I’ve finished two weeks of substitute teaching and the one thing I can be sure of is that every day is an adventure. Even though you might think you what you signed up for, there is a pretty high chance that you’ll be wrong.
So far, I’ve subbed for high school P.E., speech, pre-ap physics, English at an international high school. I’ve also taught fourth-grade and been a teacher’s assistant for first-grade special education at a dual-language school. Next week I’ll be a TA at a middle school and teach first grade.
I thought I was going to be so prepared for all of this, but I quickly learned the best thing for me to do was expect the unknown and do my best to make a connection with the students.
At my first-grade TA job, I arrived only to discover that it was a dual-language school and the language of the day was Spanish. I was not prepared to use my Spanish, but I did the best I could (aka I spoke mostly English).
The international school I subbed for is for students new to the U.S. and who have failed their English speaking test. The students come from all over the world, but primarily they are from Spanish-speaking countries. I taught in Spanglish that day. At first I was freaked out to be directing classes through a very important state-mandated test in a foreign (to me) language. I tried using English, but ended up getting mostly blank stares from the students. They had to do the work in English, but they needed explanations in Spanish. The moment I started speaking Spanish to them, I gained respect and their full-attention. It was interesting how just a small adjustment on my part made their learning/testing process so much easier.
Don’t get me wrong, aside from all the serious stuff about having to actually teach these kids and make sure that they don’t fall behind on account of me, there are plenty of hilarious stories.
A varsity basketball player brought me a rose when I subbed the day before Valentine’s Day. I told him, “Give it to someone who cares.” Hilarity ensued as his friends cackled at him. At the same school, the head basketball coach texted me immediately after I left the school to ask me on a date. That was awkward. I said no, of course.
At the international school, two 18-year-old freshman hit on me the entire class period. In Spanish. Asking to see my Facebook, writing their phone numbers on sticky notes, and then sadly throwing them away after I told them I didn’t want their phone number because even though they are 18, they still are students and I have a boyfriend anyway.
These first two weeks have been interesting. I’ve felt frustrated, excited, disappointed in the education system and motivated by teachers who truly are passionate about their jobs. I’m still ready to go back to a writing job, though.