Wednesday, March 4, 2009

First Substituting Gig

The past week I've been subbing at a very small, 10-student secondary school in Valley Stream. It's Christian, I suspect non-denominational, but aside from recognizing its not being Catholic I can't quite tell what variety of Christianity the school follows. My subbing is the result of a late-night after having Googled local temp agencies and coming across one that's half a mile down the road; said employment agency had a posting for a substitute teacher, which I've never seen. A quick orientation on Wednesday morning, a brief introduction to the students, and I was in. As opposed to the rambunctious students I've taught in New York City, the students in Valley Stream are much quieter and a wee bit more passive. (There are three boys who are on the chatty side, and who came late to class, but if I take the right tone they listen, and they haven't talked back.) The girls especially are extremely quiet, and I found myself wishing they'd be a tad more rambunctious, but then I realized it was silly to want misbehaving students. I'm merely used to a different type of student, and I don't want to complain about students who are too good.

I've had four periods, about 55 minutes each: three history and an English. (And thank goodness; I originally thought I would be teaching math and science.) At least I can muddle my way through discussion of the World Wars, and English is no problem, of course. A few times students in the history classes asked a question, to which I'd reply, and then hoped I gave the right answer. (I did.) There are a few TVs set up for distance learning also, so there's connectivity with other schools in, I believe, other states, or at least schools further away. My day was pretty much done after Fifth Period; there is a Sixth Period, but the topic rotates each day and were extra-curricular (gym, music, etc.).

The teacher, Mr. N., whose absence I've been covering was out on vacation, but he made things very easy on me, laying everything out, having work for me to do, even sending a note home to the parents telling them of the situation, and requesting that they remind their children to behave, which was, of course, very kind of him to do. The other teacher, who teaches math, has been nice enough as well, although I haven't talked to him much. If nothing else, it's interesting to see different teaching styles in action. Several times I had to stop myself from revamping Mr. N.'s lesson plans. I don't know how long he's been teaching, or what his restrictions or motivations are, so I don't want to judge his not writing his own tests - and of course I haven't seen what he's done at other points of the year, or if he's left me textbook tests to proctor because of timing, etc., but it's difficult not to make assumptions based on the planner he'd left for me to peruse. Different backgrounds, experience, training, etc., I know all comes into play, but it reinforced what I would do in my own classroom.

Tomorrow is my last day at this school. It's been a pretty easy commute - no train involved - which means I'm home by about 2 p.m. I didn't go to class this week because I just was feeling downright depleted. I have to get my act together in terms of class and not miss anymore; I've missed two weeks at the Writing Center - once due to not feeling well, and once due to subbing, although my not tutoring because of subbing was a one-time situation.

Someone posed the question on one of the social networking sites I'm on as to whether it was possible to become burned out before the semester even began, and that really resonated with me. Even subbing, the little I've done of it, is proving to be more mentally flexing, which is not to say that my class isn't, but I'm ready to be working now. After being so outright afraid of subbing, I've slipped into it easily, and now I'm not afraid to sub in New York City at this point, now that I have an idea of what to expect.

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