My New Teaching Gig: Building Substitute

So I subbed a bit over the last two years. I was so thrilled when I had relocated and got called in for an interview at a prestigious local school district (more on my job search, desired teaching gig decisions, and interviews to come!).

Long story short, I ended up being their first pick for the building substitute for a middle school! I am so excited, and it starts shortly, and I’m also admittedly scared about having to get up a couple hours earlier than I have been- most days of the week!

I knew that if I tried to pursue subbing out here on my own, though I applied to many districts, I didn’t know if I’d likely get enough work to make a good and stable income.

The pay isn’t terrific if you compare it to a full-time teacher’s salary (and that’s kind of sad right there!), but I do think that for me, not having to do planning and grading will be worth the cut in pay.

Since I have a good amount of subbing under my belt, I know to go in with a “firm but fair attitude” and make it work for the day.

Here are some thoughts (before starting) on the job of building sub (which I didn’t read up on before going into the interview- whoops!):


~Knowing where you are going to sub each day
~Not having to do to different schools, have different commute times, and different pay rates
~Establishing a presence and getting to know students and staff to help you feel more connected
~Being guaranteed a good number of days (150 in my case!)
~Could definitely lead to a full-time position at the school or district down the road


~Takes away some of the freedom and flexibility people might associate with choosing subbing.
~May prevent you from getting a different long-term or even full-time teaching position that opens up (I got an email from a charter school right after accepting the position, but I had one good and one bad experience at different charter schools, and I also didn’t want an extra 30 minutes added to my commute!)


That’s all I got for right now, but I will be a) trying to update this blog more (to include some thoughts from subbing and seeing a lot of different schools and behavior management systems!) and b) I will most certainly be updating you on my path of learning how to be a stellar building substitute!




Subbing Experience

Having had some difficulties with behavior management in my previous full-time teaching gigs, I knew the most important thing I could do going into subbing was to have a behavior management plan in place.

Get to know the building’s behavior management guidelines, and then the personal classroom management plan that the individual teacher that you sub for prefers to keep.

The first time I was called in (relatively last-minute) to sub for the very next day, so I didn’t have a lot of time to do prep work, but it is important to read up on the school and its mission statement and student population (general information you can usually find on their website).

When I was subbing, and also looking for employment at schools, I did look at reviews of schools, from a site like “Great Schools“, but I also took them with a grain of salt, like I would restaurant reviews for Yelp- sometimes they’re fake, sometimes blown out of proportion over something that’s not really an issue, having more to do with a person’s own problems the school is not responsible for, etc…but it was good to read those to get an idea of what people were rating the school.

To shorten the rest of the post, I’ll list a few tips I found useful in developing a rapport at schools you were going into, and to become an in-demand sub (nothing better than hearing “Oh ya, you’re a good sub, I’m going to request you!”:

  1. Be personable. You never know how often you’ll be back, and if you start coming back more and more often, it could indeed lead to a full-time gig down the road. Subbing is a great foot in the door to make connections. People will want you coming back if you make an effort to connect with those within the school, from the front desk, to administrators, to teachers you sub for and teachers in other classes, and of course! the students.
  2. Have a backup plan. Nowadays with such high academic demands it is unlikely you’ll just be sitting back and showing a movie as a sub (though it surely does still happen). But more often than not, I was following a lesson plan. Even with that, activities are likely to run short (as kids may be shy or you may not be going off on a tangent, for example), and you may need to improvise. Have a plan, whether it’s a brain break activity, or a getting to know you activity. Having stuff to do is important to keep students engaged and helps prevent misbehavior.
  3. Go the extra mile. Sometimes my backup plan was including a French song or dance, which I think was a real plus. The school secretary told me parents were raving about the sub who taught their kindergartener to count to ten in French! Going the extra mile subbing could mean adding your own flair to your coverage in the classroom, but it also extends beyond your assigned duties. If you have a free period or two, head to the office and see what you can do to help, or walk around the school and check out what’s going on.
  4. Leave a detailed report of the day. Leave excellent notes and better yet, make notes as you go through the day, as you may be overwhelmed at the end and forget some of it. One thing you can leave out? Don’t leave a tattle-tale list of misbehaviors. If there was something serious that involved disciplinary action or the office in some way, then do note that, but teachers know who is likely to misbehave and almost expect it. That’s why you’ll often see a list of helpers and students to look out for.
  5. Use the Sub Binder. Make sure you review the sub binder, if there is one, as it will contain valuable info to help you through the day. Normally if there’s going to be something like a planned fire drill, they will let you know. But make sure you read it and refer to it, or you’ll be like me on the day of the earthquake alarm I remembered most of the procedures but forgot to grab the bright orange hat and felt like a fool!
  6. Stay calm. Keep a cool composure as best you can (and sometimes- perhaps often at first- fake it ’til you make it!). Remember to take deep breaths. Subbing can be challenging, and in some parts of the day more than others (nerves at first, or right before lunch always seem to be the longest minutes!), but you will make it through, and with barring no major incidents, you will more than likely be asked back. You owe it to yourself to try and stay calm and remember to just do your best, but it is tough to come in and elicit the respect their everyday-teacher would get.

