Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I went on a week long vacation last week to Park City. A vacation from what? Good question. My family and I just had to get away from the stress and worries of everyday life. So we went up to our condo in Park City.

We had a great time. Its the off season up there. So there weren't that many people around. Making it a nice time. However, most of the tourist stuff was closed down for two months until the ski season starts up. So we mist the concerts, hot air ballooning, and stuff like that. But, we did get a lot of shopping in at the outlets! I had to buy some new clothes that I can teach in.

I haven't taken any substitute jobs this week. I have received over 10 calls so far in the mornings, but I am waiting til next week to get back to it. But I did set up a week long substitute job for next week! I am excited about that. All I know about it is that it will cover 4th, 5th, and 6th grades at an elementary school close to my house. I hope I handle a week of this!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Our retirement plan is worse than yours

On Thursday, when I substituted that fourth grade class, I talked a bit with the teacher about my career. She said some interesting stuff about her district, the Jordan School District. She told me not to apply for a job in that district, to go to any of the other districts, such as Granite or Alpine. She said that since they changed their retirement plan and health benefits the district is no longer a good place to work.

Jordan School District did changed a lot about their retirement plan. No doubt about that and it is a lot worse than other plans in Utah. I have read a lot about this change in different newspapers and websites. But, I don't think this district will be unique in the next couple of years. After having worked in the corporate setting and watching my company and other companies do the same thing with benefits, I am not surprised that school districts are doing the same.

When I was hired as a technical writer and web developer six years ago, I worked for a company that was rated in the top ten companies nationwide for outstanding benefits. Two months after I started working there, the benefits changed dramatically and I don't think they even placed in the top 100,000 after that. So, I am not worried about the change in the Jordan School District and I will be very surprised if the other local school districts don't follow suit in the next five years. Times have changed and unfortunately education is not immune from the same changes.

Well, this teacher's attitude was "work anywhere but in this district, you'll be much better off." She even said that its less stressful working in the other districts. I think she is buying into grass is greener on the other side theory. I know teachers in the other school districts and once your there it isn't any different. Well, except that their benefits are better, for now.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I must be lucky

I must be lucky. I subbed again today for a fourth grade class and the students were so well behaved and we finished all of the tasks that were in the lesson plans. It was just a half day, afternoon. We started off with a Math Pre-Test. They are starting a new chapter in their math books, so the teacher wanted to see how much they already new. I gave the kids forty minutes to finish the test. During that time I was able to open my novel and read several chapters. The class was so quiet during that time and when some of the students finished before the others they quietly pulled out some books and started reading.

I was blown away at how well the students behaved with a sub. After the math test we moved onto science and watched an two movies from the Isaac Asimov educational video series on the planets Mercury and Venus. During the videos they took lots of notes on Mercury and Venus. I was surprised at how much information they took down. We ended the day by correcting some assignments from the morning.

The only issue that I had was the kids started talking during the last fifteen minutes of class while we were correcting papers. They had done so well up until that. I didn't worry about it much. They did so well for me the entire afternoon. I asked them to keep quiet every couple of minutes which did help and we got through this final task.

Oh, I forgot to mention, I arrived early to the class and talked a bit with the teacher. When I mentioned that I was getting my masters and was subbing for the experience, she thought that was a great idea. But when I mentioned that I was hoping to work in this school district when I finish the program, she had some interesting remarks about the district. I will write more in another post later tonight or tomorrow morning. You will have to wait...

First time subbing at an elementary school

I subbed for my first time at an elementary school yesterday. I had the opportunity to teach two grade levels. The teachers were in some on-site training. So, I started with a fourth grade class and it went so well. I taught Language Arts. The kids started off by writing in their journals about what their favorite book. It was a great activity to start with. Right there I could see which kids were having trouble paying attention to their tasks and which kids were having difficulty following directions. Next, we moved on to some language skills tasks that were already written on the whiteboard, then more language skills in their activity books. We ended the class period with a twenty minute movie and mammals.

The second class, fifth grade, went almost as well. This was for a different teacher who was called next into the training. There was one kid in the class who had problems following directions and kept getting up from his desk. He wasn't all that bad. I kept telling him not to disturb the other kids and he always went back to his desk and was quiet for a bit longer until he would get board again.

In that class we went over their assignments from the previous day. Then did some spelling exercises, and some fun activities. The class ended with the TA reading a story to the kids during a quiet time.

