On Thursday, August 25, 2011, I noticed a substitute teaching job listed on my I-Phone App for a 5th grade teacher at a local elementary school. I had heard great things about this school, and it's one I would actually like to work at, if provided an opportunity, so I immediately clicked the "accept" button and was given a job number. I ran to the shower, got dressed, packed my things, and drove to the school. I arrived early to get to know the school, the classroom, and the lesson plan before the students arrived. This was very wise, as I learned later that another sub had been called, had accepted, and had been given the same job number. However, since I was already there, this other sub was turned away. I actually feel bad for him/her because if it had been me, I would have been crushed. Now, I've learned the system, I will wait for the phone to ring instead.
What I Did Right at the School
- tried to act as professional as possible at all times
- attempted to follow the lesson plan to the best of my ability. The teacher taught Language Arts to 3 blocks of students. The students talked a lot but were otherwise busy completing the assignments.
- started to build a good rapport with the students (on day 1)
- left detailed notes to the teacher so she would know what had happened during the day. I also provided her with my name and contact information (and 2 other copies to share with other teachers, if she so chose).
- I was told by another teacher that I had used great classroom management skills and that was all that really mattered since I was a sub. Another teacher, who heard this, agreed and said that if the students actually learned something that was a bonus. I think it helped that I had already worked in this district at a different school for the past few years. I was glad that many of the techniques used in my former school was also used in this school (such as raising your hand for quiet, clapping your hands and the students clap back)
What I Did Wrong at the School
- didn't have the name of the teacher ready for the secretary, she had to look it up.
- didn't sign and date the attendance (although I did turn it on time)
- didn't manage time wisely and in the 1st block, I didn't do the vocabulary lesson
- showed up early to specials with a very loud group of students
- was late to dismissal because I got lost in the school. I tried to follow the 5th grade students out of specials but "lost them" because they were moving so quickly, and I had gotten lost getting back to the music room. I did end up where I was supposed to be, apologized to the other 5th grade teacher who was watching for cars to pick up the students. She said it was fine, but I still felt bad that she had been there by herself.
- didn't smile enough and walked into the office so abruptly that they thought something might be wrong.
At the beginning of each block, I introduced myself to the students. During reading, the students read books and/or worked on creating "All About Me newspaper" posters. The lesson said that they were supposed to be learning about their reading folders and completing reading logs. Since the students said they hadn't used reading logs yet and both parts of the lesson were procedural, I chose not to do it. I believed it was something that the teacher should do when she returned.
During writing, I asked the students to think about the places I mentioned as I read a few pages in a book. Then, I asked them to think of their own special places, allowed wait time, and then encouraged them to share with a partner. Next, I had the students return to their seats. I asked a few students to share their ideas as I wrote them on the board. Then, I instructed the students to either create a list of 10 "Special Places", begin writing a story about one of their special places, or continue with a story they had already started on.
During vocabulary, I did a mini-lesson on the parts of a dictionary entry using the entry for dictionary as a model. Then, I had students work with partners to find parts of 2 dictionary entries (abandon and extract). They were to write the word, the part of speech, number of definitions, number of syllables, and the Latin word the word had derived from. The students had a few questions about how to do this (What is a part of speech? Do we have to write all of the definitions? How do we count the syllables?) and couldn't find the Latin words in the class set of dictionaries.
Overall, I had a fantastic day with the students and the secretary asked for my name and phone number before I left (so she could add it to her sub list). I have learned from mistakes and will be more prepared the next time that I substitute teach ... which just happens to be Monday. I've been called to sub 3 days next week (and am hoping for another phone call so I can teach the entire week). I love being around children!