One of the things I love most about being a substitute teacher is the complete unpredictability of the job. When I step foot into a school in the morning, I have absolutely no idea where I’ll end up.
Oh, the dispatch callers who give you the assignments will tell you which department a particular teacher is assigned to, but that often doesn’t mean anything. I could get a call to be in for an English teacher and end up teaching computers, or a call for special education, and end up teaching science.
Today was one such example.
On Friday night I went out for dinner with a couple of my girlfriends, and while I was out dispatch called and left a teaching assignment for Monday with the Hubster. It was the first time that I had been assigned to officially cover two teachers at the same school on the same day. I often cover “on-calls”, but that’s usually just covering a single period for a teacher who is out for a meeting or something, and it’s usually in the cafeteria.
The assignment for today was Business in the morning, and Geography in the afternoon. I was really surprised by the Geo assignment (it’s not one of my teachables) but I thought it could be fun. I love being in classes I haven’t taught before–it’s a great introduction to the many courses and subjects taught in the Ontario Curriculum. You barely get a taste in teacher’s college placements, so this is fabulous!
In a lot of ways, I think substitute teaching is a lot like acting. If you are assigned a class that you have a) never taught before; and b) have no idea how to teach it; because c) you don’t understand any of the course content you have to sort of… fake it. Letting on that you have absolutely no idea how to do the work your students are doing can be a very dangerous thing–students love to take advantage of a teacher that isn’t in their element. So while I never hesitate to admit to students what my core teachables are (if they ask), I also try to appear comfortable in whatever subject I’m in.
Take today, for example. My morning assignment was: Business. I usually teach the computer / tech end of the business courses where I’m quite comfortable. Today “business” turned out to be “Financial Accounting”.
Have I mentioned how much I loathe numbers and anything math-related? The only numbers I’ve ever been competent with are page numbers. In books. I like books.
Lucky for me, the assignment today was quite challenging and several students required help. Fake it until I make it, right? I had two choices: 1) Help them and most likely send them down the wrong path (my history with math / numbers is not pretty); or 2) Get creative.
Instead of letting on that I had no idea how to do their assignment, I encouraged them to get creative and solve their problems together. I had the class asking each other how to get through parts they didn’t understand and I just facilitated the discussion. Thanks to a few bright students who caught on to the work immediately, the whole class plowed through and I didn’t have to look like a bumbling idiot. WIN.
My second period was a “prep” period. I was originally supposed to go down to the library and help out, but the office called and said it wasn’t necessary, so I had 75 glorious minutes to quietly read my new book that I absolutely cannot put down. It was so lovely. Did I mention that I get paid to read? :)
After lunch I switched teachers and was supposed to be teaching geography. In this instance, “geography” meant Environmental Science, yet another course I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of teaching. This material was a little easier to navigate my way through (there were no numbers involved) and I was actually able to teach the material and explain the assignment in a way the kids understood. WIN. (again)
Now, my fourth period was also slated as a prep period (two preps in one day? AMAZING) but the office mentioned that another teacher was out and I offered to cover the class during my last period.
At the time I didn’t realize that it was a grade 12 boys gym glass. Ha.
Grade 12 boys are a lot taller than I remember. They all towered over me, but I used my “I’m a teacher! Listen to me!” voice and got them organized into four basketball teams and passed the period uneventfully. It was actually kind of fun…
…that one time. I think I’m done with boys gym.(I was ready to sit them down and talk to them about the joys of deodorant, but time ran out. Oh well.)
Anyway, it was a full, busy hodge podge day and I loved it.
Who knows where I’ll be tomorrow? Based on today’s randomness, I’m guessing… auto tech. haha