Stepping into the forest of my mind

Stepping into the forest of my mind
Just as every journey begins with a first step, every story begins with the first word.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Finding Assistance with Certain Subjects

Don't be afraid to ask department heads questions about the material you are asked to present to students either to refresh your own memory or to garner examples on how to perform certain math problems in case you, like me, need clarification of the regular teacher's plans at the high school level. You are showing your intelligence rather than any weakness. I am not pretending to teach a subject that I do not know. I am only checking my memory or looking for examples completed by those who know how to perform such mathematical operations so as to assist the high school level students in the subject matter where I am not the expert. The substitute service knows where I am qualified, English, literature, and writing; however, sometimes they really need any substitute to assist the students on a particular day.

I've devised plans, though, on how to cope in such a situation, if there is no time to see the department head or a fellow math teacher before class. I always walk around the classroom checking that the students are actually doing the assignment. I inform the students that if they have a particular question, they should jot it down on their papers so that the teacher may address it when he or she returns. But I also find out who knows how to perform the operations and therefore the problems as most times I am presenting students with review work in the upper levels of education, and I ask those students to kindly assist their fellow students if necessary. Most students enjoy helping others, and I always learn something in the process. I keep notes so that if I am faced with the same subject matter again, I am prepared...somewhat.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Names, Names, Names

No. I'm not that good at remembering names, especially as I see hundreds of different students in three different schools. So I devised a way to make myself a unique substitute and cover my faulty memory with names. I call all students by the same name..."Chicken." It certainly gets everyone's attention, especially at the high school level. Now to change it up a bit, I include "Angelface" and "Sunshine." Believe it or not, they like it because it's different. They even call me "Chicken." I'll be walking in the hallway, or students will come into the classroom and say, "Hi, Chicken;" to which I respond, "Hi, Angelface." I can always tell who had me as a substitute before by this friendly banter.

There is quite a mixture of students in most classrooms, excepting the honors and AP classes in the high school. The types of student personalities I usually deal with are the good, the difficult, the indifferent to education, and the ones requiring special assistance. I try to even the classroom setting by calling everyone by the same name, as if to say, to me, you are all equal and I will assist you all in your endeavors today, if you'll permit me to. Is it easy? Absolutely not. Some students won't allow me to assist. They are simply too obstinate, and I usually find that even the regular teacher has difficulty in reaching them. But this doesn't make my particular day any easier. I need to focus and help those who wish and require my assistance.

However, sometimes, by calling everyone "Chicken," the tough guy can be cajoled into doing the assignment for that particular day. I try to keep the classroom and therefore the assignments light to keep the students moving forward in their work. And I collect all seatwork in the upper grades, say seventh grade and up, so that the students actually do something. I walk around constantly and ask questions and point out important facts needed in each assignment. I help students put into words what is dancing in their heads for essays, break down complicated questions or math problems into smaller parts so that the student is able to answer or perform the math little by little to gain that forward motion in education.

Friday, March 19, 2010

How I Became a Substitute Teacher

In New Jersey, you can substitute teach if you have 60 college credits or more. This permitted me to substitute at my children's schools while completing my bachelor's degree in English part time. Of course, there are differences in salaries between degreed and non-degreed substitutes just as there are differences in salaries between bachelor's and master's degrees for teachers. Substitute salaries are per diem based wages approved by the Board of Education for each district with no other benefites offered. It is a part-time job where you can choose how often you work.

I approached individual school district administrations to apply for each substitute teacher position. I applied to the elementary and high school districts. Each school district had its own packet to be completed and returned, with one school district taking a cashier's check from me in the required amount to mail to the State Department of Education for a Substitute Teaching Certificate. You only need one certificate for each particular county in which you desire to substitute, no matter how many schools in that particular county you substitute in or how many packets you complete. The Substitute Teaching Certificate needs to be renewed every three years, and of course there is a fee for this. Usually the schools where you substitute remind you to look at the expiration date when they ask each year if you still wish to substitute for their particular school district. Each school district you substitute in requires a copy of your up-to-date Substitute Teaching Certificate. You keep the original.

I also needed to be fingerprinted at my own expense for the Department of Education to check for any criminal record. The report is sent to you, and each school district requires a copy of this. Then I needed to see my physician to receive a TB-Montoux test, the PPD, purified protein derivative of tuberculosis, to see if I was a carrier or had the disease. Two days later, the doctor checks the inside forearm for any reaction; if none, the report is negative and you bring a copy of that report to the school districts you wish to substitute for.

Once all these details were complete, each school interviewed me and requested references. Then each School Board needed to approve me to be added to the substitute teacher list. This process can take months to complete, so factor in the waiting time if you wish to begin substituting.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What is a Substitute Teacher?

Teachers are the most important people, for the school system does not work without them. However, when a teacher is sick or cannot come in for various reasons, it is imperative that someone knowledgeable covers the classroom, teaching the students if possible. The forward motion of education must continue, even if only in review. But you need someone who is caring, understanding, and patient with children or teenagers. Someone who is not so much worried about being in command, as thinking of how best to assist the students on a particular day. This is the embodiment of a substitute teacher, and not all substitute teachers are of equal caliber.

Substitute teaching supplements the income, keeps the mind sharp, and the substitute on her toes. It presents a whole array of its own trials and tribulations. With a substitute teaching blog, perhaps we could open a dialogue, a venue to share laughter and frustration, knowledge and experience. Come. Let us share anecdotes and knowledge together through the blogosphere.