Monday, September 24, 2012

Substitute teaching advice...for substitutes and for teachers

I've been thinking of writing this post since the end of the school year last summer. 

Advice for substitute teachers (I know the district is still hiring and there are fellow moms I know that are going to try their hand at subbing too)

And....advice for teachers to make our job easier and your class happier while you're gone. 

I was so excited to start Substitute teaching at my daughter's school, until the first day when I realized how unprepared I really was. I was given a set of keys, to a door I didn't even know how to unlock. I was given a squirrely 5th grade class the day before spring break with a set of lesson plans I didn't know how to read and teacher's manuals that I had never seen before and didn't know how to decipher. Of course you were supposed to be in charge and appear you know what you are doing when the whole day I just felt like I was trying to keep my head above water. 

After my first day I started searching for maybe some resources or on-line advice for substitute teachers. Nothing really current or relevant to what I found was a struggle...pretty much you are on your own. The only training you get from the district is a safety briefing and a lesson on how not to get blood borne pathogens. 

Since then I've realized there is a learning curve. Just know you are always jumping into a situation blind, trying to figure it as you go while appearing to be in control ;) So since I am starting again tomorrow I am going to share some of my own observations and helpful hints for myself...and anyone else that might be like me after my first day...looking for some guidance. 

Realize this come from my own experiences and my own perspective, I'm sure other people have different opinions. 

Advice for elementary school substitute teachers

  • Be patient with yourself and the students, realize you are all learning together. You will learn from experience what works and what doesn't. What works with one class or one age group won't work with another one, and that's OK. 
  • Wear comfortable shoes! You will probably be on your feet all day. Don't bring a book, you won't get to it even during a break because you will probably be going over the lesson plans for when they get back to the room. 
  • Don't expect practical training, there isn't any unless you are subbing long term and then you might be able to observe the class before hand. 
  • Even if you feel flustered appear like you know what you're doing. Stay calm and try not to be too uptight.
  • Come early enough to review the sub-plans. If you don't understand them or something is unclear ask a fellow teacher in the same grade. They have been helpful and will be generally teaching the same thing and are familiar with the materials. 
  • Know the phone numbers of the office if needed. 
  • I found there are times it's appropriate to ask the students what they normally do if something is unclear in the sub plans. There are times I try to keep the routine normal and there are times I have to say "We are going to do it this way today" The younger the grade the more they want to keep to their normal routine. 
  • Not all teachers use the same resources from the teacher's edition. If possible check for what resources a particular classroom uses and where they are. I have had plenty of times the teacher hasn't thought to include the location of the reading books, or other things they use on a daily basis. 
  • Realize it will be louder than normal and they will try to do things they aren't supposed to do. Count on it and don't take it personal.
  • Every class has different rules for a. sharpening pencils,  b. leaving class for bathroom or drink breaks and c. whether or not they are allowed to use the sink in the classroom...go figure!
  • I have found that with most assignments or worksheets too much time is allotted. Bring a bag of tricks for the down age appropriate stories, class games.. in case you are left with a lot of down time. 
  • I have found with busy work there will be the few that get done quickly and are bored and a few that will struggle to stay on task. Sometimes I bring something extra for those early finishers.
  • Students stay on task best before lunch. After lunch...good luck.
  • Sometimes you feel like you are herding cats.
  • Classroom management seems to work best with table points or some other way to show them how they are doing at following tasks. Use whatever system the teacher has in place...if you try to use your own it doesn't work as well. 
  • If you are going to do a game or attention activity, don't allow for more than 15 minutes (they get bored). It works best right before a recess, lunch or the end of the day.
  • Look critically at any books you are bringing to share in the classroom. I've learned the hard way not to bring picture books where anyone in it is wearing underwear. (Hee hee.. I ended up coloring a shirt on my copy of Pinkalicious.) 
  • You will feel weird eating lunch in the staff room. Even though you might have teachers you have known for years and you have been a room mom to and worked with them one on one it will still be weird for you and for them. This is not a job where you will make friends and I try to let them have their space. 
  • You are going to have bad days. It's OK that some days you feel like you are just getting through the day. The bigger the class, or younger the class  the more I feel like I need a nap at the end of the day!
  • If there are issues in the classroom between students, separate them. If one student is having problems invite them to sit at a table on their own. 
  • Realize that every class has a difficult child or two. If it's not already in the lesson plan, you will probably figure out who it is by the end of the day. I try to be as patient as I can but if the child becomes too much of a disruption or is affecting fellow students safety don't be shy to send them to another classroom or to the office. I learned the hard way that feeling like "I can handle them without help" can lead to trouble.
  • Yard duty? If someone complains that someone else hit them, or is bothering them hear both sides of the story, there is always a cause! If appropriate ask if they both want to get written up or resolve it themselves...most often they will resolve it themselves. If either student feels an issue isn't resolved sent them to the office to resolve it. You might not make close friends in the staff room but there are lots of students that will love to talk to you at recess. Students that don't really fit in, aren't sporty and maybe are having a rough day will be glad you are willing to pay attention to them. 
  • I've had students tell me "You should be a real teacher!"  While as flattering as that is I've realized that a substitute teacher the administration sees me as someone to keep the students safe and the classroom managed. If there is actually work done, that is a plus. Nobody cares that I might or might not have an ability to teach. 
  • You're reward is probably not going to be the paycheck (it's not regular enough to count on it). My reward is the when students know my name and are excited to see me and hope that I'll be their sub. My reward is the ones that say "I wish you could be a real teacher" and times when I feel like I'm actually teaching them instead of overseeing worksheet completion. It's a job I can do that doesn't take away from my family...which is all too rare...and maybe at the end of it I'll still have a desire to teach once my kids are old enough for me to do it full time. 

