Piggybacking on the last post: Yes! Despite my financial advisor’s advice to the contrary, I left fifty unused sick days on the table, in part, for all the reasons explained previously.
However, if I’m honest with myself, there was yet another H-U-G-E reason for my reluctance to take those days.
I can fully spell that reason in eleven letters, or in abbreviated form, in just its first four:
To substitutes I tip my hat. I give them all the credit in the world for doing what they do. I could never do it. I need to prepare; I need to know the entire logistics before walking unaware (or even aware) into a room just minutes before the arrival of the students. Horrors! Thank God, literally, for individuals strong and generous enough to substitute.
(Yes! I am the dry-run queen; substituting is a frightening proposition. As a classroom teacher, I said I’d rather be selling apples on the street corner than ever do any substituting. As a library media specialist, I haven’t said that, but I’d still rather not substitute, unless, perhaps if I were totally destitute. Given my inability to do that job, I am indebted and grateful to those who have the constitutional fortitude to take on that indispensable role. Truly, substitute teachers are our unsung heroes! Full-time teachers and students–to say nothing of administrators–cannot do without them!)
That being said, as much as a “good” (competent) sub is priceless, golden, a teacher’s dream!, a “bad” (less than competent) sub is a teacher’s nightmare.
I learned about the latter the very first time I ever needed a substitute teacher.
My junior high social studies classes were “trying” King George III. Every student had a role for which he or she had researched and prepared. “All” the substitute had to do was what I did: sit in the back of the room, facilitating as little as required, being the adult of record in the class.
I thought I had clearly emphasized that role to the substitute.
Apparently not clearly enough.
Not only did she choose not to sit in the back of the room, she chose not to allow the students to continue with their trials. And as if that weren’t disheartening enough, what she did choose to do was precisely what I did not want done: she lectured the students on King George III, offering her perspective and advising them on the next steps of their trial proceedings and verdict.
Substitute trauma. That’s what that incident gave me. I was incredulous, perplexed, angry. Uninvited, she had totally “ruined” the students’ inductive learning experience.
In the heat of the moment, I promised myself I would never let that happen again. That’s right! I determined I simply would never again be absent!
Obviously, that plan was totally as illogical as it was impossible. I was absent again.
Better solution? More detailed, explicit plans, identifying, if necessary, what I was asking that the sub not do, as much as I was asking what I would appreciate him or her doing.
Did it work? Unfortunately, in my experience, as well as the experience of other colleagues, more often than not: not. Why a one-day substitute would feel it necessary or justified to disregard the teacher’s stipulated plans and classroom routines is beyond me.
So much for the substitute herself or himself.
There’s also the matter of the substitute plans that need to be prepared—even for the most perfect subs who faithfully follow the spirit of plans, even if the fluidity of the moment requires an adjustment from the letter of them.
As is true for so many delegated tasks in life, it is easier to execute the plans oneself than to create them for someone else.
In my case, too, as a library media specialist, on any given day, there might be six classes, each a different grade, for which I needed to create plans. Likewise, in addition to lessons, there were matters of sharing the circulation process that needed to be explained in writing. Also, when I’m really sick, the last thing I want to do is write up cogent lesson and circulation plans.
In my experience, it was the administrative part of the job that LMC substitutes took liberty with, often creating a lot of un-doing, damage control work on my return—starting with the sub who let me know that she “figured out” the circulation system, even though the plans called for the lesson, only, and no book circulation in the event that the sub was unfamiliar with our automated circulation system. (She had never used any circulation system, previously, but said it was “fun.” That was the last time she had that much “fun” as my sub in the library.)
That’s it. Left behind fifty unused sick days. As sick as I might have been, I grew sicker at the thought of writing plans and entrusting them to a substitute who may/not choose to follow them.
Unless I was totally/communicably ill, I chose to go in. Do you blame me?
Was taking a day off in your line of work challenging?