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Old 12-17-2007, 09:36 PM
Location: Bend, OR
3,267 posts, read 6,874,595 times
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I am looking for opinions and thoughts about being a substitute teacher versus being the regular classroom teacher. I am a first year 4th grade teacher, and I am really struggling with the time required to do my job. It seems that I devote every waking moment to school work, and I still feel like I am flying by the seat of my pants most of the time. Planning and grading takes up a bulk of my time. I don't feel I am doing all I can to be the best teacher, but I so exhausted I can't do anymore.

I don't have a life anymore, and I am always extremely stressed. I have seriously considered not returning to my classroom position next year, and subbing instead. Of course, I am concerned that I wouldn't make much money though. I am also concerned that if I leave, I won't ever get my professional teaching license, benefits, retirement, and support from the union.

So, I would love to hear what others think out there. Does anyone sub full time, and how do they feel about this? What about the professional license? Thanks for your thoughts.
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Old 12-17-2007, 11:22 PM
2,239 posts, read 6,633,459 times
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your time-management skills will get better. if that is the only thing that is impacting the quality of your teaching, i think it's too early for you to become discouraged. my first year, i was hired just days before the start of the school year, and had no time to prepare lessons in advance. i didn't even get the textbooks or curriculum guides for the subjects i was teaching (all THREE of them) until three days before students arrived. to make matters worse, one of the classes had neither textbook nor curriculum guide because it was placed on the master schedule before anyone actually sat down to design the course, so another first-year teacher and i literally had to make it up the whole course as we went along. (of course, WE got stuck teaching the phantom course that no one else wanted!) "flying by the seat of my pants" doesn't begin to describe the dance i was doing that year. i used to take home a box PLUS two tote bags of stuff every night-- papers to grade, supplemental materials to review and incorporate into my lesson plans, big fat heavy teachers' manuals, all my tools, etc., etc. i would watch the more experienced teachers getting into their cars with just their purses when i usually needed a student to help me carry my bundle to the parking lot, and i knew i must have been doing something wrong. eventually, i realized that teaching is the kind of job that will take as much time as i was willing to spend on it, and if i was willing to spend every waking hour, that's how long it would take. you have to stop being willing to give up your whole life, and you will find that it will still get done. otherwise, you will burn out before your first pay raise! decide how many nights a week you will spend on work (ideally, two or three), and leave everything behind in your classroom the rest of the week; if you don't have it with you, you can't work, and the guilt will diminish after you get your life back.

veteran teachers are a wealth of information and support. even if you don't have an official mentor teacher, ask for help from one or more of the older teachers whom you respect. one suggestion that worked well for me was letting students grade one another's assignments now and then, particularly things like textbook exercises that are scored objectively. it's a great tool for reviewing the lesson for the students, and a time-saver for you. as long as you set the tone so they know that you won't tolerate any mean-spirited comments about other people's grades, their natural competitiveness will emerge, and it can be a great motivational tool as well. once you know your kids and their ability levels, it isn't necessary for you to scrutinize every single piece of work they do.

about subbing: it's a thankless job, and unless you work in the same school every day, and build a rapport with the kids, many of them will consider it their mission in life to make your life miserable. i don't know why, but something in our school culture sends the message to kids that subs are unworthy of respect, and if the full-time teachers don't lay down the law regarding behavior and expectations when there is a substitute teacher in the classroom, kids seem to think that it's their cue to misbehave. even kids who would never give their regular teacher any trouble seem susceptible, and it makes the job very difficult unless one enjoys being a harried babysitter rather than a teacher. i've been both, and when i had my own classroom, there were enhanced penalties for rule infractions when i was absent. i told my students to think of my absence like being at home when there is company and i expected them to be on their best behavior, to welcome our guest (the sub) and be helpful and respectful. i always instructed the subs to leave names of trouble-makers, and i left seating charts so they knew who the kids were, and a real lesson plan (as opposed to busy-work) so the kids understood that even in my absence, it was business-as-usual. if they didn't turn in their work to the sub, i didn't accept it the next day, so they didn't have the option of fooling around in class, and doing it at home. unfortunately, there are too many teachers who don't worry about what happens in their classrooms when they aren't there, and it shows.

if you decide to go this route despite the warning and what you already know about losing your benefits, find a school that you like, and try to work there every day instead of moving around. if you become known on campus, you'll have an easier time because the kids won't think of you as a stranger they can abuse because they never have to see you again.

on the plus side: you'll never have to work at home.

good luck, whatever you decide.

Last edited by katenik; 12-18-2007 at 12:48 AM..
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Old 12-18-2007, 05:52 AM
20,793 posts, read 44,040,013 times
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You won't get any benifits as a sub and your pay will be less then half what you make now. You also have no guaranty that you will work from day to day, can you afford to not work for a couple weeks? There is no stretching your income over the summer. Substitute teaching is really a part time job, can you support yourself with that.

The first couple years of teaching are the hardest. Next year will be better because you will have some things in place to fall back on and use again and refine. Each year will get easier and easier. Do you have a mentor program in your school? If not, seek out an experienced teacher to get suggestions and help. Christmas vacation is coming soon and you will have some time to recharge your batteries. Also, many teachers do a lot of prep work over the summer, which you probably didn't get a chance to do. That will lighten your load some next year.
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Old 12-18-2007, 06:21 AM
1,155 posts, read 1,428,975 times
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Katenik is right. Hang in there. I am just over a year away from graduating and getting my B.S. in elementary education, so I can't imagine what you're going through. But I have heard many similar stories. Find a teacher or two you know you can trust to lean on now and then to get you through the tough spots. The best education colleges in this country cannot prepare you for everything. As for subbing, I have done it for four years in my district and started this year subbing in a neighboring district. I am fortunate since many of my sub jobs over the last year have been with the same teachers and therefore in the same building which does go a long way towards making the job easier. IMO if you can substitute teach before you get a full time job you'll be far better off in the long run. But since you have a full time teaching job already I would try and stick with it. Good luck.
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Old 12-18-2007, 06:57 AM
474 posts, read 2,097,935 times
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Default Wannabe Teacher

The above threads are generically excellent. So my purpose is to talk a little of the teaching conditions in my home town of Wheaton, IL. Three of my adult children (ages around 30) have wanted / tried to become Wheaton grade school or high school teachers.