Advice for elementary school teachers prepping for a sub

  • Please make sure lesson plans are clear and complete. Please make sure correct page numbers are referenced and the location of supplies are included. There is nothing worse to start a lesson on the wrong subject because I am on the wrong page or I don't have the correct Teacher's's happened more than once.
  • Seating charts are so helpful!!! I've only had 2 or 3 teachers do this for me but it's so much nicer when they do. I don't know the students names and it takes time for me to make my own chart...and the upper grade students try to give me the wrong name, which makes it take even longer!
  • Please tell me if there are any children that need special attention or consideration. I don't need to know details but it's nice to have a heads up. Also include how you handle problem behavior with this particular child. It's nice to know what works. 
  • PE is a good thing, it helps all of us. Some teachers want to skip PE because they feel it's easier. If the students usually have PE, they'll expect it in the lesson plans. Exercise is good.  1/2 hour is plenty of time after that they get tired and wander :)
  • Whenever possible provide answer keys please! The last thing I want to do is provide answers that are wrong. I don't remember the specifics of all subjects being taught at all grades at all times.  While managing the class I do not have time to look back through what you have been learning that week to create an answer key. I know the math might be easy but trying to work through 65 math problems at the same time as managing the class while they work through them so I have the right answers to have them correct their papers is very difficult.  
  • Giving a full day of only written work, tests and worksheets equals a hard to manage class. They can only handle so much desk work in a day. Some students blow through the worksheets and are bored the rest of the time and cause problems and others struggle to stay on task after the first one. Some whole class activity during the day is helpful.
  • Please do not allow and hour and 1/2 to complete a basic math worksheet. It really only takes about 1/2 hour and it's a classroom management nightmare.
  • It's nice to be acknowledged in the staff room. You don't have to include us in your conversations or weekend plans but just saying hi is helpful. 
  • You might think at times that your students are more excited to have a sub than you. A sub represents a break in routine but they are always fiercely loyal and love their teacher!

Anyway thats all I got for now. I realize I still have more to learn...but I'm also starting a list of what I would and wouldn't do if I ever taught full time. It's nice learning from different teachers what works well or maybe not so well in the classroom for the future. We'll see after a couple of years of this if I'm still as excited to teach elementary school :)

Oh in other news this week.  Our mutual night had a Black Light volleyball game for the youth. 

Lots of kids came....they practiced a bit of volleyball before they turned out the lights. 

Everyone was supposed to wear white to glow in the dark. Jacob decided he wanted to wear boxers over pants so they would glow....he actually came out in white butt huggers but we nixed that idea and told him to put on something that at least looked like shorts. 

