Students

Adventures In Subbing, Part 4: The End

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Every year when I was teaching seventh grade, our school administrators gave us some sort of inspirational poster or story or memento to keep in our classroom for encouragement throughout the year. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it backfired. I remember distinctly the year the nugget of inspiration came in the form of a very short story about a woman who woke up and only had three hairs on her head. She braided the three hairs and was happy. The next day she woke up and only had two hairs on her head. She parted them in the middle and was happy. The next day she woke up and only had one hair on her head. She wore it in a ponytail and was happy. The next day she woke up and had no hair left on her head. She said to herself, “I don’t have to fix my hair today!” And she was happy.

I’m pretty sure the point of the fable was to find the silver lining in everything and stay positive, but as the year wore on, I decided what it really meant was that teaching makes your hair fall out.

I share this memory as an explanation for why I subbed so much in May. Despite working more hours than usual at my library clerk job, completing a freelance project, and keeping up with my own writing, I still made time to substitute teach eight times at seven different middle schools. Why? Because I know what May is like for teachers. At this time of year, they’re lucky if they have any hair left at all and they need a break. I know that all of those half days, sick days, personal days, and I-just-can’t-today days are well-deserved. I’m happy to step in and help.

The end of my year of subbing was just as interesting as the beginning. I watched Inside Out three times, The Lost World twice, and Scared Shrekless once. (That one was awesome.) One day I arrived to my classroom to find a bag of raw chicken on my desk. (It turned out there was a reasonable explanation for it that had nothing to do with Satanic rituals or mean pranks.) One day when some seventh grade science students playing a card game suddenly erupted into loud yells, I went over to investigate, only to have a boy calmly explain, “Sorry. I got AIDS.” (The card game was called “Defend Yourself” and was from their unit on the immune system.) And during the last half hour of my very last sub job, an eighth grade girl asked me, “Can I go ride my unicycle in the courtyard for Ms. Smith?”

Sometimes I think I’ve been asked everything in my teaching career, but that was a new one.

I think the best way to demonstrate what subbing at the end of the school year looks like and close out my Adventures in Subbing series is with a photo documentary. Here is a look back at my last six weeks of subbing, in pictures.

 

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Creepy mural on the wall of an art classroom

 

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Semi-creepy box-creature in a social skills classroom

 

Sometimes subbing looks like this... during STAAR testing, I spent four hours monitoring the boys' bathroom (one boy at a time, no talking in line). I was able to read an entire issue of Writer's Digest during my shift. It was awesome.

Sometimes subbing looks like this… during STAAR testing, I spent four hours monitoring the boys’ bathroom (one boy at a time, no talking in line). I was able to read an entire issue of Writer’s Digest during my shift. It was awesome.

 

Scare tactics-- cheesy when I was a kid, still cheesy today.

Scare tactics– cheesy when I was a kid, still cheesy today.

 

One school where I worked had goats and sunflowers. :) I like that school.

One school where I worked had goats and sunflowers. :) I like that school.

 

Angry note taped to the door of the faculty restroom. The person who wrote this has zero hairs left.

Angry note taped to the door of the faculty restroom. The person who wrote this has zero hairs left.

 

I subbed in the classroom with this friendly creature on May the 4th, otherwise known as Star Wars Day. Two teachers at the school were in Star Wars cosplay. Later, in my class, a group of boys gave their science activity a Star Wars theme. I asked them if they’d seen the teachers in costume. One boy said, “Yeah, I was psyched that I knew Ms. X was a Twi’lek.” Another boy said, “Yeah, but Ms. Y was dressed as Obi-Wan, but she had a Kylo Ren light saber and that pissed me off.” There’s just no pleasing seventh grade geeks.

I subbed in the classroom with this friendly creature on May the 4th, otherwise known as Star Wars Day. Two teachers at the school were in Star Wars cosplay. Later, in my class, a group of boys gave their science activity a Star Wars theme. I asked them if they’d seen the teachers in costume. One boy said, “Yeah, I was psyched that I knew Ms. X was a Twi’lek.” Another boy said, “Yeah, but Ms. Y was dressed as Obi-Wan, but she had a Kylo Ren light saber and that pissed me off.” There’s just no pleasing seventh grade geeks.

 

Happy last week of school, teachers! We appreciate you! May there be a large margarita in your future.

Contests, Workshops, and One Very Creepy Poem

Hello and happy Thursday!

I’ve got some POETRY NEWS to share with you. There’s a little something in this post for everybody—adult poets, student poets, teachers, and even lovers of horror.

Student Poetry Contests

pstlogo_paint_05Entries to the Poetry Society of Texas Student Awards are due March 1, 2016. PST offers 82 contests to students in grades 1 through 12 on a variety of subjects and forms. This is a great way for young writers to find out what it’s like to send their work out to the world. There is no fee to enter, and winning poems will be published in the PST anthology. Teachers, please consider sharing this opportunity with your students. The deadline to submit is only 12 days away!

