16 Things I learned While Subbing – Parts 1 – 8

For those Gleeks out there, everyone knows of the famous Holly Holiday, the awesome substitute of McKinnley High School, and the paramour of Mr. Will Schuster.  Miss Holiday seemed to be the essential substitute, trying everything in her power to get the students to listen and respect her, by bringing in real world (IE real to the students) applications to teaching as a substitute.  I will have to say, I, as a sub, had to bring in Lindsey Lohan into a discussion on the Great Gatsby, by using her as Myrtle, and Joe Jonas as Tom.

Before I got my start teaching, I spent two years subbing, and in those two years, I learned some very important lessons regarding teaching, and life as a whole.  While I’m looking at the grim expectancy of losing my job at the end of the year due to budget cuts, and the whole “Last one in–first one out” law, my chances are very slim in having a job next year.

While I try not to think of what is going to happen, but instead look at the positives, I happened across an old (not really old, I purchased it in January of 2010)  mini journal book filled with do’s and don’ts I recognized in the process of substituting for different teachers.  I also would like to acknowledge that from here on out, these rules were based on the single fact that you cannot trust teenagers, even-though some are very trust worthy and will not take you for granted, the majority of teenagers are sniveling little backstabbers that would sooner defy you than listen to you, and take advantage of a lenient restroom policy.  FYI teachers do get notices of students with bladder/stomach problems now, so if you bring that up, it’s just a moot point.  That idea has not changed since I started subbing…completely honest, teenagers haven’t changed…I just got a stiffer back bone.

A Moleskin Safari

1. Do take down student info.

While some of you may be scratching heads at this one, the fact is fairly simple.  As a substitute, the students, even though with revolutions in seating charts with the child’s face on it, will always try to pretend to be someone other than who they are.  Some will try to gain the substitute’s trust then squash it like yesterday’s left over gum.  While the teacher and substitutes try to thwart the ever-increasing problem of student behavior, having some tricks up your sleeve will work.  One I noticed in one teacher’s classroom, that I use to this day was to have, at the beginning of the school year, the student fill out two note cards, one with their name, student ID number, and House (if the school was separated into learning communities), and on the other, the same, but with their email, Facebook account, Twitter account, parent/guardian’s phone number, birthdate, address and zip code.  In the corner would be the period the student belongs to.  While as a substitute, I would never see the second note card, the teacher always left card one for me to view, with a nice cut out of the students face.  This was to help the sub figure out who was the problematic student, and write the referral for the AP’s discretion.  The second one is only used by the teacher to make calls or emails to the student or their parent/guardian in an effort to control problematic behavior.  The Facebook and Twitter will come next.

Facebook/Twitter Icon

2. Do set up Twitter and Facebook accounts for postings of school work.

In the age where someone can post an image on Facebook, or say something offensive on twitter and subsequently lose their jobs (*Cough* Gilbert Godfrey), these applications can help in a teaching situation.  I noticed one simple thing while substituting, the students are either, A) Texting on their phone while pretending to be listening to class, or B) texting on Facebook/Twitter while pretending to be listening to class.  For a teacher of the modern world, your phone is a great portal to the outside world.  Facebook and Twitter are at the tip of your fingers, and some school districts are also allowing access for teachers to this great tool.  Students are always either on their phone or their computer, and a great majority of students will be on either Facebook or Twitter, therefore in theory, they have no excuse to go to a class-oriented page and look up their homework or test for the next day if it is posted on Facebook.  Many students in my perspective have appreciated this aspect of my classroom, since I post class work on the page and take it down after a week.  I also have a class calendar on it as well, along with updates to my students on tests and project due dates.  Of course common sense is not to post photos of my students or myself on this page, but I did make a snazzy class identity for students to know who I am on Facebook.

Studio 6: Desk

3. Do TRY, TRY, TRY to be organized!!!

This application translates into every day living, it also translates into teaching.  I have subbed for some of the cleanest teachers, and some of the most messy teachers to where they couldn’t find the work I left for them that day on their desk.  It does get bad, and not only that, I do stand by the old proverb “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”   It is hard as a substitute and a teacher to work in constant mess, and at times I would stay till six in the afternoon just to clean off the mess on my desk.  My own office is almost godlike, in organization, as my closet it, as you have seen from some photographs, but a lot of the organization came with time and effort on my part.  But as a teacher, it is highly possible to lose work on a messy desk, that’s why I redid my entire classroom the second six weeks of class to prevent the need of constantly fighting my messiness, and ended up with an organizer (from the Container Store no less), for my entire week.  I also bring my students in to grab their work that has already been graded to prevent clutter.  It’s all about training the students!