Here's my picture with the lights off....can't see much but they had fun!

This week I helped in the library at the elementary school processing books that were bought from the book fair, I helped sell Smencils, did 100 mile club stuff and helped at the honor roll ice cream social at King High school. Jeff and I went to back to school night, mutual and I went to a girls night out for 100 mile club and a birthday lunch with Mary Ann. 

Also this week Ashley woke up with a horrible ear infection. I spent the day trying to keep her happy. She cried almost all day and luckily we got her medicine going and now her ears seemed to be feeling better. 

One day I was having a discouraging thought day....I came back in the evening to find a praying mantis on my kitchen window. 

I haven't seen one in years, and definitely not at our house. 

I laughed and saw it as a sign that I could be better at my prayers.  :)

This weekend Ashley got to go with Jeff and I on our date night....a trip to Cheesecake factory, then a game night at Holley and Kevin Williamsons. 

Taylor was out with friends and Jacob just wanted to stay at home playing video games. Jacob says "Its my day to relax" (Then come to find out on Sunday he was putting off hours of homework)

So Ashley got some yummy food. 

And of course she insisted that we try their new cheesecake flavor....I think it was almost the price of my dinner!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Crafting, climbing and all wet

This week has been one of volunteering at the school...I haven't gotten any sub calls yet 
 so I've found other things to keep busy. (I guess all the teachers that got pink slips have to be placed before anyone can request subs)

Sooo I've enjoyed working at the book fair this last week...the last day of the book fair I was in there by myself so I started reading some of the books. This was a good one but try as I might I couldn't get it to turn right side up when I uploaded it!

I am also now heading red ribbon I went to the first PTA meeting and have started ordering red ribbon goodies for next month. 

Ordering things for 1200 students for 5 days adds up! It all goes on my credit card and I'll get a check later.

I've also been trying to exercise more and I was looking forward to taking a morning walk on one of the first cooler mornings of the season....Maddie looked at me soulfully and I decided to taker her to Sycamore canyon for a hike instead. 

As soon as we get to the end the first thing she does is jump in the water and start swimming around. If we had a pool she would be in it all the time!

The part I don't like is when she gets out and comes near me and shakes herself dry. I end up a wet mess! Blah!

Most of the time she's pretty dry by the time she gets to the car...but she tends to pick up dirt on the way back to the car in her wet fur. 

I picked up Ashley after school that day and she said "Why is this seat all covered in dirt?"

I also try to stay on top of all the things the kids have going on too. Taylor has loved his rock climbing. We've found that it's motivation to get his school work done so I'm all for it. I took him twice last week. 

I also bring Jacob to piano, Ashley to Activity day and drive the kids around to doctor, dentist and orthodontist I've started being able to read more again. I've finished a couple of good books lately!

On Friday we brought Taylor's friend Pricilla to the Rock Climbing gym as well. 

She is a little afraid of heights but she did great. They had a good time! 
(Even though the place doesn't have air conditioning and it gets hot)

Saturday was our ward craft day or "Super Saturday" I was lame and never signed up for anything. I now understand the ladies that work in other organizations across the building not really being aware of what goes on in Relief Society. No excuses really. Not wanting to miss out completely I brought over projects I had around the house that I've been meaning to do and haven't gotten to. 

I did some 100 mile club clipboards like Sharla used to make, 
(I'm still trying to figure out how not to have it bubble up)

and some Christmas vinyl letter blocks that I've had ready to put together for about a year now. 

I did look longingly at everyone else's cute projects though, I'll have to remember to sign up next time ;)

I did get to learn how to make homemade caramel apples...can't wait to try it out!

On Saturday we had a milestone in our family....

Ashley finally learned to swim!

We were swimming at the Bagley's pool...this was the same pool where Jacob learned to swim! 

She has been shy to take off her lifejacket because she's had tubes in her ears for so long she was afraid to get water in her ears. She hated every kind of ear plug we tried but when she saw her cousin with his ear plugs on our vacation she agreed to try wax. It seemed to work and once she started swimming with her head under water she did it no problem!  She was so excited and it's all she's been talking about. 

