The life of a substitute teacher is an interesting one. On any given day, you may be required to walk into a completely foreign school, and command respect the moment you walk through the front gates. This can often be belied by the fact that you have a fruit cup packed in your bag for recess, and often have difficulty finding the front office.
I teach English to college students who don't want to learn English. I teach Freshman Composition. It is a required course, which means all students have to take it, whether they are majoring in math, science, computer engineering, architecture, medicine, or underwater basketweaving. Very few are majoring in English. Very few want to be in the room. Very few see any point in taking English AGAIN. They've taken it every year they've been in school. They speak (at least most of them) English (I do get some non-native speakers sometimes), or some variation of it, so enough already. My classroom is the last place they want to be.
Recently I was working with a group of young students who were, as students do, resisting doing the task that I, the educator, wanted them to. I began to enter into the familiar dance that anyone who has ever worked with children likely knows well: Kids moving around the room, talking to friends, asking unrelated questions, raising their hand and telling long-winded, boring stories about their friend Carley’s pet hamster who pooped on the floor. Everybody laughs but you—because let's face it kid, your story sucks and I see what you’re trying to do here.
One of my classes is pretty verbose and rowdy. The code word is "social." I have not had much success in getting AND maintaining their attention this year. This class lags behind my other sections on a consistent basis when I am presenting lessons just because there are more interruptions from the class. Some interruptions are unwanted, like stupid 7th grade jokes about Uranus. Some are ok, like questions about how the material relates to them and other interesting tangents.
So you think you want to teach
Hello and thanks for stopping by!
In my life, I have had a variety of jobs and one career. I have worked at a smoothie shop, a bagel shop, an OBGYN office, and a car dealership to name a few. I was a substitute teacher for half of a school year before settling in to my career as a full-time elementary school teacher. After teaching for five years, I had my first child and decided to take off. I truly loved teaching, so I figured I could sub part-time so I’d still be able to teach occasionally.
For the last 34 years, I've attempted to teach English to students who, for the most part, do not want to learn English. Have you ever tried to teach a puppy to sit? The puppy has no desire to sit. The puppy wants to frolic, run, play with toys. The last thing a puppy wants to do is sit. It's pretty much the same trying to teach students English.
I led a training this summer where teachers were introduced to a new science curriculum newly adopted by our district. The room was filled with excited but nervous energy. Many teachers commented about how they were excited to teach the new content and how the new curriculum would be so much better for their students. However, on the flip side of that coin, I also heard, "I'm not sure how I'm going to do this." The echos of this statement are familiar to me because, as an educator, I have whispered those words to myself multiple times over the years. I know how it feels to be presented with something new and being overwhelmed with the time and energy it will take to implement it into my teaching practices. During this training, these teachers were presented with the obstacles of time and technology, and I could almost read the defeat on some of their faces when they realized they were going to have to overcome challenges they weren't prepared to take on this school year. I cannot count how many times I have felt this way myself over the years. Usually, this defeated feeling comes when I'm told I need to collect behavioral data, or when I have to come up with Plan F for student intervention. But what I have learned recently is that it is these moments that are allowing me to grow as an educator. When I lean into the uncomfortable and overwhelming situations with a belief that there is a solution, then I find myself trying instead of letting the feeling of defeat win.
A campus is an extremely important element of college pedagogy. We don't consider everything that it does for us when we are there.
The year was 2008, I was in college and the first black U.S. President was just elected. I had no real direction in college at the time, just taking general classes. The victory of President Obama was a big deal. This is the first presidential election for me after high school. Second, I felt it was time for me to finally get involved and be up to date with politics. I knew, however this required much reading and history. All and any issues the president-elect has, they inherit from before. Their problems are not birthed from a vacuum.