Oh. My. Word.

April 5, 2008

I still haven’t completely processed my experience as a substitute teacher yesterday. And as much as I would love to sit here and write thoughtful, coherent paragraphs about my observations and faux pas, I don’t know that I can. But I’ll try.

When I arrived, I signed in, got a map of the school from the office, and went up to the classroom. I looked around for some set of instructions, but didn’t find any. I was debating whether to call the office or panic when a teacher came in. She told me that hers was the classroom next door, and she was dropping off a birthday present for the teacher I was subbing for. Then she said that the teacher I was subbing for was in the building and would probably be coming in to say hello.


So, the teacher did come in and got me acclimated. She gave me a schedule to follow and papers to hand out. I used one of the tips that I got at orientation — making a chart of the students names and desks so I would know the students’ names without having to ask them who they were.

By this time, the students started arriving. There was a real mix — all different academic levels, races, and social/economic backgrounds. There were about 25 of them. The teacher took attendance and told the kids that she expected them to behave for me; and that the kids who were well behaved all day would enjoy a special cake as a treat on Monday.

Rather than get into a blow by blow of how the day progressed (because I really don’t want to relive it), here’s the bottom line…

I talked to the students as if they were my children: Please sit down. I will call on you when you are at your desk with you hand raised. Yes, you may. No, you may not. Please raise your hand. I want everyone to be quiet before we head downstairs.

They completely ignored me and did as they pleased, usually quite loudly.

On the other hand, when other teachers came into the classroom and yelled at them, called them names, and out-and-out belittled them, they snapped to attention and behaved. Now, it could be because they already know and respect the authority of the teachers, but somehow I doubt it. I have a hunch it’s more because being spoken to that way is what they’re used to at home.

Is being belligerent and demeaning what it takes to get kids to behave these days? Because honestly, I don’t know if I can talk to kids that way. Even if I’m getting paid to do it.

I’m going to continue substituting for a while and see if it gets better. But if I find that I am resorting to hostile speech in order to maintain control of a classroom, I think I will be looking for employment elsewhere.



  1. Wow.

    That makes me sad.

  2. I tried that job a couple of times. One elementary school girl snatched the eyeglasses right off of my face. NOT for me.

  3. I am ignoring this… I am ignoring this…

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