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smoh03 smoh03 is offline
 
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Venting here: horrible day
Old 02-21-2018, 02:06 PM
 
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This is going to be a long one, but I just have to get this off my chest. I am a substitute teacher, and this is my second year.

I was a roving sub yesterday, subbing for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classes. I've subbed for these particular classes before as a roving sub, and though they weren't what we'd call "good classes," they weren't horrible. But I don't know what happened yesterday but most of the students were just so rude. The 4th grade class was difficult because they were chatty.

But the day really took a turn for the worst when I subbed for a 5th grade class next. There were these three boys who were being disruptive and disrespectful, playing with laser pointers, snickering, making comments. Boy 3 was pointing a laser pointer at Boy 2's face so I tried to take the laser pointer away from Boy 3 but he refused to give it up, saying with a smile, "The teacher lets us keep toys in class". Yeah, right, but I didn't want to cause drama so I let it go and just made a note for the teacher. It was a Spanish immersion school so they were supposed to read Spanish book during "Circulo" time. I saw the three boys and several other students reading English books and trying to fool me so I went around the class, telling them individually that they should be reading Spanish books, not English books. And Boy 2 goes "I don't understand why I need to learn Spanish," looking straight at me with the most defiant face he can manage to conjure up. At this point my patience is wearing thin.

And then when the teacher's assistant is giving them a lecture in Spanish, Boy 1 starts to bang pencil on the desk repeatedly, and I can tell he's doing this just to get on my nerve. I try to ignore it until I can't anymore and I go up to him, telling him he needs to stop. He stops banging the pencil on the desk but he's banging other things. I look at the assistant, she doesn't seem bothered by it, and I'm thinking if I'm the crazy one here, but I let it go because I don't want to cause a scene and I also don't want to step on the assistant's toes, since she's the one who has the floor right now.

Then after the lecture, Boy 1 approaches me and asks if he can put his jacket outside in his backpack. I don't trust him so I say no. And he starts to ask me repeatedly in a whiny voice why he can't put his jacket outside. And I am ashamed to admit that I lost it. I marched right up to him and bent down and told him "you're not respecting me or anyone else in this room, I don't know why you're expecting me to let you do this. So you need to sit down and work on your worksheet." I admit, this was a bit harsh, not professional, and I got into a useless argument with an 11 year old. But his and his buddies' behaviors were just mind-boggling to me. Then during Math this girl comes up to me and tells me that there should be no partner work during Math time. I see that there are several kids working in groups. So I break them up. And these kids respond with fury, complaining that the teacher lets them, and "what if I need help and I don't get it?" "The teacher lets us help each other." So I feel like I need to at least let them help each other and tell them that helping each other is ok but no partner work, which I admit was kind of stupid. But at this point even the good kids are acting up, marching over to other students in class, pretending to "help" them, but I know they're doing this to test what I'd say. I let them be because I don't want to deal with it. And then I see the three boys laughing and not working. So I tell Boy 2 and 3 "You've gotten into trouble with me multiple times today and I can't let you guys work together if you're just going to distract each other." They respond with shocked faces "we didn't do anything." I move Boy 2 to a different table, and then the whole row of students where the three boys sit start making comments like, "no wonder she's just a sub" and "I guess she's grumpy because she had to work yesterday (President's Day)." And then this one girl asks to explain what they did wrong and then looks straight at my face and says "See? You have nothing." I try my best to ignore them until the teacher comes back. I gave him the note I wrote, explained what happened, and left. I told the office as respectfully as I can that I don't want to go back to that class.

Now I'm worried because the kids probably complained their little hearts about about me, saying I was unfair and blah blah. I'm just wondering how seriously the teachers take the complaints that their students make about subs. And any advice on how I could have dealt with that better? Do I need to be more strict? I know I didn't deal with it in the best way, and I shouldn't have gotten into this power struggle and arguments with students.


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acute sense of fairness
Old 02-21-2018, 02:34 PM
 
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Yes, there's students in middle school that try to get under your nerves but most don't do it maliciously. I know that you see that. I think most of it stems from their acute sense of fairness.

And I think that you handled yourself well through non-response, keeping your cool, being respectful and more importantly, through documentation. What I would've done with those boys is set limits and the moment they have anything that's not part of their work, I would've just said to put away as they do not help with the activity they're working on. This is especially true of cell phones and those fidget spinners.

Yep, you're definitely not alone with these. I think you did good.
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Old 02-21-2018, 05:11 PM
 
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It’s good that you’re reflecting on your day, and thinking about what went well and what didn’t. It really helps to think about how you could better deal with things the next time, and have some new strategies in mind.

I only sub for elementary, but have certainly seen the behaviors you describe, particularly with 5th graders.

Here are a few things that work for me:
I don’t get into power struggles with students. It’s a battle I’ll never win, so I simply deliver the consequence for their behavior, turn on my heel, and walk away. When I’m having them clip down, sign their behavior card, or whatever the class discipline plan requires, I talk to the offender in a very calm, matter of fact tone. If they start to whine or argue, I use the broken record routine, repeating in a calm voice what they are going to do as a consequence.

