Saturday, April 30, 2016

Did I ever throw a colleague under the bus? and other thoughts on that I'm subbing

I subbed 5 days in April, and other than that one terrible, horrible, no good experience, the other 4 ranged between good and exceptional.

This may sound ridiculous, especially since I am just a lowly substitute, but I pride myself on being a teacher.  I am proud of having gotten my MAT and working in a challenging middle school, where over the course of a day I taught the smartest of the smart, the kids who could barely read and everything in between.  I am proud of teaching at the cottage school, where I strive to make my students think and to offer them creative assignments.  And now, I am proud of subbing because I take my degree and my experience into the classroom to work with children again.

After the terrible experience, I spoke to a number of teachers at my sons' school when I was subbing there this past week and learned that they had taught at that "difficult" school and left for all the reasons I witnessed that will make me avoid subbing there like the plague.

The thought popped into my head of whether I'd ever thrown a colleague under the bus by making him/her deal with difficult students on his/her own without support.

My first year, and maybe my second, we had a science teacher on our team who had loads of experience but was just not good at managing the kids who weren't AP.  He could teach the smart kids all day long (although I don't know if they enjoyed it; he could simply manage them without writing up a thousand slips but a puppy could probably manage AP students).  We used to hold weekly detention with the teachers rotating each week, and the vast majority of those kids were written up by him.  I would hold detention for kids who I didn't have any problems with in my class; the other teachers did the same.  When I would ask them why they were in detention, it almost always was because of the science class.

It bothered us to no end, so we agreed to change the detention system.  Each teacher would hold their own detentions every week.  If I gave a kid detention, I would stay with that child on Thursday.  If the science teacher wrote 3,000 detentions, he would stay after on Thursdays with his detention students.

How quickly his detention writing changed when it impacted his every Thursday afternoon.

I had forgotten this until I began subbing.  I ask myself now whether we threw him under the bus?

Support has to be a two way street, I think.  A person has to want support and be willing to alter his/her strategies in an effort to be successful in order to expect his colleagues to help and support.

It was difficult to support this teacher's endeavors because he, maybe intentionally or not, obviously treated the AP students better.  He held a science fair every year and only AP students could participate.  This changed when our team restructured, and I was privileged enough to work with a team of teachers who, in the past, never worked with AP students because they were so darn good at working with what we called our "neighborhood kids."

It was easy to support each other because we shared similar beliefs.  I never felt like there was "dead weight" on the team.

Another thought that has popped into my head now that I'm subbing is whether I ever cared who subbed for me when I was sick.  I only took off a day if I was too sick to function at school because my room was always destroyed after a sub was there, and I hated coming back to my desk and seeing the disarray.

I always left sub plans, plenty of work, and a seating chart, but I'm sure it was no picnic for my subs. I hope, though, since I had a good handle on my classes it was, at least, tolerable for them.

What I experienced from subs informs how I am as a substitute now.  I try to leave their desk as organized as possible.  I leave explanations in a note on the day.  I ensure the kids clean up the classroom.  I always knew I would have a ton of work to reorganize my class when I returned from illness, and I hated it.  I don't want to do that to teachers for whom I sub.

The district is in the midst of proposing both a salary freeze for teachers and a revision to the code of conduct, which I suspect feels like a gigantic slap in the face.  I'm not sure there would be as big of a kerfluffle if the two weren't happening simultaneously.  A teacher who is in a well-managed school may not feel as strongly about this as a teacher in a difficult school with hard-to-manage students coming out of the woodwork, although the teachers in the well-managed schools surely want to support their colleagues.  I'm not sure how I feel about it all.  Most things are far more complex than whatever is read about in a newspaper article.

I support my kids' teachers always, and I feel like administration at their respective schools is strong.  I guess I can only remind them that I have their backs. 

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