Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I Hate Subbing

Some of my colleagues love it. After all, it's a chance to make 27 bucks, or whatever it is, for minimal effort. Who really expects you to teach Chinese or physics or whatever? Not anyone reasonable. The teacher is absent, and someone has to go in there and make sure the students don't throw one another out of windows. But honestly, in schools built in the last fifty years or so, there isn't even enough space for a human to get out of the windows.

But twice a year I owe a freebie, and I have to go out and cover some class. I did one yesterday, in fact, and the students were lovely. I got the assignment the period before, while I was teaching. I had no time to go to the department office and find out whether or not there was work for the kids. I told them to work or speak quietly and we would all be happy. Then they worked and spoke quietly and we were all happy. It was very nice.

But you never know. Sometimes you walk into a classroom and the kids start testing you. Let me see if I can get away with this. Maybe I can do that. Let's see what this teacher will do. Now this teacher, if he's subbing, will call the dean and have you removed. I mean, I'm probably never going to see this kid again. Why should I strain myself trying to negotiate? You're out. Bye bye.

Sometimes an AP, to be helpful, will come by and say, "Hey, is it OK if I send that kid back?" It must be a great burden to have one extra kid sitting in that outer office. I say, "No, I sent the kid out, and I want the kid out." That's worked well enough for me. Of course, I'm sure there are some who just send the kid back, or who ask and don't really care what you answer. That's irresponsible and disrespectful to teachers, but that's life in the big city.

In my regular classes, it takes an awful lot for me to eject someone. After all, that's an admission that I can't maintain control. That means the kid wins most of the time. I'm not willing to concede control to a kid just because he's more obnoxious than I am. Besides, I don't know anyone more obnoxious than I am, and if I ever meet that person, I will just grow more obnoxious so as to better cope.

I really feel for ATR teachers, who have to go out and do this day after day, week after week, month after month. I'm hopeful that the new incentive will pull people out of this, even though I read things suggesting otherwise, and with good reason.  It's tough for me to sub a single class, because the thing that makes my classes interesting are the kids, and the relationships we develop. Without that, I'd have lost interest in this job a long time ago.

What's the secret to successful subbing? Anyone know? It could perhaps be the thirst for money. You know, it you make 27 bucks a day, that's almost 5K a year. You could buy a used car with that, and it's likely as not you wouldn't have to push it to work every day. Or maybe you love kids so much that you don't care whether or not you know them, or whether or not you have time enough to know them at all.

I've been teaching longer than most people I know, and I haven't got an answer. Mine is to dread the inevitable freebie, and hope for the best when it crosses my path. I was lucky yesterday. But who knows what's gonna happen next time?
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