Just as you would if you were full-time teaching, make sure to care for yourself and your health and personal wellbeing. Get enough sleep, eat well (I do try and pack a lunch, but wouldn’t always be able to), and relax- you are fulfilling an important role and probably will be too hard on yourself. Enjoy your planning/grading-free evenings and get ready to answer another early-morning call, or if you get in good, you’ll get requested in advance which is nice. Yay for subbing! I had a better time subbing than I did teaching in some ways 🙂


Good Idea For Getting Parents On Your Side

If a student is misbehaving in class, you may already know that you’ll have to try a variety of disciplinary techniques to resolve the issue. Sometimes a student struggles with class preparedness or using work time effectively.

Here is a helpful example of a sheet you can send home to the parent or guardian to enlist their help with getting the student back on track.

Dear Parent/Guardian,

I need your help. Your child would be better prepared to learn if they:

____ remembered to bring the materials they need to class

____ completed homework ____ class work assignments

____ were less chatty/social ____ listened to class lessons/discussions more attentively; ____ actively participated

____ came to class on time

____ reviewed/studied for tests & quizzes

____ stayed after school to review ______________________________

Mr./Ms./Mrs. (your name here) is available on:  _________________________

Please speak with your child about taking responsibility for his/her own learning. I appreciate your assistance and cooperation. Together, we can help your child succeed.

Parent signature: ______________________________   Date: _______________


It’s as simple as starting with that. This is important for a number of reasons, one of which being that it is a proactive way to start dealing with misbehavior. Another obvious reason is it involves the parents and can help make them aware of what is going on with their child’s performance in your class. It is helpful to communicate in this way, and whether you choose to email it or hand a paper copy to the student/parent, you have a track record of your efforts toward positive and effective classroom behavior management!


French Enrichment Program

I was asked to create a 4-month French Enrichment Program, taught to students from Kindergarten to Middle School.

Creation of such a program proved difficult, having to choose what to cover after the obvious basics, while including a good amount of relevant culture and anything related to the area (place-based learning).

The program I came up with went over very well with students and parents alike. I intend to post it this fall (2015). It could be adapted to offer as a short language summer camp.

I, as a recovering perfectionist (which is very difficult for a teacher to be!), was rather pleased with the outcome. Students had fun, and learned some French language and culture! What more could you want?!

It was actually one of the most enjoyable teaching experiences I have had to date, and I was teaching French again! Not having the homework grading and (major, fast-paced) lesson planning was such a blessing for me. I intend to share more on that later, as I believe my experience and time in the teaching world would be relatable for many young, aspiring educators!


Teaching Hiatus

Due to some intense life changes, i.e. death in the family and more, to share just a bit, coinciding with the time around the end of my last substitute teaching employment, I have found other work for now, and will contemplate teaching perhaps in the future. For now, though, I do intend to get back to work on this blog at least, to develop a more in-depth, useful resource for teachers of French, F.L., and young and/or new teachers in general!

A teacher must first take care of him or herself before being able to care for and efficiently educate so many!


