The Fun of Substitute Teaching

By:  Staci Stallings

Please excuse Staci for having missed her blog on Thursday, following is her excuse…

One of the things that frustrates me about this life is not having enough time to do everything my heart wants to do.  Of course I love to write (DUH!), and I’m working on two books right now.  I also love to blog just because it’s like “free write” in school… and I loved free writing (just ask my typing teacher who could never figure out how I would have a half a page in answer to her simple question when others had maybe a sentence!).  I am learning to love to clean, which is weird but God works in mysterious ways.  I would love to garden.  I even have one planned out in my head (flowers and benches and stepping stones and roses) though I do NOT have a green thumb, so that one might never materialize.  I also LOVE to teach.

Teaching is better than breathing and almost better than writing.  Actually, it’s as good as writing though at the end of it, you don’t have anything concrete to go back and enjoy–just memories of precious little moments that will only last as long as your head and heart hold onto them.

For me, teaching is a lot harder to come by because I can’t do it in the snatches of time between keeping house and kids, doing the books for husband’s business and our family, doing all the errands, shopping, birthdays, etc. that come with having a family.  Marketing, blogging, writing, publishing, etc. that come with this wonderful career I’ve got going.

I started teaching fourth grade Sunday School three years ago mostly because the Holy Spirit set it up so my desire to teach intersected with someone else’s desire to quit teaching.  I wouldn’t have chosen fourth grade, but I love it.  This year’s class is particularly fun as they are curious and quiet–a good combination.  We’ve put Holy Spirit/Jesus/God puzzles together, played Faith Football and Jeopardy, learned to look up verses in the Bible, studied the Ten Commandments and what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  It’s been great.

You may have noticed I missed the Thursday edition of Spirit Light.  That’s because I got called to substitute for my children’s school–in second grade.  I’ve never considered myself an elementary teacher, but we had a great time.  The class is one of those with students who are strong-willed challenges, coupled with talkative challenges.  And I learned some things in that classroom on Thursday that I knew I could do but I didn’t understand what I was doing until Thursday.  That’s one of the things I love about teaching.  Only about 10% is about the subject, topic, or actual work.  The other 90% is about relating to people and bringing out the best in them… even when they don’t believe in themselves.

There is one other thing about subbing that I really like.  It’s a major challenge.

You know that even if you’ve never taught.  Kids are substitute-teacher hunters.  They just are.  The sub is often easy prey because it’s like setting a jungle animal down in a forest.  The terrain is unfamiliar; the schedule moreso; you don’t know anyone’s names; and everyone is out to get you.  (Can you hear the excitement in my “voice”?)

First thing you have to understand as a sub (or you will be reduced to screaming in about 30 minutes) is that YOU are in charge.  The kids know this (but figure it’s just a few shenanigans to the point where they are in charge and running the show) and will thus try underhanded tricks to undermine your authority.  One of the best weapons they have is “We don’t do it like that.”  The substitute says, “We are going to line up at the door.  First row…” and six hands go up.  “We don’t do it like that, Miss.”  This is a major pressure point.  If you are stupid enough to ask how they do it, you will get three different answers.  Worse, SOMEONE in the class will purposely tell you wrong so that a major fight can ensue so you don’t know who is telling the truth.

But a smart sub will say this:  “I’m not Mrs. Owens.  Today, we play by MY rules.”  They will try the “we don’t do it like that” at least once more on your next directive, but if you stick to your guns that you are in charge, they will get the hint and fall into line.

The other major challenge is names.  I happen to be very good with names–God’s gift!  I also make it a point to be good with names.  The worst mistake a sub can make is not learning names immediately.  If you don’t, you are left saying, “Hey, stop that! You guys sit down and be quiet!”  Yeah, right!  However, if you can say, “Jaylee and Aaron, get back in your seats,” trust me, they won’t disobey because you can write specifically WHO was being bad instead of indicting the whole class.  Works like a charm.

Of course there were a couple of other major challenges… like the fire drill (never do that to a substitute!) and the break situation which features girls’ bathroom on one floor and boys’ bathroom on the other floor, and dare I mention the CRAFT she left us to do.  (I don’t do crafts!)  But we made it through the day in one piece.  No one was bleeding.  No one got lost. We got actual, actual work done, and I made some new friends.

If I had more time, I think I would choose to substitute instead of writing or cleaning.  Maybe I’ll do that in my sixth eternity in Heaven or something…

Watch for your chance to read Staci’s newest book, “Being God Positive in a Spirit Draining World” for free coming soon!

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