Flexibility is the name of the game. What’s the game? Substitute teaching. A few years ago, I was looking at a divorce and in need of a job. I loved being a mom volunteer in my daughters’ classrooms, and I already had my degree, so I took a test & fulfilled some district requirements, and soon began subbing. After four years, I earned my teaching credential while attending classes evenings and weekends. Then, after three years of full-time teaching, I was laid off and now I’m in my second year back as a substitute. I have had a crazy journey, and it’s not over yet!
My Journey as a Substitute Teacher
I have taught in some unusual settings over the years. Some long-term jobs have found me teaching in a room used as storage, a backstage area, a portable in the middle of a playground, a brand-new classroom, a classroom emptied of nearly everything including furniture due to renovation, and in a room occupied by two classes while another portable was set up. Twice I’ve started the year with a group of children, only to have to pack up and move elsewhere due to low enrollment. I’ve job-shared, too.
I’ve found a wide variety of sub plans in the classrooms where I’ve worked a day or two. Some are four scripted pages of small type. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I once filled in for a teacher who was on campus and returned hourly with a torn scrap of paper and a page number for the upcoming subject. I’m always glad to see a 1-2 page bulleted plan with an additional page with rules and procedures. I’m always amazed at classrooms that don’t have a recess/lunch schedule and school intercom roster posted.
I do have a few special days of subbing that I will always treasure. I got to serve pie and sing silly songs at Thanksgiving time one year. We measured the Mayflower, too. I had permission to play a teacher’s guitar and share from a classroom joke book at another school. I’ve worn my pumpkin costume a few times at the end of October. I’ve painted watercolors and folded origami when only a few students remained after a power outage or snowstorm. And once, my favorite day of all, I subbed in one daughter’s class on the day they were to make Ice Cream in a Bag with their buddies, my other daughter’s class.
My children are in high school now, in a separate district, so they don’t have to worry about me showing up to teach their middle school math class any more. But I have grown to enjoy the unpredictability of my days and the fun of meeting new children all the time. Although I long for the day when I am next on our district’s Rehire List, and I can empty the contents of my garage back into my own classroom, I will miss the wonderful surprises that are a part of substitute teaching.