Every Teacher Should Substitute Teach First
After my experience substitute teaching on Monday, I came to the conclusion that every teacher should have to substitute teach before accepting a full time position. Some teachers do not realize what it’s like to be a sub and just walk into a different classroom every day. If everyone had subbing experience, it would more adequately prepare teachers for leaving plans for a substitute.
On Monday, I had a job lined up to substitute as a high school intervention specialist (special education). The job had been posted several days earlier, so the teacher had planned to be out. Usually, scheduled absences are the best because the teacher has time to leave good plans. I have subbed in high schools before an as an intervention specialist. This wasn’t going to be anything new for me, and I expected a normal day.
I was wrong, and should have realized it from the second my alarm started going off at 5:40 that morning. I woke up to the sound of rain and looked out to see the cloudy, gloomy sky. On top of that, I had a headache. I had subbed several times in this district, but I had never been at this high school.
When I arrived, I struggled to find my way around the maze that they call hallways. After stopping for directions a few times, I stumbled my way into the main office. However, I picked a bad first day to be in that building. It’s Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) week. Yes, a standardized state test given to all freshmen and sophomores for the first two hours of school, with shortened periods and adjusted bell schedule the rest of the day. Since that was clearly not enough, the teacher failed to leave me plans.
This is the reason why every teacher needs to experience life as a substitute first. The worst situation to go into as a substitute teacher is not having plans. Being in a special education room, the students were unable to help me out either. I was entirely on my own. To compound that, the teacher left me her schedule for a normal day and not the special OGT schedule.
What is a substitute supposed to do when they have no plans left for them? I could not just give the students a study hall their entire time. That can work in some situations, but in this one, it was out of the question. I had to search around the room before the students arrived to try to find something for them to do. Luckily, I found some stuff to do to occupy the students. The only thing going my way was the shortened periods.
Clearly, this should serve as adequate evidence as to all teachers serving as subs first. Common sense alone should tell you to leave plans for the sub. While I am not privy to the reason plans were not left, I am confident there was not good excuse. The teacher had ample time to prepare for the planned absence. Did they just not care enough to leave plans?
I have learned some pretty substantial things when subbing. I feel as though I will be better prepared when I have my own classroom and students. I will know the questions subs have coming into the classroom. I can leave detailed notes and plans. I can warn them about potential behavior problems from certain students. I will always provide a substantial amount of work for the students to do so that the sub isn’t left with nothing for the students to do. I will leave passwords to log on if I expect them to use my computer and multi-media. There are so many little details of every day teaching that are overlooked because they occur as part of the process. Sometimes, those seemingly minute details are crucial to running an efficient class.
Yes, there were definitely extenuating circumstances that compounded my bad day of subbing. Generally speaking, I have very good plans left for me when subbing. However, it only takes one careless teacher to make a bad impression. I think if most teachers understood what it was like to be a substitute, they would leave fantastic plans. Unfortunately, not all teachers have had that experience. I am just thankful for my time subbing so that I will leave well prepared plans for substitutes in the future.