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ricethought 01-12-2019 01:18 AM

In need of some advice...
What are the expectations for a substitute? I am very confused...
I subbed half day for a third grade class, and the lesson plan said to go over every question to ensure they did it correctly. I did that, then the teacher came back for the second half of the day and promptly threw it away, saying it was busy work.

I subbed for a middle school and all the kids had to do cornell notes and turn it in at the end of the day. I could only get three students to finish out of 30 kids because they were incredibly rude, racist, and entitled. They called me "bro," threatened to get me fired, made wishes that I would go to my car and cry alone because I made them do their assignments. I had to call security and they told me "just forget the work--you're only a sub. Just keep them out of trouble."
I always follow lesson plans to the best of my ability, and always leave detailed notes and neat piles of work turned in by the students. I am always extremely worried that I will slip up and get fired. I dont want to call the office on disruptive students because I fear it will make me look like I have no classroom management. How do I keep my sanity?
Then I go to another school to talk to a former teacher of mine, and he said some of his subs write a note to him that says "didn't understand lesson plan. we just talked about my grandchildren for each period."

kahluablast 01-12-2019 06:01 AM


the teacher came back for the second half of the day and promptly threw it away, saying it was busy work
. Personally, even if that was the way she felt about it, I would have waited to throw it away. That seems very rude.

Busy work could also be equivalent to practice work. We don't always grade everything. If you did it with the class, I wouldn't grade it because I would consider it practice. I often leave practice work for subs, or review work. Things I don't want to grade... Sometimes I leave tests with specific guidance for expectations because I know that is a fairly easy thing to administer and often easier than leaving a skill to practice, not knowing the ability of the sub. I don't need detailed notes from the sub. Notes in the margins of the plans work well - ie. finished this, got to page 2, Student left early - that kind of thing. I usually don't have time to figure out the piles of work left AND read 3 pages of notes from the sub, and get ready for a new day. :)

Middle school. I do think that the goal in most MS classrooms with a sub is to make it through the day. I have heard that often teachers leave study guides, or independent reading and worksheet, or even movies often. The age level is full of disrespect and rudeness on a daily basis. I was shocked by attitudes when my kids were in middle school. I barely liked them! <!--giggle--> I have the highest respect for MS teachers, and people who agree to sub there? Why, I think they might just be insane! Maybe some of our ms teachers and subs will chime in on how to deal with them.

mrsd5 01-12-2019 07:50 AM

Middle school
It's where I shine. Maybe because I have the same attitudes as the students? Anyway, the ELA and social studies teachers leave me actual work (most of the time) as they know those subjects are my forte. Math teachers know to leave review work or assessments. Science teachers usually leave independent work or work that they know I'm comfortable with. I don't sub for the littles for fear of making them cry with my sarcasm/wit.
Middle school students need you to show them respect. If they aren't showing it to me, I stop and wait. Generally, I don't raise my voice to them, because that just feeds the fire. Granted, I spent 20 years with those creatures, so know how to pick my battles.

mooba1 01-12-2019 09:09 AM

Kahluablast’s post is pretty much what I would’ve written, particularly her example regarding keeping your sub notes brief and pertinent.

“Didn’t understand lesson plan, we just talked about my grandchildren for each period”. Wow, talk about having no initiative whatsoever! Hopefully your friend reported this sub to the P.

As for middle school, I cannot help you. I started my career in MS, and moved to elementary as fast as I could. That was in the Dark Ages at the beginning of my career, when the biggest problem we had in MS was the constant mean girl drama. I cannot imagine the attitude and disrespect nightmare it would be today. Blessings on those who enjoy that age group and can handle them.

Sublime 01-12-2019 09:58 AM

I love the middle school I work at and I love the kids. They're funny and I can be funny with them. They are also generally well-behaved but there are always a few goofballs thrown in. I have sent less than 5 students to the office in all my years of subbing and some students I just put up with. Now, that does not mean that all middle schools are like this! The others in my district are more difficult and one I will not go to.

If you treat students with respect, even if you are furious, and follow your plans you shouldn't get fired. You will always have difficult classes that you can't wait to be over but hopefully you will have even more enjoyable classes and over time identify the schools you want to be at. I recognize busy work when I see it but as long as the students are working and not creating havoc, it's a successful day! However, throwing away the work in front of you was rude and disrespectful.

Sirsubalot 01-12-2019 02:52 PM

I do quite a bit of MS, and have learned not to challenge the student, or insist they do the work.

I let them know that if they are focused, it will be noted, and I do record students who are doing well.

I never raise my voice and tell them to get to work. I will give them reminders to get started, but I certainly do not get bent out of shape if they do nothing.

If they are too chatty as well as lazy, I will tell them to lower their voice so they do not disturb those who have chosen to concentrate and focus.

If they continue to be loud, I calmly tell them that I would prefer keeping them in the classroom, so please let others focus.

I sometimes ask the student if they would like assistance from another student, instead of assuming they are just being lazy.

I tell them that it is their choice whether they choose to focus, but to let me know if they need help if they want to get work done.

I rarely get rude or sarcastic students, but depending on their comments, I might try asking them why they felt a certain way and try to make a calm remark refuting them.

The bottom line is to let the student decide whether or not they want to do the work.
Emphatically telling them to do it will not work with a sub.
Encourage them, but show them that it does not bother you personally if they do not work.

