No One Cares What You Do In Class
Everyone's different. I've known substitutes who actually wanted to someday become teachers, and who really took the job seriously. These are the people who show up early so they can study the teacher's lesson plan. They have backup plans of their own in case none were left. These people have mastered classroom management and really work hard to be valuable assets to their schools.
Now, think back to the substitutes you had when you were in school. Me? I once had a long-term substitute who, instead of teaching us algebra, taught us the finer points of 20-egg omelets and helped manage a three-month-long tabletop football league.
Including a Super Bowl
He never consulted a lesson plan and never had a performance review. He did, however, make an extra ten dollars per day for being a long-term sub.
That guy kept his job. Do you want to know why? Because at the end of the day, most schools don't have the resources to care about whether or not the students are actually learning anything from subs. Also, as long as you haven't been hog-tied to the desk while the kids have started to form their own system of government, then there's really not much for the administration to get upset about. They're worried about all of the teachers they've got on salary who have to meet government-mandated standards, because if they don't, the school won't get funding next year.
You will never be this important.
For a while, I would go in and really do my best to maintain order and structure in the classroom. This typically led to a lot of frustration and stress, as I realized that the minimal training I was provided with left me ill-prepared to handle a bunch of kids who would rather send Snapchats and talk loudly about their weekend than pay attention for the five minutes it would take to actually learn something useful. I mean, I would dress up. I wore nice shirts and ties. I did my hair. What I'm trying to say is that I tried. I really ... tried.
That all changed when I was in the middle of trying to keep a classroom on task and one of the students told me that they were glad I wasn't "weird" like their last substitute.
"Go on ..."
Apparently, this one guy came in wearing sweatpants and reeking of marijuana, and then proceeded to lecture the class for 50 minutes about how taxes are evil and the government is on the brink of collapse.
I figured that if that guy could keep his job, then why the hell was I trying so hard? I mean, it's not like I get performance-based rewards. And I'll tell you this: The kids seem to like me a lot more when I'm not trying to get them to work.
That's not what they want. You're just a nostalgia tourist here. You are older. Your life is done, or nearing completion. These kids still have their whole lives ahead of them. They've got a good 10-20 years before they're as bitter and washed up as you or me. That's probably the saddest part. There is no way to convey to a 17-year-old the feeling of having all of your hopes and dreams crushed by life, and then having to go to work and sit in a room filled with people who have more opportunity and potential than you ever did and watch them piss it away on their phones. So why bother conveying anything at all? Just sit there and try to not get shot.
For more from Will, check out his podcast on Soundcloud and follow him on Twitter @wcbolt.
For more reasons to second guess a career in teaching, check out The 6 Most Horrific Lessons Ever Taught in Elementary School and 4 Teachers Who Just Went Nuts on the Job.
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