Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Of subbing, I speak.

I'm starting to form a few theories about substitute teaching:

1. The younger the kids, the more actual teaching you will do.
Having subbed for younger elementary classes now, as opposed to sixth grade, I've noticed a dramatic increase in the amount of actual teaching that I do in the younger grades. For instance, in today's adventure with third graders, I taught a lesson on multipliers for math class, and a reading lesson with vocabulary words. Seldom have I walked into a middle school classroom and been expected to actually teach any content.

From what I can gather, the younger grades require more teaching from subs because a) eight year-olds, with their attention spans of puppies, can't just work on worksheets all day, b) the content is basic enough that functioning adults should understand it, and c) elementary school teachers are more trusting of subs. When I left sub plans as a high school teacher I assumed a) my students could work independently for 45 minutes to an hour, b) the content may be outside the experience of the sub, and c) my sub could be an idiot. Sorry - but it's true. I had some pretty terrible subs that had no business being in a classroom; hence, I usually tried to leave idiot-proof lessons involving work time, videos, or computer lab assignments. Subs who walk into an elementary classroom - especially anything below fourth grade - better have their game face on. Don't bother bringing a book to read - unless you're blessed with it being an art or music day, you're gonna be on your feet doing real teaching most of the day.

2. The younger the kids, the more you can trust them.
Eight year-olds do not lie. Okay, some of them try, but they suck at it. They can't keep a straight face, and even if they can, four others in the classroom immediately pipe up to tell you that Joey is lying. When the students are this young, they are still mesmerized by their teachers and acknowledge that the teacher has some kind of authority in the room. If you ask them to line up, they do it. If you ask them to sit down, they do it. If you ask them to hop on one foot, they do it (then they tell you a story about how one time, they hopped for two minutes straight, and then their foot hurt, and...).

While they may follow the direction immediately, the catch is that in five minutes they will have completely forgotten what you told them, and you'll have to say it again. You begin to feel like an airport security announcement that repeats the same monotone warning about not leaving your bags unattended or agreeing to hold anyone elses' bags. But, you can trust that they will do what they are told to do, again, primarily because several other students will rat them out if they don't. Threats of a bad note to the teacher elicit serious fear, plus you can always whip out the ultimate weapon... lost recess time!!! (Insert evil laugh here.)


sister,  March 18, 2009 at 9:06 AM  


Don't commit the cardinal Sports4Kids sin of being THAT TEACHER that uses recess as a privilege! You can threaten all you want, but let those kids get their wiggles out, they need it!

Ok, had to get that out as I prepare to head out to recess in SF and fight the good fight one more day :)

Mugs March 18, 2009 at 9:10 AM  

Have no fears - I wouldn't ever actually keep them inside... I need that time to go to the bathroom! Though thinking about it now, I definitely heard 5 different teachers threaten that yesterday. I think Sports4Kids needs to get a public service announcement out there encouraging teachers to change their view of recess...

keby March 19, 2009 at 3:54 PM  

Sister, there was a great report today featuring Sports4Kids and the important of recess and kids playing during the day on NPR's All Things Considered.

Way to go! I hope the report makes everyone know about the good work you're doing.

sister,  March 20, 2009 at 12:03 AM  

Yes! So glad you heard our piece - the coach featured (Coach Michelle in San Jose) is actually coming on our Portland Recess Roll Out trip in a week as well. Very exciting!

For anyone that's interested, the link:


Didn't think you would mind the free S4K plug Mugs :)

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