Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fare Thee Well, '10-'11

Well, unlike last year, the end of the 2010-2011 school year was busy busy busy. Not only did I make good on my promise to work the last day of school (AM assignment with Life Skills at OHS!), I actually worked every school day in June.

This summer, I am working events for a small local business, vending at fairs and whatnot, volunteering, teaching a 2-week arts-focused day camp, and being a good little housewife as my fiancee and I move into the house we just bought - I'll be in charge of unpacking and organizing our stuff, decorating, and spending his hard earned money on furniture and other feminine frippery.

What will the next school year bring? Well, hopefully a *real* teaching job. But with budget cuts all around and deep cuts in the arts, it's not looking good. If I am back and subbing next year, I have a couple of potential family leaves to cover for. Also, my main district is moving to a new substitute phone system that will put more emphasis on license area and teacher requests and less on seniority. I have also been invited by our union group to join the substitute bargaining committee, duking it out with the big boys at the district office. Whatever happens next, it's sure to be exciting!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Almost there!

My school district is out next Tuesday. Mentally, I had prepared to be "done" earlier this month, thinking "oh, jobs will be really slim in June, who hires a sub the last week of school?"

Answer: everyone, apparently. I have worked every single school day in June, and I'm booked tomorrow, Monday, and hopefully the last day of school (had a teacher ask me but it's not in the online system yet.)

Over here on the west coast it has been unseasonably cold and cloudy, which makes it feel like the school year will go on forever. But the signs of the end of school are there: packed up boxes in classrooms, test study guides, libraries and textbook rooms in disarray, hyper kids. On days like yesterday, when I had 7th graders all day at AK-8, this is a Good Thing. "Nearly done!" I think to myself, with relief. But days like today, with some of my favorite freshmen at OHS, I get a little wistful and the rays of sun are a Sad Thing. It is especially hard as a sub because while I care about them very much, the kids don't really know me and won't miss me too much. Also, since I am applying like mad to any available jobs, I may not work for the district next year and therefore probably won't see them again.


Thursday, June 2, 2011


Normally when I get a call for OK-8 I flat-out turn it down. I did a day or two there as a rookie and with the volume of my business now, have the privilege of never going back. It's one of those urban schools where the kids are loud and unruly and bring so many issues to the classroom that it makes for a nightmarish day. However, as the school year winds down I'm hearing out any job offer because I know I'll regret passing up money. So I listened to the job offer - afternoon only? dance class? Hell yeah!! Sleep in and then go to dance class? Sure, why not?
I figured that we'd probably watch a movie but just in case, I grabbed my dance bag (my hobby is bellydancing, the bag had loose yoga pants, CDs, and some "extras" like my veil and finger cymbals.)
When I arrived, it turned out we WERE dancing and using the auditorium as a classroom so I spent my prep time figuring out the sound system (the best I could do was put my CDs in the DVD player and play them through the TV. The first group arrived, a mix of 1st and 2nd graders. The procedure was to make them run in a giant circle for 5 minutes to warm up, then lay on the floor for 3-4 minutes to calm down and focus, then play "freeze dance." The running went well. The laying down? Not so much. I made them listen to a calm song twice and maybe got 10 seconds of consecutive quiet. Then we played freeze dance and I pulled out my practice veil and let kids take turns spinning with it, which they enjoyed. Unfortunately I had the discipline problem of one kid biting four others ... oh well. This is why I refuse to try and teach them math.
The lesson plan repeated for the 3rd and 4th grade group. They got pooped a little faster then the little ones, but still didn't want to leave when I had to send them back. At the end of the afternoon I stunk of sweat- mine and theirs - and I should probably apologize to my veil. But I think it was a success.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Today's middle school art lesson plan? "Junk Sculptures." Now, don't get me wrong, I was subbing for one of the best art teachers in the district, her students are really well trained, friendly, and engaged, and it's a cool project to promote recycling and reusing and to creatively solve problems. However, it's probably best done when you aren't going to have subs (looking at the notes there was a sub last Friday as well) because the project is accomplished with:

-8 giant tupperwares of random crap, including sharp things and yanked apart computer parts
-1 vice and 3 saws
-2 hot glue guns
-15 pairs of pliers and 1 pair of tin snips
-20 different screwdrivers
-4 hammers
-1 drill press

Holy crap! I thought that the day I had to hand out 8 razor blades for flower dissection was the craziest sub plan ever. I was wrong.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

June's Goal

You may remember how surprised I was to get a call on the FIRST DAY of school. Since then I have been working regularly, even turning down jobs (I've had four requests for this Friday, alas, I can only take one). My new goal - to work the LAST day of school, June 14th! I'm already booked for June 13th, can I make that last juicy day?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

How to get ahead in subbing (and yes, it involves really trying)

I wrote most of this as a comment on another sub's blog and then thought "hey, wait! Why does their blog get all these cool ideas and mine doesn't?" So here is an expanded version on my reply to the question, "Is subbing a popularity contest? Why do some subs get significantly more calls than others?"
Being a good teacher is the first step in getting lots of calls. The second step is to treat subbing like a career in free-lancing. That means publishing business cards, shaking hands, introducing yourself to teachers, secretaries and administrators, and being available to your customers. Check your e-mail regularly, have your phone number on your cards and notes, and clear your schedule. Your business card should create your "brand" - stay away from cutesy apple clip art unless you want to only sub K-3. Mine has a graceful leafy plant design in violet, with one leaf photoshopped to be a yellow-red gradient, my one nod to the autumnal aesthetic in back-to-school stuff. As an art teacher, I want my card to have good design! Up top it says "GT Goddess Experienced District Substitute" (It used to say MS/HS Humanities when I first started but now I know that I like teaching math and science too) and underneath my cell phone number and district e-mail. I also have stationary with that same leaf design that I can use for my notes - again with the "brand."
When you are writing your notes, it is good to use student names - it shows you actually learned a few and that you were aware of what was happening in the room. Also, sign off on a positive note and ask to come back, sealing that by leaving your sub number and phone number. I know a lot of teachers are anxious about how their class behaved, if you can sound like you actually enjoyed spending time with them that can increase your chances for a call back. Many schools and teachers pick subs not just for their expertise, but for their "fit" in the building, so complimenting students and staff goes a long way. For example: "Johnny had a little trouble staying quiet for the reading activity, Mr. Jones from next door was super helpful and gave me some tips and the activity went smoothly from there - Johnny even shared out an answer!"
I start each school year with an e-mail to all the teachers I subbed for in the past year (keep track!) telling them I'm back on the sub list (many assume that if you are that good you have a classroom job now) and that I would love to sub for them. I usually get at least 10 immediate requests for days from just that one effort. Throughout the year I take calls at pretty much all hours, spend a lot of time discussing scheduling and lesson plans, and keeping track of all schedule requests.
I treat subbing like a small business: self-promotion, networking, the works. But it still comes back to being a good teacher and doing your best in the classroom every day.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Friday the 13th

I'm not superstitious but I think one of Hell's minions escaped on this accursed day, this one in the guise of a 7th grader named Chad:

"I just wanted to properly greet you and let you know that the only reason I'm here is to make sure you earn your paycheck."

Well, Chad, I can always send you down to the office and make sure the principal earns his ...