A Fast Five Weeks

On a day by day basis, my long-term substitute gig felt grinding but as I walked out of the school on Friday, it suddenly felt like a rush.

The grind had a lot to do with gearing up to try and learn 160 or so student names plus faculty and staff identities. Then, to try and understand each class’ unique persona and where there were strengths and weaknesses to tailor the lessons was a challenge. As it was, I walked in as they were running somewhat roughshod over their daily sub while the HR machinery ground slowly to process me. There were definite adjustments required that first week, starting with establishing that I wasn’t going anywhere and that there was work to do.

There were two co-teachers working with me, assigned to four of my six classes, and one helped me identify students in need of help and those I should leave alone. The other was not as helpful, to be honest. The other two classes were Honors and in both cases balked when I explained I was holding them to a higher standard.

My smallest class happened to be 10th Grade and at first they decided I was mean and too hard and used too sophisticated a vocabulary. When they wrote Performance Based Assessment essays, they struggled and then really balked when they saw my notes, complaining I was grading them like it was college. I pointed out I was grading based on the Rubric, which they had with them. I actually wrote them detailed notes and spent a day having them rewrite for a higher grade. Some rose to the occasion, others couldn’t be bothered.

Apparently, my grading and standards were vastly different than what they were accustomed to so when their grades plummeted, they freaked and complained to anyone who would listen.

It wasn’t all bad, On my final day, one of the 10th graders admitted she changed her mind about me and liked how I taught them since it was closer to what they would receive in 11th grade and beyond, I definitely bonded with more than a few students and the cheerful hellos and waves in the halls certainly made me smile.

The English faculty was very kind to me as I learned my away around changes in policy and procedure since last June. The other 10th grade teacher was particularly helpful in co-planning so we could each end the third Unit and Quarter in much the same place. Our department chair retuned from her own maternity leave late during my tenure and we got to know one another a bit and I wish there was more time for that.

Being a long-term sub can be rewarding and this first experience wasn’t a horrible one. I’d certainly consider doing this again should I not find a classroom to call my own next school year. For now, though, it’s back to the desk with short stories and a novel to write over the next month or two. That’ll be satisfying in its own way.

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