Saturday, August 20, 2016
What Substitute Teaching Has Taught Me
1) I've learned to rely on God. My initial response when told about this opportunity was "No way, it's not for me". I'm an introvert. I'm not a natural with kids. I like to plan and be prepared. Subbing was far out of my comfort zone! I took a small step and got my toes wet by volunteering in my boys' elementary classrooms. After becoming familiar with the routines and getting further encouragement from the teachers, I decided that I was going to jump in and pray that I could swim! I found that as my experience grew, so did my confidence. However, I've had to learn to be flexible and take things one moment at a time. Each day is different. Even now, 4 years later, I walk into new situations all the time. But instead of getting worried or anxious, I just say "Ok God, here we go!" and trust that He will make up for my areas of weakness. I may be going out of my comfort zone, but it's become somewhat fun and adventurous not knowing what to expect and rising to meet the challenges.
2) I've increased my capacity to love. We live in a small town and I choose to sub only within our school district (in all grade levels). I stay plenty busy and enjoy the relationships I form with the students over time. I don't just see them one year like a regular teacher...I get to follow them all the way to graduation! Of course some students are easier to love than others, but I've learned to care about them all and want them to succeed. These are now "my kids". I struggle with remembering all of their names, but I do try :)
3) Teaching helps to keep my mind sharp. I was always one of the top students in school. I prided myself on being intelligent. However, when you don't use it, you lose it. I get nervous that maybe I'm no longer "Smarter Than a 5th Grader". Being in so many classrooms helps to refresh my memory and practice skills that are in danger of being lost. (Thank God for answer keys!) I use my "downtime" opportunities in the classroom to read, work on math on Khan Academy, or study yearbooks (see, I really do try to remember names). While I'm thankful that I no longer have to study for tests, I do enjoy the challenge of remembering information and explaining it in age-appropriate ways.
4) I have a deepened respect for teachers. Like most girls, I liked to play school as a child. I would imagine standing in front of a classroom where the students were all sitting quietly in their seats waiting to learn. Then I would grade the simple worksheets and put stickers at the top. That's what teaching was in my mind. But that is not the reality of the classroom! My visions did not include controlling behavior issues, managing IEPs, preparing students for state tests, writing SLOs, and grading for hours on end. I've been asked many times if I want to become a teacher, and the answer is definitely "NO!" I prefer to be a support and blessing to them by being in their classrooms in their absence, and hopefully providing them with peace of mind that their students are in good hands.
As this new school year is upon us, I look forward to getting back in the classroom and seeing "my kids" again. I know that joys and challenges await, but I'm trusting in God to equip me for the job.
** Many districts need substitute teachers, so I encourage you to check into it if you are in a position to do so!