Ex. Student A breaks a classroom rule. Me: Student A, you know better than to (fill in the blank). This is your first and last warning. 5 minutes later, Student A repeats the behavior. Me: Student A, take out your behavior card. Student A: But I wasn’t doing anything! Me: Take out your behavior card. It shuts them down very quickly when they realize I will have no emotional reaction to their foolishness.

Last week, a student made the mistake of saying, “But you only gave me one chance! Ms. Regular Teacher always gives us 3 chances”. My reply: “Do I look like Ms. Regular Teacher?” “No.” “Well then, get out your card”. End of discussion.

You must be very consistent, and avoid thinking things such as, “Well, even though I said no talking, they aren’t too loud” or “Ugh, this is going to be a problem and I don’t want to deal with it”.

If I get an obstinate student who completely refuses to comply, then I tell them I’m giving them 2 minutes to make a good decision, then I walk away. I tell them when they have one minute, and when they have 30 seconds left. So far, it’s worked. They get to save face by not immediately complying, and normally they’ll say something like, “Okay, fine!”, or else quietly give me the desired behavior. I don’t say anything else to them, so as not to draw attention to the situation.

We all have THOSE days, but the good thing is that we can move on, because tomorrow is a new day. Hope your next sub job is better.
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Old 02-21-2018, 05:48 PM
 
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Tomorrow I have a class that traditionally works my last good nerve. They go so far as to groan when they find out Iím their sub. For some reason the teacher keeps asking me back I will usually move some of the offenders to the empty desks in the back. There is no card or clip system in this class. I try to talk as little a possible too, one waring thatís it your name goes on my list and the teacher hands out the consequence ( and I know she does).
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Old 02-21-2018, 07:30 PM
 
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Laser pointers? No student should be playing with them in a classroom. If these boys refused to put them away, I would have called the office and sent them out.

It sounds like the teacher's assistant was useless, but it's possible that her hands are tied.

Subs put up with a lot and should be able to handle a number of different situations, but when students cross a line, it's time for administrators to handle things. These boys crossed a line, and there's nothing you could have done with them that would have made a difference. If administration won't support you, it's time to say goodbye to the school. I've done it.

I wouldn't spend a second worrying about complaints the students might have made about you. The regular teacher probably has a rough time with this class, and he probably has a hard time finding subs. You desire a medal for your time in that classroom. You were in an impossible situation.


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First, I'm glad that's something we can do...
Old 02-21-2018, 10:40 PM
 
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...here: vent. Sometimes writing this stuff helps to reflect in ways that just mulling over it won't, especially because of the potential for valuable feedback.

I subbed for two weeks at a middle school for a math and science teacher. I have experienced that if you enforce consequences up front, the tendency is for kids to stay in line more. By consequences, as a sub, I mean sending a kid to the office with a post-it note and asking the student to bring it back with some kind of signature. I don't like classroom management (no fun), but it's what one has to do. I even told one group of kids that there are two things I have to do: teach and manage the class; I love to teach, which makes me happy; and I don't really like classroom management, which makes me unhappy. I asked them which one is better for me to be and they responded with being happy (teaching, helping them with math).

Strict negative consequences don't fix everything, obviously, but some kids only respond to negative, immediate consequences because it says you mean business.

All that said, I still had moments when I wish I had handled things differently. I also realize that the next time, when I handle things differently, I might still regret how I felt afterwards. Only thing I can do is learn from experience and do my best. Some kids just have messed up lives and there's no way I can fix that. But I can keep them from getting in my head and under my skin--at least not permanently.

I read or heard somewhere that good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from making bad judgments. Here's to developing good judgment.

P.S. Don't beat yourself up. But if you must, do it for 5 minutes and then let it go.
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Old 02-21-2018, 10:53 PM
 
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The kid with backpack I would of displayed lower value (DLV) in a silly funny way. I would of said something like you could put your jacket in your backpack as long as you put your shoes and a teddy bear in your backpack as well. If he says he don't have a teddy bear and he needs his shoes. I would of went even more ridiculous and said well you could ask the kindergarten teacher for a teddy bear and i give you permission to ask the principal to borrow his shoes. Kids usually can't help but laugh over this and it gets them calmed down a lot more. If you try DLV in a funny silly way you will see how effective it is in diffusing a bad situation like the one you described.
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Old 02-22-2018, 12:25 PM
 
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I totally agree with mooba1 and c6g . Great responses! Zero tolerance for bad behavior. It's the best and only way.
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Old 02-22-2018, 06:26 PM
 
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It is always good to write here .It relieves you of stress .Middle school especially is very hard .Each day is new trials .Please don't loose courage .Need to stay for sure .
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Bad days
Old 02-22-2018, 08:12 PM
 
