Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I am a substitute teacher.  I am no longer a real teacher.  If you think there's no significant difference between the two, then either you've forgotten what it's like to be a student under a sub--especially the day-to-day kind (long-termers like me are a different kind of rotten) --or you think you know a lot more about teaching than you really do.  Substitute teachers are not real teachers, the same way that pasteurized cheese spread is not real cheese.  I admit, however, that though I'm just a sub (and as a "real" teacher, I didn't have the least trust in the lesser breed and often went to work sick just so I didn't have to repair whatever damage was done while I was gone (much of which was never necessarily the sub's fault--just symptom of the situation)), I enjoy being back in a "real" classroom and working with kids again.  On a more fundamentalist note, it's nice having regular work.

Having been a full-time, real teacher before being a long-term sub gives me a different perspective, however.  And there are lots of subs--maybe even a majority--who were once real teachers, and now I think I understand their dilemma a bit better.

I'm sure that the teacher I'm covering for--away on maternity leave--is an excellent teacher.  Nearly all the teachers in this school are young, enthusiastic, and naive.  I never thought I'd be old enough to say it!  To give a little perspective, I walk into the staff room to warm up my lunch each day, and all the other teachers who come in, or nearly all, jabbering about recalled intramural college athletics memories and dating and applying to grad school, are almost ten years younger than me.  Crap!  I'm old!

But I'm experienced!

Anyway, the point is that, like I said, I'm sure this young lady I'm covering for is wonderful.  Most likely, it's her lack of faith in substitute teachers that lead to the creation of such abysmally boring, repetitive, stale lesson plans.  The students are dying!  And if eighth graders in an inspiring classroom atmosphere are bad, imagine how they are in utter academic doldrums.

Today it's all eighth graders.  I'm still getting a feel for the kids.  There's still a lot to do in accomplishing the teacher's plans (which I have to follow! --well, I'm sure I could rebel, but she's kind of my employer, and I'd like to get more of these positions at this or other schools, especially if the trend of rejections continues from these HUNDREDS of applications we've made for other work).  I don't feel comfortable doing my own thing yet.  Yet.

We'll see.

So what brought this all on?

I read regularly from the Visual Thesaurus website.  There's a great, widely ranging collection of wordy and academic stuff there, including teaching resources.  I read the following article:


and enjoyed it.  The man GETS it.  And it fired me up a bit.  If you didn't read or don't feel like reading the article, it's about getting students to write essays and the difficulty for so many students to adequately paragraph.  Basically.  And he condemns--or at least subjectively supports my own condemnation of--6 Traits Writing.  I do my own thing, teaching kids to write.  He does his own thing.  It made me want to go back and check out my old lesson plans and tweak them.  But why?  I'm not really ever going to use them again....

I'm just a sub.


  1. The problem is that these people don't really want to teach kids how to write. They want to teach kids to know how to write. There is a difference. I can give you a pretty good description of how the game of lacrosse works because I watch it every week, and I even know some of the technicalities, but I don't know HOW TO PLAY lacrosse. I just know how it is played by people who can do it.

  2. That's an awesome example, because in writing (or anything else), just as in sport (or anything esle!), takes a certain degree of innate ability. I can learn how to play lacrosse, but I'll never be great at it. People can learn how to write (though some can jsut do it, as the article claims), though maybe not like Shakespeare.