Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Griping Substitute

My job has been extraordinarily monotonous lately, thus the lack of regular posts.  Things have been so slow in fact--and this is amazing considering how ridiculous middle school students are--that I haven't had a funny anecdotes to tell in, gosh, months.

Instead, I'm going to complain.  You don't have to read this.  This is for me.  Catharsis.

The last week of school is pointless.  Disagree?  Tell me about it!  Who in the United States does not have close personal experience with the futility of the last week of school.  I could get into the academic and State Department of Education implications here, but that's not my gripe right now.  I always figured we could at least fool the students and parents into good attendance, support, and performance this last week by lying.  Put the last day of the school on the calendar a week later than it really is, and then tell kids the last day of school, "Oh, by the way, school's over!  Have a good summer."  Think of the problems this would solve!

As a teacher I hated the last week of school because academically it's worthless.  As a result of that worthlessness, it's pretty much impossible to maintain any kind of discipline because you've got nothing to hang over the kids' heads.  The skillful teacher can work around this, and as long as the school or district don't require final grades before the last day of school, then you might yet have a little leverage.  More than that, if you have a good relationship with your students, though, you can manage some fun activities, enjoy or movie, or go outside and play games.  As a sub, it's a different matter entirely.  Already largely without power, things are immensely more difficult this last week than any other.  My head is just about ready to blow up.

I hate the last week of school for a compounded reason: since the teachers have given up--either burned out or just done with curricula--they are unable to pass along any leverage to the subs covering for them and said subs therefore do nothing but deal with insolent, bored, hormonal teens for an hour and a half at a time, particularly as we're not allowed--well, at this school, I'm not allowed--to do anything otherwise to distract them, like take them outside to play games.  They don't know me and won't do what I ask--and why should they? --because they don't necessarily like me, they don't know me (and there are some exceptions, but not enough to dominate the rest of the unruly eighth grade population), and don't even trust me enough to start in on a game or something.  And right now, chowing down on a cold hamburger with naught but mustard, mayo, and cheese (the cafeteria ran out of ketchup, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles during first lunch), I wonder if what I thought earlier today is true.  Do I dread the end of school because I'll have to find temp work in some factory or something in the next few day to carry on for the next four weeks?  Maybe not.

Teachers who don't adequately provide for their subs should be--

I was going to say "shot," but maybe that's a little harsh.  Maybe reprimanded.  Sheesh, I'm too nice.  No.  Teachers who don't adequately provide for their subs should be made to be a sub for a week for a teacher just like them.  Just like principals should be forced to work a semester in a classroom.  Just like students should be made to do custodial work.  Just like parents should sit in the classroom with their crappy kids....  

Okay, I'll stop.

Gripe completed.


  1. It's gotta be especially bad after Memorial Day. I've read that retention rates are horrible in this country. I wonder if it's due to the long summer break or because kids don't concentrate the last couple months of the school year. Both seem possible.

  2. Retention has always been bad. You've really got to be just the right kind of person to not just become a teacher but remain a teacher, and woe betide the poor kids who get a teacher who shouldn't still be a teacher but didn't have the guts or chutzpa to get out. Regardless of the hours (they are what you make them--forget the arguments on either side: O, we work so much; Hey, you get summers off! --period) it's a hard job and, if you're doing right--i.e. if you care--pretty darn stressful. More than that, you don't teach for the money, but the lack thereof has the potential to cause pretty big stress outside the classroom. If you can deal with all that, and if your family can deal with all that, and you love teaching (like me--I'm REALLY going to miss it--like, more than I'm going to miss my drums), then yeah, it's for you.

  3. i do not envy you sitting in class as a sub during the last week of school. :-|