Sunday, April 28, 2013

Occupying the Troublemakers

I know I stated at the beginning that this blog was not going to be about the sucky times of subbing and I stand by that. No one likes to hear someone complain over and over again day after day (and I don't think anyone likes to read about it either). Do not worry... although this post may be about the troublemakers it is not about a sucky day I had... more of a tip.

We have all seen them. Troublemakers (do they always seem to go by the same name). But I've come up with a great way of handling them. It works especially well when I'm subbing in kindergarten and students can't read well yet.

So here is what I do.

Little Charles is bothering everyone. Stealing toys, running, and pulling pigtails. You want him out of the room and you want him out of the room an hour ago (before you even arrived at the school). You can't send Charles to the hallway, after all, he is only in kindergarten.

You can try to give him little tasks to do around the classroom (for some odd reason kids love sweeping). Use this with caution though... once I had 1 kid sweeping and the other troublemaker holding the dust pan when the sweeper swept a little too vigorously and smacked the other one in the head with the broom.

But here is what I do. I write a note and give them special instructions about how it is really important that they deliver the note to the secretary and you cannot do it yourself because you have to stay in the classroom.

Sidenote: the note obviously says "Charles is being a douche bag can you keep him occupied in the office for a little while so that we can get some work done?" ... just kidding about the douche bag part (obviously) it does not say that. Don't write it. You will not get invited back.

So Charles is out of your hair for a little while and you can go on to have a lovely day in kindergarten (is that even possible in kindergarten?)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Offer Game Time

At the beginning of the day after telling your class what the day will look like offer them the chance for a few minutes (it could be anywhere from 5 minutes to an entire class) to play a game if we have a good day.

If you decide to offer them this incentive make sure you make good on it if they are good!.. and if they are not good do not be afraid to take it away.

It doesn`t even need to be "Game Time" it could be free time to do whatever they want.

I've made this work anywhere from kindergarten to grade 8 (it might even work in high school - I just don't go there often enough to try it out).

A tip for middle school and high school students though would be to have something in mind for them to do... things can get chaotic fast in elementary school let alone high school. Also, in middle school students usually move from class to class. So, if you are seeing one particular class a lot offer it to them for the last class you see them in. If it is a class you will be seeing once that day offer it to them for the last 5 minutes of class.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Foot Massages

I know what you are thinking.

"I thought this was a blog about substitute teaching, not about the perfect foot massage"

Just trust me on this one.

Let me set the stage for you.

I'm subbing in a kindergarten class the kids are alright (nothing amazing but not the worst I've seen either) and we are all sitting on the carpet for attendance, calendar time, maybe a story and a song too. I'm clearly feeling casual this morning and decide to wear flip flops (maybe to show off my pink toes... maybe to show off my awesome foot tan. Either way, I'm wearing flip flops.

So the kids are all sitting on the carpet and I'm sitting in the chair telling them that it's June and it's a Thursday and the weather is hot or something along those lines when a student puts up his hand

"I really like your toes" says little Billy who then begins to touch my toe nails (questionable but I honestly don't mind if people - even tiny people - touch my feet and he isn't running around the room screaming so I allow it).

The next kid clearly sees that I'm allowing little Billy to touch my toe nails and dares to take it one step further. She is clearly thinking "oh yeah Billy, you only get to touch her toe I'm going to touch her foot!"

Next hand goes up and little Becky asks "may I give you a foot massage?" as she is carefully removing my flip flop and rubbing my foot.

I kid you not, I Christine, without even trying, got my kindergartens to massage my feet. It was the strangest thing. For the entire day they would not let me stand for anything in excess of 15 minutes because then it was cutting into someone's foot massaging time.

Their hands were tiny and they didn't do a great job but after a 4 hour mediocre foot massage your feet still feel amazing.

