So when I was pregnant with my son I was teaching a small rural district. Up until that point I had taught in larger districts and maternity leaves were covered by certified teachers often new teachers, retired teachers, teachers returning to the workforce after having children and getting them off to school. In my small district and I would guess most small districts maternity subs are any substitute the district can get, sometimes certified but more often not. This year in my building several teachers have gone on maternity leave (I think it may be in the water, yeah I’m bringing my water from home LOL) the sub shadows the teacher for a day or two then takes over and they do all the planning for the time they sub. When the teacher comes back they shadow their sub for a day or two then take over again. Oh how different life is in a small district.
My principal had me prepare for the sub, I wrote out an entire 8 weeks of lesson plans for the sub, at the time I was teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th grade communication arts, mass media, and storytelling. The sub came in to meet me and see the plans, she was not comfortable with what I had and asked me to go ahead and make copies of the worksheets and other things needed for the plans. So I spent several days making 8 weeks worth of copies and organizing them neatly in file drawers. The sub cancelled on us, she was just not prepared to work with middle schoolers. Now I give her credit, I’d rather she not take on my classes if she thinks she’s not up to the job, but we were a bit worried at this point.
Then my principal found someone we thought would be perfect. My new sub had taught college English classes, I was excited, this was someone who I knew could teach the material and work with the students. With all the preparations made I went on leave confident that things would go well. Yeah well…
When I returned from leave I came back for a half day to see what had been happening while I was gone, catch up to where they were and get ready to take over again. When my sub saw me he thought I was back and got up to leave, I had to tell him no I was only there to see what was what. My principal called me in and told me I’d need to go in and get control of my room again as the sub had let things get kind of lax. Now at first this made me rather angry because the principal had not stepped in however I got over that and was glad he hadn’t because that could have easily undermined my authority in the classroom. Right after I got back progress reports were due. I began to calculate scores to find that there were students who had only two grades for the quarter so far when there should have been 12-15. I looked everywhere for work that wasn’t graded yet. Nothing. I asked the students if they had gotten work back. NOPE. Apparently the sub had told the kids that I just left them busy work, and yes I know kids exaggerate but I heard the same stories from all of my students so I believed them. Work was not handed back, not required to be turned in, parents were not notified of missing work. I had to type up a letter to go home with all of my students explaining that their grade may rapidly change as I was calculating grades based solely on what I had proof of as there was no graded work and no stack of work to grade. I think he must have just been throwing assignments away.
I tried e-mailing the sub, to ask about the missing work, no answer but he did reply to the students who e-mailed him. I was livid, but it was a challenge I faced and then felt more confident in my teaching abilities after that point. I got control of my classroom again there was no more playing, no more hackey sack, no more songs not appropriate for school, and yeah the kids were upset but they got over it.
I tell this story not because I’m upset over it, though I was at the time. I have learned from it. I learned to write plans better, I learned to better prepare my students for subs, I learned to check in if I’m out more than a day or two. I learned that I am strong enough to take back a class that has gone into the party zone for weeks and weeks. I learned to appreciate even more the experienced subs that I have had since then. It also helped me to appreciate even more the advantages and privileges that sometimes come with a large district like certified subs.
How about you? What’s your best or worst sub story?