Monday, April 1, 2013

Dispatches from the Sub Files Vol. 2

Things I dislike about subbing:

Never knowing when you're going to be working.  I can set out my week with skill and organization and then have it all fall apart at the drop of a hat when I get some subbing days thrown in to the mix.

Going stretches without work.  It's impossible to "budget" when you're a sub.  There is no way to know when the dry spells will come.  It seems it's either feast or famine with very little "happy medium".   Because of this, when sub days do come, I feel pressure to take them even if it means revamping one million things in my life that I had scheduled, because I never can tell when the work will come next.

Feeling powerless.  I'm not referring to the classroom here.  I'm referring to the chance to work.  I am only subbing at the girl's school.  It's a big one - 900 students in K-12, so there are lots of teachers and lots of chances to sub.  The hard part is, I'm just on the list.  It's not up to me or an administrator, or even individual teachers as to who they get to sub more or less.  It's the job of the "sub-clerk".  I've been at this for a few months now and I'm puzzled as to why some people get most of the subbing days and others get the scraps.  Other than offering payment under the table, I'm not sure what can actually be done to drum up more consistent work.  I am at the mercy of someone who doesn't know me, doesn't know my ability or like-ability in the classroom, isn't aware of my skill set and rapport with students and teachers, and owes me nothing.

6 am phone calls.   I like the subbing days I get in advance so I can prepare myself a wee bit.  The 6 am wake-up calls are disorienting and can throw the morning into a tail-spin.  And yes, you're right,  I did just complain about not getting more subbing days, so I suppose I should welcome the 6 am calls.

Lunch hour.  I sometimes go and sit in my van or hide somewhere else in the school when I'm subbing.  Making conversation in a tiny cramped staff room with people who are wondering why you're sitting in "their" spot isn't really my idea of a good time.

Turning in my keys.  What?  I have to turn in my keys?  Yes.  And don't worry, I'm not subbing at a lock-down facility or anything.  The idea is brilliant.  When you get the classroom keys for the day, you  hand over your vehicle keys so that you won't leave the school at the end of the day with facility keys in your hand.  Brilliant, yes.    Makes you feel like a teenager who is asking mom and dad for the car keys at lunch hour or the end of the day?  Hell, yes.

Looks.  I know the look, because I've given "the look".  You drop your child off at school only to see a strange face of a sub in the classroom door.  You're disappointed that your child will be spending all day with a sub who doesn't know your son or daughter or you.  I get it.

Classroom management with no relationship built in.  This is challenging, especially in middle years.  When you don't have the base of relationship built with students, you're ability to navigate situations and discussions is significantly affected.  I try like crazy to build relationships into the day whenever I can so that I've got a starting point.  Often, there is just not enough time.

Great ideas and nowhere to use them.  I'm full of ideas for how to make the school better, safer, and more relevant to lots of different kinds of students.  Ideas don't count for much on their own.  It's also frustrating to see holes where your skill-set could make a huge difference for a student, but there is no opportunity to get in there and make it happen.

The pay.  I'm not really complaining.  I'm happy to get my cheques when I get them.  I realize that to many, subbing is glorified babysitting and should be paid accordingly.  But as it stands now, I make about $17.00/hour.  The money is not great.

Occasionally feeling incompetent.  Subbing is crazy sometimes.  You are expected to "teach" or be the expert on something you've had 10 minutes to look over and understand.  There are unspoken rules in schools and classrooms that you are expected to know and follow.  When you don't know or follow them, you can be pretty sure that someone will point it out.  Then you can apologize for not knowing the rule or way of doing something that no one told you about in the first place.

Things I like about Subbing:

Being where my kids are.  Granted, if you asked Hannah, this wouldn't be on the top of her list for things she's pumped about.  She isn't thrilled when I sub in her hallway.  But this is my post, so I'll tell you that I like seeing my kids during little moments of the day.  Ellie even squeezes me.  That's pretty neat.

Being able to say "no" when you need to.  I like the freedom of letting work go when I've got a particularly busy week at University or when one of the girls is sick or has a doctor or dentist appointment.  It would be nearly impossible for me to work at a different job and have Mike share some of the carting of kids around with only one vehicle.  This affords us the freedom of having me continue to available to be the mom when a mom is what is needed.

Leaving.  When subbing in a particularly challenging classroom, it's a great feeling to send the kids on their way at 3:30 and then lock the door behind you knowing you won't be back to deal with it all over again the next day.  The same goes for looking at the immense amount of work teachers pour into projects and ideas and plans for their students.  That stuff takes time and energy and hours at home to make it all come together.  I don't have to give any of that time away.  I just get to leave.  That's pretty sweet.

Building Relationships.  I like kids.  I like teenagers.  Always have.  Sometimes in my head I still feel like a teenager more than an adult.  I love the chances during the day to just sit and chat.  To get to know kids and find out about them.  To ask them questions and find out who they are.    Those are the moments during the sub days when I feel alive.  Those moments are worth a lot.


As you can see, the list of things I dislike, is significantly longer than the list of things I like.  I feel it.  I need to find a job where I feel more like I fit.  I need to find a job where I know what my pay cheque will be every month and where I will receive professional feedback and follow-up based on how I do my job.  I'd love to find a job where I'm using the training I'm receiving in the master's degree studies in Marriage and Family Therapy I'm doing right now.    I'd love to work within school environments building and facilitating mental health programs and counselling students.  I'd love to do a lot of things. There's got to be a job out there that fits.

Let me know if you've got one for me.  This subbing thing is getting a little old.

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