The Times, They Are A Changin’ (in my life)

I will most likely update this with more details as I get used to my new schedule, but, I’m done my post as a teacher, and, for now, don’t have any plans for teaching. Maybe subbing. I have another job I’m going to try out and see what type of money I can get from it, and, if feasible, maybe I could sub here and there, but I’m hoping to just go with this one other thing, supplemented with complementary work. (One is very technical, the other is outdoorsy, and possibly some secretarial type work). And, of course, blogging. I could stand to get back into some major blogging!

Goals for this site will be:

  • uploading a lot of re-usable resources I have created for French and possibly Spanish teachers
  • uploading educational PDFs
  • updating my educational theory and research pages/adding/organizing them
  • more reflection on what I did
  • more education-in-today’s-world articles and my responses
  • possibly adding some student work (I have another site where I’ve done that, but they are unlinked for anonymity’s sake)

There are a few more goals, but those are already big enough. It could be part of my debriefing from teaching therapy. As I said, I’m going to try out this other work, see how it goes, and look for teaching posts in the Fall if I am so inspired. I’m not calling it quits, but, since this position quickly came to an end, and I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to find something end of year like I did last year, I am going to go full-force into other pursuits.

I already miss some of the kids, and I took on an extracurricular role that I will also no longer be doing, so that’s sad as well. But. C’est la vie, for me, for now 😉


A Few Tips for Teaching Learners with Special Needs

A few months back during an in-service, we had a workshop on working with students with special needs in an inclusive setting. Often times, tips like these can help a majority of your students.

  • Use chunking with assignments – break down projects and other big assessments into smaller “chunks”. Even adapting project guidelines into smaller sections with more instructions can help students who have difficulty with anything from short to long-term memory transfer, to ADHD, to students with organizational difficulties.
  • Visuals – accompany everything with more visuals than you might think necessary. If you have a project, give an example, and create visual reminders in the classroom (from a display of exemplary past work, to a date-board reminder, to a calendar with upcoming work due. This may seem obvious, and I think that foreign language teachers tend to use more visuals than other teachers, but I may be wrong. Smartboard and other technologies have helped make it easy (and help save time for the teacher) when preparing these visuals.
  • Put the schedule on the board – this goes along with having visuals, but putting up a daily schedule at the front of the room, or if you have a pretty routine schedule, make sure that’s posted somewhere readily visible. Letting students know what to expect for class that day can help alleviate confusion, anxiety, create a sense of familiarity, and save time in helping create transitional habits. You may also want to list the OBJECTIVES for the day, or week, or unit, in addition.
  • Use clear, concise language (and be explicit) – I’m still surprised now and again that I hadn’t thought something through well enough (though I guess after 2-3 decades of teaching as opposed to 2-3 years of teaching you would hone in on this skill). Think through every detail when giving a project or study guide to best aid your students (and save yourself trouble later). Be very specific when creating projects, and remember to create and do the same with grading rubrics. (You see how these tips would be useful for any type of student- think of your concrete sequential learners!)

As I’m reading and writing this, I think it seems like the above would all be good tips for any student. The second part of this section of in-service also brought up good ideas for using appropriate language. Below are some words to use in discussing behavior, and other aspects of the classroom environment.

More PC/friendly “verbage” to use in the classroom, or in discussions about students (with colleagues and especially with parents)

expected vs. unexpected

appropriate vs. inappropriate

“weird” thoughts instead of “bad” thoughts

You see what I’m getting at? It reminds me of the first class I had on “exceptional learners”. I had a great teacher. One of the first word-choice things I learned, which has stuck with me, was to say “a child with autism” instead of “an autistic child”. It makes sense and can help lessen labeling, isolation, negative connotations, etc…

Boy, do I need to get more posts up! 🙂 It’s the weekend, yahoo!!!


Obama to makeover “No Child Left Behind”?!

