The Long First Day

I signed up to sub as a TA in ECI, which is basically preschool for children with special needs. They kindly requested I sub for Art instead.
I had not planned or prepared to teach independently yet, but agreed to be flexible. The office staff informed me, I would only have three classes to teach. These were all in the midday and afternoon.

Insufficient Sub Plans

The teacher left insufficient, confusing sub plans for me to follow. For example, the sheet informed me that I apparently had hallway duty at the main hall intersection (with no map telling me which of the 2 intersections was the appropriate one) in the afternoon from 3:35 to 3:45 pm; however, my last class was not to dismiss until 3:40 and the teacher showed up to pick up her class a few minutes late.
The sub plans did not match up with the worksheets left, and I had to make a decision to roll with the worksheets rather than try to find the ones that matched up to the written plans.

After looking at the worksheets, a coloring activity, I quickly realized that there was an issue. There was no way it would take the students an entire hour to complete the single assignment. Indeed, some kids (even the youngest bunch) completed it with 30-40 minute of instruction time remaining. I found the sub stash: coloring pages. I decided to allow free-draw or coloring a 2nd item.
Leaving a substitute with so much empty space to fill is a recipe for disaster.

Classroom Management

All new substitutes have to figure out how to deal with managing students. I’m still figuring this out. Having extra time with no direction is NOT a help in this situation. No “behavior” information posted in the classroom or next to the sub notes is also challenging. Perhaps I just didn’t look in the right place, but in an unfamiliar classroom putting things in easy to locate spots is the best thing to do.

That aside, I was NOT at all prepared for my first class: 4th Grade!

This class was CHAOS unleashed. I felt like I was running around putting out fires rather than teaching, guiding, or instructing. One child managed to get crayon skid marks all over the floor, jam the pencil sharpener with an eraser, and move the carpet while I was correcting crayon throwing at another table. I got the sense he wasn’t a troublemaker so much as he had some other challenge (such as ADHD). In retrospect, I lost control of that group at the beginning. I was not authoritative enough, and went in survival mode. I didn’t yell at the students, praised good behavior, and remained calm, but I just didn’t know how to get them to be quiet and listen.
My other classes, a 2nd grade group and Kindergarten group were slightly smaller and easier to manage.

What I Learned

  1. Always be prepared to teach anything. If I had packed my sub bag with my rewards box, I may have been able to bribe them into better behavior.
  2. Figure out how to call the office and when it’s appropriate to do so. In retrospect, I should have started writing down names (challenging when you don’t know their names) and should have called the office on the destructive kid or written up. My first sub experience, I didn’t expect to have such chaos.
  3. It doesn’t matter if they like me. While I know this, it’s still difficult for me personally to remember since I am naturally the kind of person who craves approval. At the end of the day, my job isn’t to be liked. It’s to guide and instruct.

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