Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 14 2009

Sick Day 1

I finally took my first day off on Friday. I started feeling sick early on Thursday morning, and was barely functional in my classroom by the end of the day. Even the principal encouraged me to stay home, so I figured it was forgivable. Plus, my kids were at the point where they needed to review and compare what we’ve been working on (permutations vs combinations), so they should basically be able to do that without me.

Part of the reason I’ve avoided being absent is that it’s a ton of work to prepare for a sub. They need minute-by-minute directions for the day, seating charts, lesson plans, worksheets, names of trustworthy students, maps, etc etc etc. It took me hours on Thursday night to get it all ready. And then I spent all day Friday staring at the clock, wondering how my kids were doing. This might be what it’s like to leave your newborn with its first babysitter.

Then I return to school today to a TERRIBLE report. The sub left behind nothing more than a letter saying that all my classes were terrible, but especially the infamous Period 3. He didn’t give me names of difficult students or anything concrete to work with. The teachers on both sides of me said my classes were too loud all day, and one had to go in and yell at them. One student left a note on my desk complaining that no one would stop talking and she couldn’t work. She signed it “Help!” and then her name. Two different students had taken it upon themselves to leave lists of the only students they felt were behaving. Talk about a disaster.

As I expressed my anger and disappointment to each of my classes today (it’s AMAZING how silent and controlled they all were when they realized how serious I was), they all started to protest (a hands-raised, waiting-their-turns type of protest) about the quality of the sub. He asked my first two classes if there were videocameras in the room, and proceeded to do NOTHING to manage the classroom once he found out that there weren’t. Apparently he sat in the back of the class with a book, a sandwich, or his email (depending on the class period), and never once told the kids to settle down.  The kids were horrified. I am horrified.

Unfortunately, a perfect classroom would be good no matter what the sub was doing, and I told all my classes that. No matter what I know about the substitute, the fact that they were so out of control reflects really poorly on me… to my neighboring teachers, to my administration, and probably to the sub himself. My fragile management is not good enough to continue when I’m not around. It tempts me to be absent more so that the kids can practice and get better at this… but obviously sub behavior is not as high on my priority list as them learning math. So we go back to me never being absent again.

9 Responses

  1. I hope you’re feeling better.

    I hate that your students misbehaved. As a former sub, I can tell you firsthand that your kids didn’t act this way because you lack discipline skills. In a majority of the cases students think sub days are play days. This happens in many classrooms across the country. Having said that though, I fault the sub for not attempting to gain control of the class (if what your students reported is true).

    Regardless of the sub’s behavior (or lack thereof) I encourage you to impose consequences on your students. At a minimum you should require them to write apology letters to your neighbor teachers, the prinicipal, and you. The lesson to be learned is that as citizens, we are responsible for our own actions regardless of what others do or don’t do. If the letters aren’t done or written with a sincere heart, you might consider taking away class privileges.

    Good luck!

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