February 12th, 2023
Once I made it to the other side, I actually ran into the principle. I was definitely visibly confused about which door to use, so it was lucky that I ran into someone, although I'm also glad she introduced herself fairly quickly—before I had the chance to assume she was another teacher. She was very nice and plenty helpful, though. I was worried about how clocking in worked, because the company's training instructions were vague and proven to be at least slightly out of date. But this school's system was already not working, so all it took was their secretary sending an email to the district manager stating that I had, indeed, shown up for my assignment on time.
I was placed in another classroom because my original assignment was scheduled for 2:00 p.m.; the teacher in this classroom had not planned to be absent that day. The kids peaked in expecting to see their teacher, but instead they found: me! I did my best to greet them and introduce myself whenever another student peaked in, which definitely made a good impression with them. While they were discussing it out in the hallway one girl said, "He has a bump on his head (my birthmark) but he's really nice!" I wasn't sure how I would feel about the brutally honest observations young kids are known for making, but none of it bothered me at all. In fact, I thought that comment in particular was really funny. Besides, if a teenager was making note of something like that, they probably wouldn't follow it up immediately with any niceties. I'll take what I can get!
This Friday was my first day as a substitute teacher. My assignment was with a 3rd grade class in a school not too far from where I live. The day was off to a rough start when I saw the massive, long hill I had to walk up in order to even see the school. I actually tried to take a shortcut but that proved to be a mistake; my detour took me to the back entrance of the school, which was locked and gated off. I had a massive stitch in my side from walking up these hills (I can not stress to you enough how steep and long they really are), and I thought for sure that I was going to end up being late because I had to walk all the way back around the school.
Once it was time for them to walk in, one of them said "he looks old! how old are you?"
"How old do you think I am?"
"I'm 23 years old."
"My mom is 38, and she's taller than you!"
"Yeah, a lot of people are taller than me!"
I was informed shortly after the kids got settled that there was a firedrill scheduled. It really, truly is just my luck that there would be a firedrill on my first day. 9:15, the fire alarm goes off. I try to get the kids in line order but two booked it so fast I never had a chance of catching or stopping them! Since I knew there were a lot of staff and other kids in the hallway all going to the same place, I wasn't too worried, but I sure was embarrassed. My classroom management definitely needs some work, I won't lie. The principal also caught them both and tore them to shreds so... no harm done. According to other teachers it's also not normal for her to scream so, she must have been particularly pissed off. I was also told that my class knew how to behave and were simply choosing not to, so that's probably what set her off.
The sub plans were fairly helpful, although there were some things that just weren't clear, and the kids couldn't shed any light on them, either. There were students who had to go upstairs for reading intervention at a certain time, but I didn't have a list of which kids, so I had to rely on those kids to be honest. And another instruction for work in their student notebooks didn't give me page numbers or any explanation for what the exercise she was talking about actually looked like in the book! So I had to improvise there.
The one thing that really made my day was how supportive the full-fledged teachers were! At every turn they were there to help, offer advice, and give me reassurance that I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing, and that the issues I was having were to be expected rather than a sign of major incompetence. There were also students who were very helpful, including one who offered his help from the beginning of the day. I made sure to leave positive feedback for specific students in my parting note to the teacher, since nearly all the kids had some behavioral issue that day, I did want to make sure it known that they had some really good moments, too.
Another highlight of the day was the kids drawing pictures for me to keep! They asked my favorite animals, what countries I wanted to visit, if I liked rainbows... when I was presented with my first gift drawing, I couldn't help but make a face.
"Omg it's just a drawing, why do you look like you want to cry?!" said an 8-year-old
""This is my first drawing, it's special to me, okay?"
The day was pretty chaotic overall—every other minute I was interrupted by a child who had something to tell me, and I swear nearly every kid of the 17 in that class asked to go to the nurse's office at least once. But I think I ultimately have a lot I can be proud about. In the past I suspect I would have had a literal anxiety attack considering how many tiny hands were pulling my attention in different directions at the same time, but I kept my cool and did my best to get the kids to be patient when I needed them to be. I thought when I had two kids leave the classroom without asking at different times that I was doomed to being blacklisted by the school, but this was not the case. In fact, at the end of the day, the principal asked me if I would be willing to come back for future listings at the school, to which I said yes! Even with all the chaos, it wasn't too much for me.
Though I will admit, I felt pretty done by 2:00, so much so that I actually felt grateful that my original assignment was cancelled and I could just stay in the classroom I was already in. When it was time for the kid's math lessons at 1:45, I picked a worksheet I didn't feel too frazzled to think about—a multiplication sheet with pictures, which thankfully, these kids really liked multiplication, so they had no complaints.
I was a bit too nervous to eat all of my lunch, and I do wish that our breaks throughout the day didn't have intervals where we had to pick the kids up and shepherd them to their next destination—it made the breaks feel even shorter and more hectic—but overall I managed to cope really well with the chaotic nature of a room full of 17 3rd-graders, enough to be invited back. I'm really forward to updating my therapist on how it went!