Sidenote: this wasn't the first time this happened. Once I was subbing in a grade 3 class when the class assured me they normally massage their teachers feet while she reads them a story. I was wearing runners this day but they just attempted to massage my feet through my shoes. Odd.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Don't Leave Too Early

Confession: Once I read my watch completely wrong. I was subbing for a teacher who was half time one school in the mornings and the other half at another school in the afternoons. Anyways, her morning school was a snap to do. I taught one or two classes and the other 3 (after helping out in the office or helping another teacher) sitting around reading in the staff room. It was an easy gig and I loved going in for her.

Since not every school starts and ends lunch at the same time it was not uncommon for me to be allowed to leave school A early so that I could still have an hour for lunch and I often would leave early after clearing it with the principal.

One day the principal told me I didn't have to clear it with her anymore and I could just leave. The principal trusted me and I basically swore never to abuse this privilege.


Maybe I was tired, maybe I need to go back to grade 1 and learn how to tell time again, maybe I was just trying to push the envelope. Either way, I accidentally left an hour earlier than I normally would have for lunch, giving myself a 2 hour lunch!

After realizing this, I was already in my car and halfway down the street... and I confess... I just kept driving. I didn't even go to school B to see if they had anything for me to do... I went shopping (but I'm only a substitute so it was more likely browsing).

Wow, it feels great to get that off my chest.

Anyways, not many people will find themselves in this exact situation. I mean come on, not everyone is as trustworthy as me that the principal would just let you go without checking in with them first. Or more likely, usually you are at one school for the entire day.

On a normal day, after the bell rings, I spend some time writing the teacher a note about the day, straightening things out in the classroom, and no less than 5 minutes after the bell goes (the halls should be almost completely cleared) I'll start my walk to the office to return the keys and then exit the building.

Teachers do not get to leave at the sound of the bell and neither should you. Remember, act like you are a teacher, because you have the same credentials as them, and don't run for your car at the sound of the bell.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Winning over Students - The Easy Way

Getting your students on your side is important for many reasons. Since you are likely not quite as awesome as a substitute as I am I shall list them for you

1) You do not want a chaos in your classroom. Just think what the other teachers will share about what happened when you took over for the classroom down the hall. Plus, forget about the teacher... what will the principal think? Do you want a job? Then for the love of everything impress the principal!

Sidenote: also impress the secretary they know everything!

2) Do you want to be invited back to that class? I thought so... get the kids on your side so that when the teacher tells them she needs to get a sub to cover for a PD day they will all chant your name and not that other substitute who thinks they are all that and a bag of potato chips (because you are NOT them).

3) When the kids are on your side they will do things for you! Want a foot massage? Want them to clean up the room at the end of the day? Want them to get that math worksheet done so that you don't have to fill in all the answers in kids writing to make it seem like the students actually did it? I thought so... get them on your side.

As you can plainly see you want the kids on your side and as far away from the side of that other substitute. Luckily for you that substitute is not stylish at all. If it is a guy he wears plain clothes and not a cool watch. If it's a girl she has brown or black shoes every time and no jewellery.

Now, I'm not saying spend all your money on some new clothes and accessories... that's crazy talk you are only a substitute teacher and you do need to eat. But trust me, some red flats, bracelets or a ring, and a cool watch go a long way. I honestly can't explain it but a kid will comment on my bracelet and the next thing I know they are giving me a hug and asking if they can fan me... ok I've never actually been fanned.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I know, I know, we are just the lowly substitute teachers. We do not have to write report cards, have student conferences, get to school early, or stay too late. We actually don't have that bad of a deal here. Having said all this, I think we are entitled to one prep a day (if it is in your schedule). Anything in access of this one prep is just gravy and you do not need that much time to snoop through the teachers drawers.

I've had insane amounts of preps before. Often times the teacher will know they have a lot of preps and leave you work to do. I've spent a lot of time with the laminator and even more time snipping out laminated items. But sometimes, the teacher calls you in last minute. She barely had time to throw together a haphazard lesson let alone plan for what you would do for her on your preps. In these cases, and I know it will be hard, let the office know about your insane amount of preps.