Austin Poetry Society Annual Awards

APSIf you’re an adult looking to submit work, the Austin Poetry Society’s Annual Contests are open right now. The deadline for submitting is April 1, 2016, and you must be an APS member. (See our website for details about the contests and information on how to join the society.) Winners will be announced at our Annual Awards Ceremony on May 28, 2016. First, second, and third place poets will win cash prizes, and first place poems will be published in the Best Austin Poetry anthology for 2016. (You can buy a copy of the current anthology, which includes two of my poems, at Lulu.com.)

School Visits, Poetry Presentations, & Workshops

SchoolVisits_WellsBranchTeachers in the Austin area, if you’d like a published poet to teach a workshop or presentation to your class, please contact me. I now do school visits and offer five different presentations for grades 3 through 12. Details can be found on my SCHOOL VISITS page. If your students miss the PST contest deadline and are still interested in submitting their work, consider hiring me for the “Path to Publication” presentation. Not only will I teach them proper submission etiquette and help them craft a professional cover letter, but I’ll also provide information about more contests, journals, and organizations who accept work from young poets.

A Little HORROR Poem

377239_origAnd last, but not least, my poem, “Someone,” is published this week at Grievous Angel. If you’re in the mood for something creepy, check it out. And while you’re there, don’t forget to read the other three poems published with it. I’m in good company with Ken Poyner, Herb Kauderer, and John Grey. (Oh, and don’t worry. If you hire me for a school visit, the poems I share with your students will NOT be this scary!)

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Have a great day! Sweet dreams.  :)
Carie

Adventures in Subbing, Part 3: The Whole Truth

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In 2015, I added another hat to my hat rack. In addition to my Writer hat and my Poet hat and my Library Clerk hat, I started wearing a Substitute Teacher hat, which stills fits a little lopsided.

In October, I wrote two blog posts about my new role: Adventures in Subbing, Part 1: The Disadvantages of Not Knowing Anything and Adventures in Subbing, Part 2: The Advantages of Not Knowing Anything. Both posts focused on the humorous and positive aspects of the job. Yes, I shared some of my “troubles,” but those troubles mainly amounted to minor inconveniences like not knowing where to park or vague suspicions that I might be talking to a criminal (which was all in my head). I ended the second post with a rant about how the kids are mostly wonderful and you should approach every job with a positive attitude, showing respect for everyone you encounter.

I still believe all that.

BUT… now that I have more than three sub jobs under my belt, I’ve experienced a few situations which were less than ideal in a non-funny way. I don’t really want to write about them, partly because I try to keep things upbeat here on the blog (and in life in general) and partly because I don’t want to throw any particular school, teacher, or student under the bus (even if I might have wanted to a little bit at the time). I would rather just learn what I can from those experiences and move on.

The problem is, if I pretend like those bad days didn’t happen, then I’m doing a disservice to all substitute teachers who’ve gone through similar things. If I post nothing but sunshine and rainbows and ignore the ugly side of the job, then I’m lying. To myself, to my readers, and to anyone else who’s ever had a class of eighth graders completely and totally ignore them for an hour and a half.

The truth is that subbing is a hard job, and sometimes people make it even harder than it needs to be. So, in an effort to present both sides of the coin, I am admitting that subbing is not all roses and free day-old donuts.

The Whole Truth(s)

  • Sometimes your “lesson plan” will consist of a stack of uninformative packets with a sticky note on top that says, “Return at the end of class.”
  • If the school where you’re working does not have a strict policy on cell phone use, good luck.
  • Just because you accepted a job to be an aide in a seventh grade Language Arts class doesn’t mean you’ll actually be an aide in a seventh grade Language Arts class. You are a warm body on campus and the office will place you where they need you most.
  • You may, at some point, find yourself “teaching” a subject you are not qualified to teach, in which case you will feel stupid every time a student asks a question. (Example: I (an English teacher) was placed in a sixth grade math class with another sub, who was an art teacher. Sixth grade math has changed a LOT since we were in sixth grade, and we weren’t that good at it even then. We ended up having to get another math teacher to come teach us what we were supposed to be teaching the kids.)
  • While it is possible to become invested in a child’s situation after knowing her/him for only one hour, it is not always possible to make a lasting impact on that child’s situation, and that’s hard to accept.
  • No matter how old/wise/patient/rational you are, being ignored and disrespected hurts.
  • Often, there will be ZERO instructions in the lesson plan for what to do if a student misbehaves.
  • Sometimes there is not even a phone list in the room so that, in order to call the front office to ask someone to come deal with an unruly student, you actually have to look the school’s number up on your phone.
  • Sometimes a known trouble-maker will do something mean to a student with Aspergers, causing that student to scream and run out of the room, an incident which could have been prevented if you’d had any information about any of your students’ needs. But you don’t. So you spend the rest of the day trying to make sure the student is okay and, even though he is, you still leave at 4pm with a heavy, heavy heart.

Despite the negative experiences I’ve had at some schools, I still say there’s more good to be found in subbing than bad. I still say you should treat ALL students with respect. I still say you should walk into every classroom with a smile, if you want to have a chance of getting one in return. But there are going to be days when all the smiles and respect and good-planning in the world don’t work. And on those days, I wish you a safe drive home and a hug from someone you love when you get there. Or a glass of wine. Or three.

[Note: This post is old. I wrote it weeks ago and only decided to share it now. All of the sub jobs I’ve had so far in 2016 have been (mostly) lovely.]