Thursday, May 10, 2012

Urgh. Can't we just go with the program?!

So I had a sub yesterday while I took a required observation day for our district's mentoring program.

I hate having subs.

Don't get me wrong, we have some amazing subs in our building, but the fact of the matter is that our students don't tend to be the most...what's the unfamiliar authority figures. In fact, they can be downright awful to subs. Because of that, we only have a couple of really good subs, and then we get subs that think it's a quick and easy way to make a buck--not because they have any interest in teaching.

I love my kiddos, I really do, but I dread leaving them with a sub. It's a total Jekyll and Hyde transformation. They're fine with me and a couple of our regular subs, but if they have someone that they don't know, look out. This goes way beyond tricking the sub into letting you go to recess a couple minutes early--they're loud, running around the room, defiant, and disrespectful--some students apparently even refused to tell the sub their names, so she couldn't write referrals.

I knew ahead of time that I was going to be gone, so I had prepared my students for a week in advance. We went over and over what would be appropriate behavior, how I knew they could do an awesome job, how I wanted them to make me proud, etc. On Tuesday, we created a list of goals to make sure that we had an awesome end of the school year (which I posted on my last post), I bribed, I threatened consequences, you name it.

So when I got to school this morning and read the note that the sub had left, I was really upset. When I got an opportunity to talk to her and actually hear what they had done, I was mad. As I was on playground duty this morning, I racked my brain trying to decide how to handle it. I didn't want to hear the slew of excuses and complaints about the sub being unfair, which happened when I made them write apology notes to a different sub earlier in the year. Lecturing was out; at this point in the year, they've heard it all a thousand times.

The bell rang and I brought the kids inside, still trying to figure out a game plan. One of the girls asked if they were in trouble from yesterday. "But we had a good afternoon!" she pleaded. "Sorry. Too little, too late," I replied in my most disappointed voice. The kids came in, went to their desks, and started chatting. "Guys, you know the report that you got from the sub yesterday. Do you think that talking is the best idea right now?" I calmly asked. Silence. You could have heard a pin drop.

Since I still hadn't figured out how I was going to handle it, I decided to let them sweat for a bit. Silently, I took attendance, brewed a pot of coffee, and straightened up my desk. Still silent.

Then I put on a performance that I am quite proud of. Pure disappointment. I explained to them how hurt I was that they didn't try for the sub, that other teachers had to be called in, that the principal had to be notified of their behavior. Heads hung, eye contact was avoided. I utilized dramatic pauses. "I really expected a great report, but I got a text at lunch telling me how badly things were going. I almost left the school I was at to come back." Uncomfortable shifting in seats. Truthfully there wasn't much acting involved in my performance, I was just so disappointed in their behavior and hurt that they wouldn't even try to do well without me--I even got a little choked up while expressing my disappointment.

The morning was so unbelievably quiet; they felt terrible and were walking on eggshells with me. Even my biggest challenge, who is usually heavy attitude and unbelievably vocal tried to make up for it. A group of kids started talking, and she of all people piped up with, "Seriously, you guys? Today is not the day for that!"

Unfortunately, after lunch, the need to please had worn off, and they were back to their usual antics. Granted, it was nothing compared to the way they act with a sub, but after the peaceful morning that I had, it was frustrating.

I love my kids, and I have a lot of fun with them, but I just hate that they can't handle themselves when I'm not there. They had library yesterday, and the librarian has been telling them all year how much better they're doing since last year. She was appalled by how rude and disrespectful they were toward her!

Do your kids have trouble with subs? What do you do to keep them in line when you're not there? Any special remedies that I'm not aware of?


  1. I teach 8th graders and they love to give unfamiliar subs a run for their money. So I now print out pictures with seating charts. My kids usually try to push their buttons at the beginning of the period, but usually straighten out halfway through the class. I hate having subs, because it is so much more work than if I was there myself.

    Have a Great Monday

    1. After my partner told me that they wouldn't tell the sub their names, I decided that I will be making a class roster, complete with photos, next year on the first day of school. We won't be having that problem again! I've been sick so much this year that I've had to have way more subs than I would have ever wanted, and I agree--it is so much more work than if I had been there myself!