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Here's a strategy you could try.
Use a piece of notebook paper. Title it "Outstanding Students". When you observe a student acting positively, ask them to sign the paper. Tell the students you are going to turn the paper in to their teacher, who will provide a treat the next day.
Here's another little trick I've used when dealing with (gag) middle school students. When a student says, "She's just a sub." I usually go drama queen on them. I fake a sob and reply, "You're right, I'm just a sub, but my 80 year old mother needs this expensive medicine so she won't die. If I don't sub I can't buy her medication and she will die and it will all be your fault!' Put your head on a desk and sob. (Dramatically) By this time most of your students will be seated and watching you. At this point you slowly raise your head from the desk and say, "Gotcha!" (I know that this sounds absolutely crazy, but it works!)
The only other alternative I can suggest is to shake the dust from your as you leave the school never to return, go home and make yourself a big drink!!
Seriously-I wish you all the best. I've been in public education for 56 of my 61 years and I'd rather beg for food than go back to teaching middle or high school!


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Old 02-22-2018, 10:13 PM
 
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I have had a few days like this. My two pieces of advice are: stop doing elementary school and middle school. I have never subbed for a grade below 6th, but they always gave me the most classroom management issues. I am trying to avoid ms at all costs and trying to do Hs only. My work life has improved a little because of this.

My second piece of advice is never be a roving sub. My jobs will usually tell me if this is the case, and I stopped doing them after my first year. One time I was subjected to three different lesson plans and a few of the teachers were in the building and laid out plans that were way too much for a single period class. They had me giving out make up tests and sending kids to work outside and trying to teach a really difficult ms math class. They also made me work the lunch break, so I think I got about 15 actual minutes of free time that day. Subs deserve the prep period and a full lunch, and sometimes we don't even get the prep. When you rove there is just no consistency to the day and you really feel like a slave.
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Old 02-23-2018, 06:58 PM
 
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Please explain. I never understand when subs say we "deserve" prep time. What are you "prepping"? Don't get me wrong, i enjoy some down time as much as they next guy, but I consider it a bonus, not an entitlement.

And the rest of your post goes to show "different stroke for different folks." I prefer middle school, and roving days are usually my favorite.

I do agree you should get the alloted lunch break. My schools' secretaries always make sure I get at least 30 minutes. On roving days, it is sometimes more and I run home for a lunch/break.
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Thank you!!!!
Old 02-23-2018, 09:00 PM
 
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Thank you all!!! It helped to just vent, but it definitely helped to read all of your responses! Good to know I am not alone.

I think I will try the Outstanding Students list next time! I really donít enjoy classroom management, and donít like to send kids to the office, but it would have felt really good to send that one kid out

But no matter! Like all of you said, I wonít dwell on it. Thank you!!
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Works!
Old 02-23-2018, 09:05 PM
 
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By the way, I tried your advice yesterday mooba1 and it worked!! Thank you!!
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Old 02-24-2018, 08:24 AM
 
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Iím very thankful that my advice was helpful to you.
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Buahahahahahahahaha
Old 02-24-2018, 10:02 PM
 
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@stolaf
And furthermore, that was hilarious! Buahahahahahahahaha
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Old 02-26-2018, 05:09 PM
 
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If I teach 6 periods and they are all hell, I appreciate a chance to decompress. Prep is for all sorts of things- some teachers ask me to grade a quiz( personally I think that's lazy but I'll do it), I need time to go over a 4 page lesson plan and even more so if I am teaching several different grades and subjects that day. Teachers forget to make copies or I run out of what they left and I need to make more. I also sometimes need to augment or create my own plans when a teacher has not done their fair share in that department. I will always sub a class on my prep if asked, but I think subs deserve the time off as much as anyone else.
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Pushing boundaries
Old 03-02-2018, 08:12 PM
 
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Mooba1 and CG6 rock! Students like pushing boundaries and trying to get away with things when they think they can.

I had to watch a 7-8 grade combined class for a few minutes today while their teacher was in conference with a parent. The principal asked me to do so, and as soon as she left the room the kids started making all kinds of requests. !

One kid said (with a twinkle in his eye) we should go outside and read. Another asked to read something very inappropriate, and others wanted to go to the bathroom, get water in the hallway, etc. ! I know these kids, and I know their teacher, so I said, "No. No. Yes. Wait until she comes back, and by the way you only have two minutes in the bathroom and I'm watching the clock!"

Then I picked up a huge book that had a title like Questions and Answers of Everything You Always Wanted to Know. I got them started in a discussion about President Trump... they talked... I listened... and when their teacher came back we were still having a discussion. She said that is one topic they will happily talk about all day given the chance! (And I told her the one missing student was in the bathroom).

I prefer dealing with elementary students K-4th graders... 5th graders are in transition trying to gain their independence... Middle Schoolers are a mixed-up bunch of emotions.

I'll stick with elementary students! They like a routine and generally will follow their teacher's expectations.
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