The office may give another teacher who has been putting in a lot of extra time in extracurricular activities some time off from the classroom and get you to cover for her, they may get you to do some office work, or they may get you to just help out in another class. Whatever they get you to do, you do it, with a smile on your face. Because, you love teaching, even if that means cleaning the puke off the floor.

And, sometimes they will find nothing for you to do and you get to sit back with your feet up eating all those bon bons with only the guilt of you cheating on your diet on your mind.

Sunday, April 07, 2013


Remember recorders? When I was in elementary school we purchased our first recorder in grade 4 for the ultra low price of $10 I believe. It was a great time. Holding that creamy coloured piece of instrument while walking down the halls announced "Yes I am in grade 4 and we get to play the recorder nah, nah, nah, nah, boo, boo we are better than you grade 3's". But I digress... this is a blog about subbing not reliving my elementary school days.

There will likely come a time in your subbing career that if you decide to accept music positions and you will run into some very unfabulous recorder playing. It is terrible, your ear drums will feel like they are about to explode, and you will feel like you have gone deaf for at least the next 15 minutes after the class is over. Seriously, bring your whistle on recorder days or stand by the light switch because no one can hear anything over that racket.

Obviously, I have been the unlucky recipient of a recorder day in music (and obviously it was a French music class because clearly they are my favourite).

There isn't much you can do in this situation unless you decide to toss the teachers instructions out the window and pop in a movie instead. But by doing this you run the risk of the teacher not really caring for you and not being invited back. Therefore, I do not do this, because I am an awesome substitute teacher.

I am still working on the best technique to solve the problem of the squealing recorder sounds. Perhaps only letting a few students practice at once would solve the problem (but then what would everyone else do - they would likely turn against you and tie you in your chair if they have nothing else to do), you could tell them only the best recorder players get to play today because you want to hear what the music is supposed to sound like (but then you single out all the sucky players and they will likely cry about it). Or you can just suck it up and let them break into partners (or maybe groups of three) to practice the song for 10 minutes so that each partner (or group) can play it for you afterwards.

If you choose to follow my lead (which I am by no means endorsing as the best way) here are some tips:

1) stand near the back of the room and not the front. Often times music rooms are designed (shockingly enough) as music rooms. This means the sound travels to the front of the room. Which means you will feel like your ears are bleeding within the first 2 minutes probably.

2) If you are not satisfied with the back of the room open the door and stand half in the room and half out. Send the students who didn't bring their recorders out to the hall so it looks like you are just keeping your eye on them. Everyone has their recorder? Hide 2 of their recorders so that there will be students out there. Just Kidding... calm down. Tell them everyone will practice but you need 2 volunteers to do something for you. It doesn't matter what you need them to do. Tell them you need a picture of a famous musician drawn and coloured for above your fireplace (they won't know you don't have a fireplace). OR if you are near an entrance to the school and they have double doors send a couple students to practice there and keep an eye on them from the doorway of the music room.

3) You can always use ear plugs if you brought some.

4) Get them to just finger along with their partner for parts of it (when you need a break from all the noise)

5) Fake an illness and get yourself out of there ASAP... bonus points if it requires an ambulance ride to the hospital (this is likely not the best option but if all else fails...)

Hopefully you are feeling a little more confident about your next subbing day in a music classroom during recorder season (which FYI happens sometimes after Christmas break - probably around Easter).

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


They are the heart of the school. Without them who would input the attendance into the main computer? Who would answer the phone when half the school population is sick? Who would un jam the photocopier? Seriously, they are a pretty important bunch of people.

Be their friends.

If you have more than one prep (I say more than one because I believe even we subs are entitled to one prep a day if we get one - but more on this later) go and see if they need help.

I've photocopied for them, I've sorted for them, I've shredded the important documents for them (I did, I probably shouldn't have been near the important documents but that's just how much they trusted me).

Sometimes secretaries are the ones who call out for substitutes. Do you want to be invited back to the school? After you have won over the students win over the secretaries. It is a small investment of time that will go a long way. Besides, you are getting paid for the entire day of work - not to sit back with your feet up chewing bon bons.
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