Before Covid 19 hit I worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District as a Substitute School Teacher. LAUSD has been closed since March. However, I thought you might enjoy hearing about a typical day in the life of a Substitute School Teacher.
The first line in the Substitute Teachers Handbook says…” Congratulations! You have decided to become a substitute teacher. A skilled substitute is a particularly important educational component in our schools. Skilled substitute teachers can have a significant, positive impact on the quality of education while the permanent teacher is away.” If you believe that I have got a bridge I want to sell you.
Let me tell you about a typical day in the life of a Skilled Substitute Teacher in the Los Angeles City Schools System. My day starts by receiving the phone call at 6:00 a.m. asking me to report for a teaching job. Yes!!! I have a job. Where am I going…Oh my God, not there!!!
I arrive at school with enthusiasm, and a smile on my face. The office gives me a key to the classroom and my working schedule. I immediately look to see how many periods I have free so I can make phone calls, read the paper, and just goof off. I look for the lesson plan which had better be there or I am in big trouble… I pray the lesson plan is a movie. This is the best way to spend the day. The only downside is you will have to “watch” the movie 5 times, but you hope whatever the movie is it will keep them quiet.
When I substitute teach I always wear a tie, and of course it is a tie with a cartoon character on it like “South Park” or “The Simpson’s” so the kids will think that I am on their team, even though I am not.
The Substitute Teachers Handbook encourages you have a Sub-Pack, here are some of the things you need in your, sub-pack… rubber bands, colored pencils, regular pencils and a small pencil sharpener, clipboard, post it notes, rulers, lined paper, paper clips, glue sticks, calculator, band aids, sewing kit, a whistle, granola bars, and new this year, prior to Covid 19 Disposable Gloves & Plastic Bags??? Here is what The Handbook says about disposable gloves and plastic bags, “Whenever you encounter blood or bodily fluids you should wear disposable gloves to help safeguard against many of today’s medical concerns. Do not touch a student who is bleeding even if you use gloves. Upon removal of gloves, hands should be washed with warm water and soap. Finally, all surfaces contaminated with blood should be cleaned and disinfected by the custodian. HOLY SHIT… This job is dangerous!
When the students arrive you are supposed greet them at the door and say… “Hello I’m Mr. Gleason take your seats and let’s get right to work” The Substitute Teachers Handbook says “This is the best way to prevent a full scale riot from breaking out when the students see that they have a substitute teacher”. The only problem with getting the students right to work is getting into the Los Angeles Unified School computer to take the roll. I guess LAUSD is afraid that Edward Snowden will break into their computers, so they have 3 log-ins and 4 passwords JUST TO TAKE ATTENDANCE and once you get in there, you find that parents like to name there children after movie characters. Since Frozen is popular you may have a boy named Olaf and girls can be Iduna or Yelena very few names like Jerry or Kate. Some parents of course name their children Jesus or Hey Zeus. I asked one kid in Do your parents call you Jesus or Hey Zeus…He said they call me Chewy…
The Substitute Teachers Manual encourages you to do something to help get the students on task… Here is what they suggest. You say, “Please take out your reading books and read silently at your desk for the next 20 minutes.” The students say…” Reading is boring,” “Twenty Minutes is too long.” I like to say “You know when I was your age, I thought reading was boring too. Sometimes I used to sit at my desk, hold the book open, and pretend to read. WHY DON’T YOU DO THAT”
” The Substitute Teachers Handbook says two words can handle most of your problems. “I Understand.” The student says. “I think this assignment is stupid.” You say “I understand, I agree it is stupid… however it needs to be completed. The student says, “I hate you.” You say… “I understand, I hate you, too.” The student says, “I want to use my phone during class.” You say, “I understand, but if you do, I will take it away and break it into a hundred pieces.”
In the Substitute Teacher Manual, they never do address the student’s obsession with the phone. In fact, I have had discussions with them about the phone… They say I do not understand them it is generational. I say …using good technique… “I Understand, however I think you can wait 20 minutes to see if you have a call or send a text or whatever. Remember that phone is not going to get you into college or get you a job” …after I say that they all looked at me with blank expressions and I understand they didn’t understand.
In the Substitute Manual they make a big point of not getting caught in traps. Here are a few examples. The Criticism Trap– Do not say “You are the stupidest, bunch of ignoramuses I have ever seen.” Do say “Thank you for putting your name on the top of the paper. ”The Sarcasm Trap-Don’t say “I hope you are prepared to spend the rest of your lives working at “In and Out Burger” The Manual says Avoid Sarcasm make school a positive experience” Do say “What a great class, You are all going to Harvard”.
When you substitute you will go to all kinds of schools. Here are a few signs that should make you nervous.
One– They have metal detectors outside every classroom even the 1st grade.
Two-– There are 4 policemen in full riot gear on every floor.
Three— The students watch a tape of a hockey game and add up the goals in Honors Math.
Four — The main varsity sport on campus is “The Hunger Games.”
Finally, at the end of the day you fill out a Substitute Teacher Report for the teacher you are subbing for. Here is my report….
Substitute Teacher- Me…
Regarding lesson Plan- There was none….
Notes Regarding Behavior- Why even ask…
Terrific helpers- The Campus Police…
Students who were absent-I only wish they all were…
But the worst thing that happens when you substitute teach is that when you are finished for the day and go to hand in your material. The head of the substitute teachers in the office says “We have an opening would you like to come back tomorrow” and you say…”Yes, I would love to come back, what time would you like me”.