Sunday, May 12, 2013

Starting Supply Teaching 101

I am officially finished my B.Ed. Degree :) It was a long time coming but right now I'm thrilled that I am temporarily done school. I would like to go back to university in half a dozen years to get my Masters in French Literature, but right now I can focus on work, and family and my social life.

While I knew having a French degree would be a major advantage, and I can't believe how many opportunities are out there for French teachers (especially in this area). I've already had the opportunity to supply teach a couple of French Immersion classes (Grade 1 and Grade 6/7 respectively), and I have a new found respect for occasional teachers. I was encouraged multiple times to have a "supply kit" ready, filled with games and ideas to take to the classroom when you are called in to supply. I didn't really have that option. I graduated on Friday, and my first supply gig was four days later.

Supply teaching is incredibly stressful and chaotic. You get a call from the secretary of the school in need, possibly less than 30 minutes before you to start, so you grab your stuff, hope you've gotten up early enough to have showered, eaten breakfast and brushed your teeth. You have little or no time to pack a lunch. Once you get to the school, you introduce yourself to the principal and try to remember the first name of the teacher that you are replacing.

Once have finally found the classroom in the maze of a school, you frantically scour the binders and notes the homeroom teacher has left for you, from the day plans to the seating plan of the classroom. You hope and pray that they have left detailed enough plans that a monkey could follow them (and so far this has been the case). It is an assault on the brain all this new information that you need to read and try to absorb, from the typical morning routine, to learning all the students names as quickly as you can. You run to the photocopy room, printing all the handouts/ worksheets you'll need for the day, praying that technology will actually work in your favour and that you'll complete all your prep work before the morning bell rings.

The kids file in, and the whispers of "it's a supply teacher" and "where's Mrs./ Mr. ___________?" fill the room. You greet the kids as you walk in and observe the funny looks they are giving you. Students are very aware of the typical classroom routine and won't hesitate to tell you the order that things should be done in. You constantly refer to the day plans, because you forget what time each block is ending, and making sure you covered the material required. Other teachers pop their heads in and offer their assistance should you need it and are very friendly in the staff room. I didn't realize that if a supply teacher cannot come in, classrooms will have to be merged together; so instead of having two 25 student classes, one teacher could get stuck with 50 students of possibly different grades.

You run around panicked most of the day but manage to adhere to the vast majority of the teacher's lesson plans, usually understanding the material you are teaching, and the kids are becoming more accustomed to you. Classroom management is a whole other ball game; depends on the classroom dynamics of course, but some classes are far more challenging than others. You help the kids out to recess and when the final bell rings, out to their buses as you feel a trickle of sweat trace its way down your back. One day down, X more to go...

Then the process repeats itself, with each classroom being its own unique entity. Perhaps with time it will get easier. Supply teaching in my view, is like a rite of passage. Teachers start their careers supply teaching, then are able to build rapport with multiple principals and through other interviews acquire LTO jobs (long term occasional in teacher-speak). From there you build entitlement and may end up eventually as a permanent teacher, with your own classroom and group of students. I am very fortunate to have started this process already, having graduated merely two weeks ago. Who knows what September 2013, the beginning of the next school year will bring?

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