A Day in the Life of a Substitute Teacher
Imagine walking into an unfamiliar room with minutes to execute the teaching day plan in front of you for 20 grade one students. This is an everyday occurrence for a substitute (occasional) teacher. The ambivalence – the excitement mixed with the uncertainty- wars within you throughout the day. While aspects of being an occasional teacher are nerve-wracking, the experience gained is invaluable for me as a teacher and as a lifelong learner.
The day begins about half an hour before the school’s starting time. I exchange friendly greetings with the administrative staff, who then direct me to my classroom. As I venture out into the halls decorated with student artwork, I scout out the fire exits and staff room. It is essential for an occasional teacher to look for the fire exits so that proper protocols can be executed in the event of an emergency. Once I arrive in my classroom, I look for any medical lists in order to be aware of all of my students’ needs. Next, I look for the most important document which makes or breaks my day – the teacher’s day plan.
Most day plans are thoroughly planned out, which confers a great lasting impression of the school. By looking at the day plan, I can glimpse the various subjects that the students will be learning about during each period. The teacher also notes his or her management strategies so that standard routines would not be disrupted. A popular management strategy would be to call out, “Hands on top!” so that students will stop what they’re doing and respond with, “That means stop!” The day plan even includes a section for me to leave notes about how the day went. Accompanying handouts, books, and technology are all neatly placed into a bin. Thankfully, these organized days are frequent.
Then, there are some days that do not go according to plan. While these days are challenging on the spot, they are invaluable to my growth as a teacher. On one occasion, the teacher left me a very thorough day plan, but I could not find any of the technological devices required to execute the plan. In the end, I turned to my personal “supply teacher toolkit”, which consists of a list of trivia questions, time-filling activities, and my iPad, amongst other things. My iPad easily connected to the school’s Wi-Fi and from there, I was able to smoothly conduct the lesson with minimal disruptions. The best part was that the students were extremely engaged, even though it was different from their usual lessons.
At the end of the day, I leave a thorough note for the host teacher, indicating highlights and any hiccups that may have occurred. Some highlights include adding group points to students who were particularly respectful throughout the day. Hiccups would be left in growth point formats, where I discuss the conflict and present the solutions I tried. Then, I exchange my personal information card with the administrative staff. I leave, knowing that I have given the day my best effort.
Whether the day went smoothly or presented several challenges, each teaching opportunity contributes to my ultimate goal of becoming a homeroom teacher. In general, it takes a few years for one to be promoted from an occasional teacher to a long term occasional teacher, and from there, to receive a contract as a homeroom teacher. The journey seems long, but in the end, it is a fulfilling one!