I read this article from the New York Times today: “Obama calls for remaking of No Child Left Behind“, which shows a picture of our president in a classroom with some students, in front of a Smartboard with a picture of Duke Ellington on it, with some writing (hard to make out) and his signature. Looks nice, but a lot of things look nice on the outside…

The article is full of inspiration and political jargon-isms, like Obama encouraging “lawmakers to ‘seize this education moment’.” It’s not only a great thing that Obama wants children to know they’re a priority, it’s more needed than ever. In this touch economy, high school students feel more pressure to do more (and do it better) in school, to get into a good school with scholarships. And even if they get a college degree, there’s no guarantee for jobs. I’ve talked previously “kids these days”. Education these days is bad off. Linking teacher pay to student test performance is a bad idea. I read another article earlier where someone said teaching is the only profession where there aren’t pay raises based on performance (something like that). Well, how are we to be held responsible for a lack of parenting, or, previous teachers who haven’t upheld the high bar of standards.

The article addresses this new concern by saying that Obama wants to give more power to state and local government in education, hoping to “improve the quality of testing, demand increased standards and increase accountability by principals.” I quoted that because all of those things sound like empty political platforms. Nice ideas, but I’d like to see his specific ideas for increasing principal accountability or an explanation of which standards we need to be increasing. Standards like standardized testing that can’t possibly accommodate all the diverse types of learners there are in the student population today? I have so many problems with testing, I wouldn’t know where to begin, but, teachers probably have a lot better perspective than the people who will end up making these important decisions.

It’s really unfortunate. Here’s that article I read about an algorithm developed to measure teacher quality, which glaringly showed wrong outcomes right off the bat (yuck, yuck, yuck).

Obama rounds out his inspiring speech by saying something about how a budget that stiffs education would wrong the youth of today, adults of tomorrow. Again, it sounds nice, but, I won’t keep my fingers crossed. There are still wars being funded and corrupt institutions being bailed out. I guess I do have some strong opinions. And, once again, I don’t know exactly how I’d do it better, but I guess my main point is that this article seemed to be full of empty promises. Is there another election or a poll coming up or something?

No Child Left Behind definitely needs to be improved, as it was a complete failure, and I believe in Obama more than I would have Bush, but, it’s the government. I’ll be interested to see the follow-through with this.


New Job Best Yet!

Well, I read recently about a teacher who blogged about her students and the comments she wish they had on report cards instead of the suggested ones, and while I saw the humor, I also saw a big line being crossed, especially using swearwords and getting somewhat specific. She lost her job.

Not like I’ve said, or would say anything too bad about teaching, but I have complained a bit in the past. However, now, I feel very fortunate to have my job. But, I can’t get into specifics too much. I will say that it’s at the middle school level, as opposed to the high school, and I really have enjoyed the break. By that I mean, it’s nice to have kids who are excited about learning foreign languages, and who misbehave in more innocent ways. Sure, I have some classroom management issues, and it’s still a  lot of work (as any teaching job for which you put in the time needed to even just get by), but it’s nice, new, and different.

And having students who care inspire me to do more than just “getting by”, I’ve rediscovered my passion for teaching French, and it is a mutually beneficial thing. Before, I was somewhat depressed because of the overwhelming apathy of a lot of the students no matter what I did. It was a real challenge. As with everything in life, there’s a yin and yang, and each school will have its pros and cons.

I feel very fortunate to have gotten a job in such a great school district, even if it is another sub assignment. It’s a good foot in the door.

I need to go do work, but I also need to add a lot more to this blog. I have oh-so-many things to say, wisdom to share, and, most importantly, DOCUMENTS, LESSON PLANS, HANDOUTS, POWERPOINTS, RESOURCES, and MORE!

To leave new teachers with a thought from my experience:

“If you’re like me and take lots home because you think you’re gonna get it all done over the weekend, you’re wrong. And you’ll be wrong weekend after weekend. There might be a few weekends where you do accomplish a whole lot, but, you still didn’t need to bring home 30% of your classroom.”

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GER/CER verb exception handout/worksheet

This 2-page French class handout goes over the -ger/-cer verb exceptions to regular -er verbs. The first page explains what happens to each type of verb and has an example of conjugations of each. The second page has a little practice.

GER/CER verb exception handout/worksheet.odt

(It’s a word document, not a PDF- I’m going to be diversifying the documents I put up on my site in the coming weeks, er, months).

This worksheet would be good for French 1, middle school or high school, review, or extra grammar help.


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