Monday, January 18, 2010

First Day Ever

I keep a subbing journal in my bag. It's a habit I picked up in grad school, where "reflections" were the main assignment for every class. It does help me reflect on successes and challenges, to note where I can improve. It also serves as documentation of days worked so I can verify my paycheck, a record of things to know about each school or classroom (bad parking, rude secretary, when the prep period is, etc) and a handy place to keep contact info. And it provides fodder for the new blog!

Sub calls were slow when I got started. Finally one of my colleagues called and made an appointment and I got really excited - I knew she would leave a great project and that her students would probably be pretty good. What a great way to start!

The day before that assignment, however, I got a last-minute call from the sub line. Groggily I punched all the numbers - ID, PIN, yes I do want to hear a job. I rolled out of bed and raced through my morning, then jumped in the car to try and find a mystery school. When I arrived I nervously handed over my time sheet, got the sub folder and keys and tried to find the room. I then had 10 minutes to prepare for first period. The teacher's desk looked like a hurricane went through and I couldn't find the book of warm-up exercises. I totally panicked and started pawing through everything like a madwoman. Finally one of the students came up and offered to help, then handed me the right book.

Lesson #1 - The kids know how the classroom works. When in doubt, ask a helper!

The first two classes of social studies went OK. About 80% of kids were on task, with just a few really irritating ones. I got initiated into the lying about classroom procedure game, the name-switch game, and the general off-task game. The schedule then said, "Per 3-4, English" and left a bunch of activities. I raced through every activity on the list, but was surprised when kids didn't jump up and grab their bags when the bell rang for the end of 3rd period. "Well, don't want to be late, do we?" I asked. A kid looked totally confused. "We have a double period. This is just a break for us."

Lesson #2 - Learn to think on your feet.

Well, now I had a whole period to go and had raced through my curriculum. I had 5 minutes to figure out a plan. I ended up having them go through the writing project we had rushed, self-editing and then peer-editing their work. Then they could have SSR time to either finish the assigned reading (that I had of course rushed them through) or to read ahead. That got us to lunch.

Already fatigued, I headed downstairs to find a teacher's lounge and microwave. I then took the time to double-check the schedule and computer-lab policies with the secretaries, because I was tired of surprises. "Oh, go talk to Raoul about the computer lab. He's supervising the playground right now. Black coat." I thanked them and headed out to find Raoul.

Raoul the Brazilian male model-turned-computer science student. Neat.

Raoul was very friendly. And very helpful. "I will come to the computer lab with you sixth period, just to make sure everything goes alright." Yay!

Lesson #3 - Schools are filled with educated adults who have similar interests to yours. Some of them happen to be former models with adorable accents.

So, sixth period in the computer lab rolls around, and Raoul does indeed see how I am doing and check up on a few kids he knows to be trouble makers. "By the way," he said "we're going to have an earthquake drill this period." We looked over the emergency folder together and he showed me the correct turns to get out the door and to the field for kid-inventory. I grabbed the roll sheets and sub folder and kept everything in my arms so I wouldn't have to scramble during the drill.

Sure enough, about 20 minutes later a bell goes off and I shout "EARTHQUAKE!! EVERYONE UNDER THE TABLES!!" Kids duck under, except a few stragglers. "OH NO! TIMMY GOT CRUSHED BY FALLING COMPUTER EQUIPMENT! IF ONLY HE HAD LISTENED TO MS. GT!" We waited a few minutes (for falling debris to settle and in case of major aftershocks) then went out the door and to the field. I had kids facing the fence, in line, within seconds. I saw teachers holding up giant construction paper and asked a neighboring adult what that was all about. She rolled her eyes at me and said in a huff, "It's a red/green card. You're supposed to have it with you. Red means you are missing students and green means you are all there. It's required." I stuck my thumb up in the air as an "OK" signal and responded "well, we just came from the computer lab, and I'm new here. Isn't it also required to have kids lined up and quiet?" OK, I didn't say the last part out loud, but boy was her line a mess.

Lesson #4 - Most people are really nice and helpful. Some see subs as less-than-human, especially young ones.

As I checked out at the main office, the secretaries asked me how my day went. "Well, not bad, considering it was my first day." "It was your first day?!? Well, we never would have known, you were very professional." Yay!

So in my first day I faced a horrible mess of a desk, misbehaving kids, a whole period with no curriculum, an earthquake drill while I wasn't even in the regular classroom, and one rude staff member.

I also got Raoul's phone number.


  1. Way to go! You tackled quite a few hurdles on your first day. I guess that means you were ready for anything after that. (So, do you have a picture of Raoul?) :)

  2. Thanks for the laugh. I could relate to all of this. Except the phone number - I've never gotten anyone's number at a school, but in all fairness, I am married.

  3. Nah, it didn't work out. Guys who work during the day and go to school at night don't have a lot of time. But it does make for a great story!