Mary Ann was nice enough to invite me to bring her over to practice before we go to the New York Life convention so she can get stronger. So we went yesterday too and she learned to be able to get her head up to take a breath. 

This morning she woke up with an ear infection :(

We had to cancel her piano lesson and now I'm off to take her to the doctors office. 

The upside is I can start a new book ;)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

1st two weeks of school

These last 2 weeks the kids have been back at school.

I gave them some of their favorite snacks on Friday to commemorate the occasion.

These were met with plenty of silent munching...but not much else.   
I informed them the proper way to respond if they would ever like a repeat of said gestures would be an expression of thanks.  

Some thanks was mumbled.

You can see how excited Taylor is for school by his picture.

He's actually pretty happy with his classes this year. He has Calculus, Physics, Art (which he said his teacher is uptight and thinks they should all be some kind of awesome artist), Language Arts, Honors American History and PE.

He had to transfer out of Cross country for PE when he didn't make the time trials. His leg has been giving him a hard time but finally a year later he seems to be able to run some, just not enough to qualify for the team. Dissapointing but he plans to keep training until track season and hopefully be able to compete then. (I'm actually glad because he wasn't conditioned enough to keep up with the crazy runs the team was doing and I didn't want him to reinjure himself)

Jacob is not happy with my picture this picture will be the photo to document for all time Jacob's first day of high school.

Jacob has Algebra 2, biology, language arts, Spanish 1, PE and Engineering.  He says he's not much into plants and animals in biology but he likes experiments and blowing things up. I'm thinking he might like Engineering.

He's been doing great on getting his homework do I know...he leaves evidence of it all around the house at all times. I guess thats better than the alternative, not getting homework done. 

Ashley smiled for me!  (I promised her cookies after school too)

Her new teacher's name is Ms. Cavioli and she seems happy with her  and her class. 

Now that the kids are all occupied at school for part of the day I feel like I have a little more time to breath and focus on things that I haven't been doing like visiting teaching, exercising, blogging, connecting with friends and so forth. 

I planned a mommy breakfast, and a gym day, visiting teaching appointments but then life started getting busy with the start up of seminary, piano lessons, plans for 100 mile club, book fair, back to school night plus buying school supplies, trying to get a handle on house cleaning and so forth. I started getting overwhelmed so back in my shell I sort of went to try and feel on top of things again. 

One night we had a Court of Honor for the boys. 

Jacob got his Star.  

We are proud of him. He is actually 5 merit badges and a project away from being Eagle though we have to wait out the time periods to advance. I know now that he's in high school it gets harder and we'll keep working on it now. 

Friday we all went to King's first football game. 

Jacob actually went with Taylor and Ashley and Jeff and I hung out together. 

Thats been happening more lately...the boys hang out together away from us. It's actually nice to see them walking home together from school, talking about people and classes and upcoming things. Taylor is generous with his friends which makes me a proud mama.  This last weekend Jacob went to his first church dance and Taylor got to go with him and be his wingman...the night before we went as a family to the movies and a girl that Taylor knows was there with her friends and Jacob was Taylor's wingman so they could go sit next to the girls. 

(Hee hee how nice to have a brother that's a best friend too.) 

Saturday night we went to Ooka, which is a Japanese restaurant where they cut up all your food right in front of you and cook it. Jacob complained the whole time that we dragged him there...

Here the guy is getting the onion stack ready to light on fire...

There it goes it was an onion volcano!

Jacob complained and said he didn't like the food, the place was a waste of time... but he seemed to have no problem eating his food.   

(I think we're entering the "I hate everything" and the "I'm too cool for this" phase now)

This last week Jeff and I went to chaperone a group of Young Women while they were ice skating. 

Jen Williamson is the young women's president and I've been enjoying working with her. You can tell she loves the girls and is trying her best even though her husband is the young men's president and they have a 1 year old baby! Talk about busy.

I actually didn't want to get on the ice...I have only been ice skating once...20  years ago and I was nervous about it but Ashley had never gone before...

She was brave but she kept falling so I figured I'd better be out there with her even though I didn't feel like a big help. 