MaineSub 01-14-2019 05:38 AM

Let's talk about reality...
I'll start by admitting that all generalities are false, including the ones I'm about to make...

In general, the teacher's expectations of a sub are often very low with good reason. The sub they get may be the one who filled in for your teacher friend. So the common joke is "if nothing gets broken and no one gets hurt, it's a good day."

As you've experienced, those expectations are fairly consistent among all stakeholders. Security tells you "you're only a sub, just keep them out of trouble."

The kids expect a day off when they are in charge of what happens by intimidating the sub.

Do we need to talk about admin and parents?

And then there are our own expectations of ourselves, often the most interesting and, by the way, the only ones we have control over.

I set a goal for myself when I started subbing that I would not call or send a kid to the office for discipline purposes. I've come very close a few times but the record is intact. I tell the kids I'm there to teach and I can't teach if them if they're sitting in the office twiddling their thumbs. It's interesting that the kids are aware of my record and, so far, no one has challenged it because (I think and hope!) no one wants to be the kid who costs me that record. (I'm in a relatively small school in a rural area--this might not work everywhere. My point is that you get comfortable by meeting your own expectations which are probably going to be higher than everyone else's!)

Subs often get overly concerned about classroom management... and the system works against us because of the low expectations. I'm convinced that if you keep a laser focus on teaching most of your classroom management problems go away. (The assumption is you have good material and at least a minimum of teaching skill.) The low expectation of teachers who leave videos to watch or "busy work" can mean you have to get pretty creative to make it about learning. No worries, though. Just make sure nothing gets broken and no one gets hurt... (Couldn't resist.)

I think it's a "Catch 22" and vicious cycle. Being concerned about "slipping up" is valid. But guess what? Teachers have the same problem. Develop good habits, focus on teaching and learning, don't get consumed by fear--particularly where students are concerned. Figure out your expectations of yourself and, as long as they are at least as high as everyone else's, you'll be okay. You get better by doing things. If you are constantly worrying, you'll get better at worrying. The only behavior you can truly control in the classroom is your own. Get your expectations of yourself lined up and focus on meeting them.

broomrider 01-14-2019 12:03 PM

subs ARE treated differently than teachers (or perhaps for the state of education in general, fortunately--if this is everyday in classrooms we are doomed.)

I was a team teacher and when my partner was absent, the students were qualitatively different even though only half of the dynamic changed. She assured me the same happened when I was gone.

For teachers, most subs are an unknown--their experience, level of teaching skill, and knowledge of subject. I and others often leave review materials and seldom ask subs to introduce new materials--out of self defense. I often needed 2-3 hours to prep for a sub, running off materials, labeling and stacking, pulling out manipulatives (not to mention clearing off my desk!)

I do think throwing the work away in front of you was bad. Both for your morale and for the students' if they were present. Teaching students that the work guided by a sub will be tossed gives permission for students acting out and not working for subs. I always marked and returned the papers led by a sub for exactly that reason whether or not they were recorded. It also suggests to you that the work you are asked to lead isn't valuable. Even as crowd control, it's valuable.

As far as classroom management is concerned, it's a work in progress for ALL new people in any classroom. My first classroom subbing experiences were BAD and this was in the 1980s! You will learn the teacher look (I think shooting lightning out of my eyes), the standing near the trouble makers, the hmmm what can I use as a carrot for this class, etc. I don't think it's a sin to ask administration for help when a few students make the classroom impossible. I've done it and been invited back. The students are often well known to the principal.

You are likely not aware that the Obama administration sent out a letter saying they were looking for civil rights violations in suspensions and expulsions of students of color which intimidated many administrators at the school and district level into doing nothing about behavior. Still, many building administrators will remove students from class at least temporarily which can let you get the rest under control and working. And the feds are looking at rescinding that policy.

I expect that as you sub more in your district(s) you will make a couple of lists for yourself, a YES list, a likely list, and a NEVER UNLESS I'M STARVING list. Schools are different, classrooms are different. Find the ones you enjoy or at least can abide. Given that so many schools are begging for subs, as your lists grows you may well be able to have more control over your own work life.

A reminder that secretaries are often wonderful people to have on your side. They are asked for recommendation of subs by teachers, they can provide good information on students, they often are doing the assigning of subs. Always greet and appreciate secretaries. :p

cassie23 01-23-2019 06:43 PM

Might just try again
Sirsubalot, I wish I had read this post before I subbed in a MS classroom a month ago. I vowed then and there never to do it again. It was two days of agony for me as I watched kids in a "targeted learning" classroom (which was really a study hall) during which time they were allowed to be on their phones per the classroom teacher's permission. Most of them did NOTHING productive, unless you consider laughing, taking pictures of each other, and watching you tube videos to be productive, which I do not. I roved around the room a few times, trying to get students engaged in some kind of study activity only to be met with rudeness and resistance. I have high expectations for myself as a sub and believe I should be able to keep all students quiet and engaged but I am very new to subbing and see by your post that this expectation is probably not going to allow me to be successful at this level.

I plan to print out your reply and use your advice if I ever feel brave enough to try subbing in MS again. Clearly I have a lot to learn and I appreciate you sharing the wisdom that has come from your experience.

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