The teacher in that last class did have a small bell that she rings when the class starts talking too loud during tasks. I had to use it twice. Not too bad for a sub. When the bell is rung, all the kids stopped what they are doing, stood and folded there arms, and went quiet. Then I rung the bell again which told the kids to sit back down. That teacher has done such a great job with teaching these kids how to behave. Plus, every kid worked very well on their tasks.

I have another sub assignment this afternoon at a different elementary school. I hope it goes just as well.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Am I overconfident?

I found to great online forums that teachers post about issues, ideas, concerns, and advice. The first one, which I like best, is A to Z Teacher Stuff and the other one is Teacher Focus.

A lot of the substitute and new teachers sound really scared and unsure about abilities. It seems that the majority doesn't seem to have any confidence in themselves. This has made me wonder, "Am I overconfident in my abilities?"

I did have a bit of stress when I subbed last week for the first time, but I didn't question my ability. The last class of the day did get a little bit out of hand, but I kept them from disturbing other classes and the majority of the students did finish their assignment.

I know that I have only subbed two classes so far, but when I read those forums and I can imagine those teachers and subs crying as they write. That's the way it sounds to me. Maybe this is why a bunch of them are also having problems finding jobs. School supervisors, principals, HR reps can tell one someone if confident and when one isn't. I would suspect that they want confident educators in the classrooms and will pass up those that aren't.

I have always been confident in myself even when I was taking on a new task, having to learn new skills. I got myself into situations were I had to finish a task in two under two days and I had no clue what to do. I worked in software development for five years where I was always challenged with new opportunities.

That's the way I see teaching and substituting, new opportunities. I know when I am getting in over my head and I also know what I can accomplish. Teaching will be difficult, I know that. I know that it will take a lot of work. But I also know that I can do it and that I will be great at it.

Reading those forums has helped me a lot. There is some really great information in those forums, but I can also see where my abilities and confidence is greater that a lot of other teachers. Maybe I am too new to teaching and will eventually break down, I hope not. I feel great about what I can do and I want to keep it that way.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Spanish sub for the day

I received two calls this morning to substitute. The first one was that special ed school again. I turned that one down. I didn't want to try that again so soon.

The second call was to teach Spanish Level 1 at a middle school. I happily accepted this assignment because I do speak Spanish and received a minor in Spanish in college.

Well, I was hoping to be able to do a little bit of teaching today, but all I had to do in the class was show a DVD to the students. When I showed up to class, the other Spanish teacher brought in the DVD and said to show that and have the students write 15 facts about the DVD. It was a cultural DVD on Spain. I mentioned to her that I was hoping to do more than that because of my Spanish background. She was very surprised that I knew Spanish that well.

The teacher I was subbing for and this other teacher didn't expect to get a sub that knew Spanish. That's understandable. I'm sure most classes receive subs who have no clue about the topic. I would feel lost if I had to sub an advanced math class.

The other Spanish teacher did ask if I could leave my information with the school so that they could request me again if needed.

Now, here's how my classes went. The first and the last period where the worst. I'm sure that's because in the morning the kids just got to school and haven't been worn down yet, and the last period just wanted to get out of school on a Friday.

I quickly learned in the first period to take control of the class right away. The other Spanish teacher came in for a minute to help quiet the kids down, then I took over. I did very well with the next four periods, until that last one came in. They were very noisy and rowdy during the video. I'm still not sure how to handle those situations. I ended up moving a bunch of kids from their desks to other desks. That helped for a while, but I still have to figure out something else.

I'm sure these kids respect their teachers more than the subs. Otherwise, they are getting away with a lot more than I ever did.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

More about todays teaching gig

I still don't know what to think about my substitute teaching today. After a half hour the main teacher (there were four of us) wanted to move me to a different class because his was being very disruptive. When no other class needed any help I was sent home. The main teacher said that it wasn't anything against me, but of course it was or he would have given me other tasks to help with in his classroom.

I think that this teacher wanted someone with special ed experience to be the substitute. There's nothing wrong with that, except that there aren't many substitute teachers with special ed experience.

When I entered his classroom the first thing he asked was what kind of experience I had with this type of classroom. I was honest and said none. You should have seen the look on his face. He was shocked!

As I was leaving, secretary at the front office mentioned that if I wanted to try to this school again that I would definitely get another call. She said that a lot of substitute teachers ask to have this school removed from their substitute school lists after trying for a day.

I told her as long as they didn't mind that I was knew to substitute teaching and new to special ed, then I would give it another try. She mentioned that a lot of the subs that they have never had any experience in this area when they first started.

So I guess I really have no idea why that teacher didn't want me in his class. Its probably something that I can't worry about. Now I just have to decide whether of not I am going to keep this school on my list of schools I can sub at.