Emily and the girls were really sweet to help Ashley out if she needed it. 

The young women had fun and were brave enough to skate even though some of them had never done it before either. 

After awhile Ashley got better and better...

but she still fell a lot. Every time she got up and would just keep going. 

Until the last lap. She fell and this time it hurt and wasn't feeling better. 

She had a hard time getting off the ice and was worried she broke her leg (I knew she didn't break it even though it was hurt). 

I took her to the doctors the next day and he said she pulled a muscle pretty bad and she has to stay off of it as much as possible for the next week. He said it's really slow healing (4-6 weeks).

So she's on crutches right now. She's the hit of recess because everyone wants to try out her "cute little" crutches but they are annoying and she has to have help from everyone with her backpack. 

I am a parent coach for 100 mile club, it started this morning, so while I'm helping with it shes just sitting there watching. 

Sorry Ashley...Taylor knows how you feel. 

This last Saturday while Jacob and Taylor were off to their first dance, Jeff and I went with Steve, Tahna, Josh, Ron Richards and his kids and grandkids to the Nebraska, UCLA game at the Rose Bowl. 

Ron's kids and grandkids flew out from Nebraska for the game and we were excited to go and root their team on for them.

Even though we felt a bit like traitors for rooting against our local team there were plenty of red shirts who were there with us. 

It was funny to me how easy it was to tell who you supported...either you were red or blue and there was no hiding it ;)

Once we got there we had a bit of a walk from the car and an hour wait before kick-off. 

Jeff offering Ronnie a piggyback ride. Lucky for both of them he didn't take him up on his offer. 

In the stands waiting for the game to start you could see where the red ended and the blue began (in the shadows). The Nebraska fans were given all the seats on the end zones. 

It was an interesting way to watch the game. You couldn't tell how many yards they covered very well from our angle so we had to watch the scoreboard. 

The big screen with the replays and all that was behind our heads, so we had to crane around to see what was happening. 

When the fans got excited this is all I would see. I learned to jump up and stand on the bench. 

For most of the game it was back and forth, a tight game until the last quarter. 

In the end Nebraska never rallied and UCLA won 36 to 30.  Thats OK it was fun to go and we enjoyed both the game and the company. 

When we picked up the boys we heard from other people that Jacob was quite the dancer and had no problem having fun at the dance. When I asked the boys about the dance they said "It was OK" The fact that I didn't hear complaining and that the boys were coming home planning dance moves for the future was a good sign :)

The next day (Sunday) we had everyone over to celebrate Jacob being ordained to be a teacher. 

Its a nice excuse to get family together. 

Angela and Robert even came out from Camarillo and it was nice to see them. 

I've found you throw food out and put cousins together and they always have a good time.

The day also happened to be my birthday so Jeff got a cake and had people sing to me. 

My nice neighbor and friend also brought over a present and cupcakes! How sweet! 

The day didn't start out so great. Jeff went to early morning bishopric meetings and so I got up early to clean the house, and get food ready. 

I woke up in the morning realizing that we had put the ice-cream cake in the fridge instead of the freezer, I put the now slumped cake in the freezer trying to save it. 

Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning and I got to take the trash out and look behind me and the bag had ripped and watermelon juice is all over the carpet and floor :(

After I clean that up Ashley brought me my Ipod which was Jeff's birthday gift to me last year...she dropped it and broke the screen. It's no longer under warrantee either...I checked :(

The kids dragged their feet getting ready for church and though we were supposed to be saving people seats we got there late and had to take the front row.

We spread out and saved it for the entire time because either nobody saw us when they got there or they didn't want to hike up to the front row so we sat alone during church. 

I spend the rest of church in the young women's room getting filled in because I was missing meetings after church and then we raced home to feed everyone. 

 It was great to have family around though it meant my birthday was busy with cleaning and serving and not really about me. This was probably better since I couldn't think too much about how old I am. (Though Jeff announced it repeatedly so I couldn't forget)

The next morning I woke up to a 1/2 flat tire with a screw in it. It was too bald to fix so I spend the rest of my kid-free time getting tires replaced.  

I'm hoping the rest of this week isn't so eventful.