4. Do Not be responsible for lost pages.

This is one that I have to explain, and it kind of goes with organization.  See, in subbing and teaching, students have a tendency to lose their work, be it turned in the next week, the next day, or the next minute, students will lose their work.  What I’ve done to remedy this is to start a notebook, in which I place page numbers on all notes, worksheets, and book work, and have a notebook test to test what they have.  While in theory this is supposed to prevent the loss of work, I will admit that these students can lose their heads, if they weren’t attached to their cell phones and I do have students who fail the notebook test due to them not really wanting to take care of their notebook in the first place.  While long-term subbing, I had a class that everyday would ask me for work that they lossed and it bothered me to no end, so the notebook system came up, and that seemed to prevent the loss of work.  It really bothered me that they were unable to take responsibility for their own actions and neglect the responsibilities for school work.  I can say that at times I will have less than 5 students who do not turn in their work, but that was a hard road to challenge, and it is something I still struggle/work with to this day.


5. Do Not Allow students to keep the classroom dirty!

For those who remember the whole  “You cannot eat in the classroom” bit, the rules have changed, students hate that they cannot eat every single moment of the day, and will hide food in their bags to prevent this rule.  So some teachers have accommodated this a bit, and they do allow the students to eat in the classroom, the problem is that some teachers will be good about making the students clean the classroom of their mess, while others struggle with the students inability to clean up after themselves.  Some students are even so bad as to say “Its the custodian’s job to clean up after me.”  That may be, but it’s not polite, or sanitary to have five other classes to sift through your mess just to get the janitor to clean up after you.  My thing is sanitation, its disgusting for me to go through piles of used milk cartons, half eaten pizzas and apples, and left over ice cream wrappers, to make me realize that my students are slobs.  I remedied that.  After weeks of trial and error, I started showing my students what the whole place looks like after a week of not allowing the janitor to clean my classroom.  They got the point almost immediately, and constant nagging also helped as well.  Now I have a clean classroom, and the students are not eating as much in class.


 6. Do not allow students to have phones/mp3’s out for ANY REASON unless given permission.

While the obvious answer to this question is “DO NOT ALLOW THEM PERIOD”, it is a losing battle regarding phones and teenagers.  Unless there is legislation making it illegal for ANYONE to have a phone on school premises, this problem will not remedy itself.  For some teachers, they’ve used this problem into a solution, by integrating the technology into classroom learning.  I myself use the phone as a means of students to look up information for a focus and reward them for the treat.  Then class starts and phones are put away, I still have problems, and I don’t think they’ll ever be completely resolved, but I do have students listening to me at least.  What I have noticed is that mp3 can be used as nifty treats for students who are working on busy work.  By busy work, I mean the worksheet, or research to a lesson at hand that they can listen to music without being interrupted, this does alleviate classroom chitchat and enhances a group work environment, and I also use it as a treat after a test.  I guess the lesson here, is not to fight it, embrace the techno culture, and realize that these kids have an electronic addiction, one only remedied for them to realize that technology itself is not needed to satisfy life.

Charmin Restrooms - (85/2584)

7. Do not let them pile on to go to the restroom.

As a substitute, this was a problem, students were always asking me to go to the restroom once the period started, many were in fact not coming back once allowed to use the restroom.  This ruined the privileges to others who definitely asked to use the restroom.  So as a sub, I started the policy of no one is allowed to go to the restroom unless the person going comes back.  So if the student goes to the vending machines, then all privileges and food to the restroom are losed for the entire class.  As a teacher I have implemented the idea that no one in class is allowed to use the restroom until they finish their work.  This also alleviates constant restroom complaints, and I don’t have an interrupted class.  I know some of you are thinking about the students who do have problems, and need to use the restroom, I as a sub and a teacher are given information regarding the state of students, some teachers even write down names of in need students, so I know who to allow and who not to.  It’s not so bad either, because those students are the ones who DON’T abuse the restroom privileges.   It’s a matter of trusting the students to do the right thing, and punishing the whole to get the point across, it is also knowledge and trying to outsmart them at every turn.

Emmet Gowin at Doylestown Photography Club

8. Do Always have a power point-set up at the beginning of class.

This came after a long-term assignment.  The kids were always getting confused at the end of the period, trying to figure out what they were doing for the day, what the homework was, etc.  So I started setting up power points that allowed the students to see what the days work was going to be, before, during and at the end of  class.  This PowerPoint had the day listed at the top, the Objective for the day, the chronological order the class will go in, nifty trivia regarding the lesson at hand (random trivia for test and quizzes), and the students birthday’s for the day!  It really helped class morale, they enjoyed the fact that I acknowledged their birthday, and even other classes were amused at what I was doing, especially the other teacher’s class.  This also helped classroom management, because they knew exactly what was expected of them, and the loss of Birthday privileges on the PowerPoint.  I love self-absorbed teenagers!

This is it for now, I hope you enjoyed these interesting tidbits of my experiences while subbing.  If you’re offended in any way, just look at some of the teenagers out there, and realize that I teach in public school, I have to do some serious training to get some of these kids to listen to me, and respect me since I haven’t aged since I was 16.


The Teaching Obsessed Oracle of Dreams


About theoracleofdreams
The Oracle of Dreams is a High School teacher, who spends a great deal of time outside of school watching movies, listening to music, and various other artistic ventures. The Oracle of Dreams is a pseudonym for reasons beyond her knowledge, and wishes to keep her identity secret...or until she makes big bucks and can leave the teaching field...one can always dream bigger right?

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