them in the hallway). A substitute just can’t replace that aspect of teaching, the character development of our children.
Because of this, it’s hard for me to easily take days off, and I’m harder on myself than I should be. My grade level chair and school leaders know this about me, so they always play the role of supporting me and telling me to get rest. We all work hard at my school, we see everyday how much our students have to learn, so the message we hear as teachers from the school is not, work harder, it’s, take care of yourself. And that, more than anything has made me really appreciate my school.

7 Responses

  1. …call subs for us out of the district sub pool? Is this a trick question? :D

    • Deborah

      See the edited post above!

      We don’t have a district pool of substitute teachers, we contract out to a private company of substitutes. This is probably a contributing factor to the lack of school culture alignment when we do have substitutes come in.

      • Are you at a charter, then? It is really nice having a sub pool…at my site we use the same two subs almost every time. They are competent (one of them is a better teacher than I, I suspect) and know the kids and the school well, so it doesn’t end up being a lost instructional day.

        • Deborah

          Yes, I’m at a charter school. How does the sub pool work at your school? Why are the subs you use consistent? Are they retired teachers or aspiring teachers?

          • The district vets a bunch of people all over the region and pre-approves them to act as subs. Some of the subs are retired or out-of-work teachers, but mostly not. The sites can call whomever they like from the pool. It is a pretty good system.

  2. Seriously, were there no subs? Seven hours with 99 kids sounds like something straight out a teaching nightmare.

    • Deborah

      Check the edited post! Also, even though we did have three other adults fill in for the class times, it is still incrediby hard for the one grade level teacher left who has to deal with all the student issues that are normally taken care of by four teachers, so I appreciated that this teacher and my school administrators were so clear about wanting me to stay home and rest. They gave me the gift of peace with the decision to stay home so that I could rest, even if it was a burden on them.

      Is that clearer?

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