But from the huge popularity of Wheaton, IL (look at the various threads) everyone as a teacher has 'sewed' up the Wheaton teaching vocational situation. There are Wheaton permanent teachers that have been in the same teaching position for thirty five years or more. There are the subitute teachers who have also been as a substitute teacher for just as long. So now when a new college graduate potential teacher comes along, the Wheaton teaching districts only offer such a grad as a teacher's aide for handicapped kids. And they are very serious problem kids because 'nobody' can handle them for more than one contract year.

So in the greater Chicago area, IF you are fortunate to contract for a position in which the life - time teacher has passed away or even retired - - then 'you' also hang onto that particular contract position for your life - time, too.

IF you have problems of burn out etc., then find a senior teacher as your mentor (like you are doing on this particular original post) - - and 'hang on' to that teaching position for a life - time.

Carter Glass,
Wheaton, IL
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Old 12-18-2007, 09:49 AM
Location: In the woods next to the ocean
4,449 posts, read 10,690,921 times
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The benefit of subbing, especially for a new teacher, is that you experience various sites and get to know the personnel and administration at each one.

That way you find out where, and with whom, you would rather work when you take a full time position.

And, it's a great way to network and build relations so when the ideal position comes along, you will be on the inside and have someone pulling for you.

In this district, the principal has the last say on who will be hired at his school, and the spot usually goes to someone he knows.
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Old 12-18-2007, 08:25 PM
268 posts, read 787,660 times
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If you can hang on, try to hang on to the teaching position. I subbed when I was doing my college work, and it is a bit of a thankless job. I got a lot of excellent experience from it, but it is still thankless.
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Old 12-18-2007, 10:30 PM
Location: exit 0
3,404 posts, read 2,228,861 times
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Great post katenik!

I was a sub for 6 years before becoming a full time teacher. While I loved my position as a permanent sub. I treasure the time that I spent as a full time teacher. I still hear from my students 4 years after retirement.

You WILL assimilate. It takes time, mentoring and experience. You CAN do it. If the passion is in your bones, do not give up. The first year is the worst. After that it's all gravy. Now that's not saying that it's a piece of cake, it is saying that you will find your niche and you will have an easier time of being able to fit in and get ahead of the paper work. You will need the rest of this year to learn how to organize your time and adjust your work load.

Good luck and thank you for your dedication to our youth.
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Old 12-20-2007, 09:09 PM
4,264 posts, read 12,219,082 times
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Wow, 4th grade is hard! I subbed before I taught and my first year teaching was also 4th grade so I feel your pain. I think 4th grade is one of the hardest grades to "start" as a first year, at least in Texas, because of all the writing requirements. It's challenging! Aside from that, however, is also that you are are a first year teacher. Things will get easier as time progresses. You'll "get the hang of it". Maybe you can consider teaching another grade level that your certification allows. Best to you!
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Old 12-23-2007, 10:24 PM
Location: Nashville,Tn
355 posts, read 2,202,214 times
Reputation: 256
Don't be a sub. Subs get treated horribly by kids who know they can misbehave while their teacher is not around. I have heard stories about subs getting cursed out by students, beat up by students, and many other horrible things. Subs are treated with no respect at all. This may just be in certain schools, but I still do not recommend subbing to a techer. Most people I know who are currently subs are working on being teachers and not formey teachers unless of course they are retired. Stick to being a teacher, it will get better. Find ways to manage your time better, it will work out in the end. Going to subbing is a step back. You have this nice fancy degree and you would not even be using it by being a sub. It would be a waste of all those years you spent in college, not to mention a waste of all the money you used to obtain your degree. I recommend sticking with teaching. This is your first year in this profession. Do not give up already. If you can absolutely not stand being a teacher any more, you might try finding another career in teaching, such as being in a more administrative educational career. Maybe you should try teaching another grade, like K or 1st grade, maybe they are not as stressful. Just give it a try, and if it still does not work, at least you'll know you tried and did not just give up because you thought you couldn't do it. That is a good life rule to follow that can lead you to plenty of success in the future. Give that some thought. I respect you for being a teacher because your profession is one of the most important. Without teachers, everyone would be running around stupid and without knowledge. You are as important as any doctor, dentist, lawyer, police officer, and all the other important professions that help other people in the world. At the end of the day just remind yourself that you helped a confused person become the master of something by the end of the day. If you are a sub, all you will be doing is sitting in a classroom of students just telling them what to do while their teacher is gone and begging them to be quiet and to sit down. When your a teacher, your class gives you respect because there grade is in your hands and you can also send them to the office. When you are a sub, you have no power at all and are just there until whenever the teacher comes back. Think about that. Also, if you like to help people a lot, try thinking about another career that involves helping others, such as being an RN. Being an RN ( registered nurse ) is a very exciting career with many different possibilities and room for exploration. Say you are a nurse in the pediatric department in a hospital and decide you want more adrenaline, you could easily go to the ER or the intensive care unit. In nurisng you have a wide array of possible career paths to take. You could become a nurse within two years. Anyone could find their nitch in nursing. Nurses get a good salary too. I have known graduate nuses to make 50-55k in their first year. Some nurses make almost 100k a year. In other words, whatever you decide to do, make sure it is right for you, that is all that is really important.
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