I remember having substitute teachers when my regular teachers were sick. They never had a reason to write my name down because I was taught how to behave properly at home and not raised in a barn. After my student teaching stint, I subbed for about one month to make some money. I covered a number of special education assignments due to ARDs being conducted. One time two of my students lied about where they were headed and roamed the halls for most of the class period. I haven’t any idea where they went, but I wasn’t given information about who does or doesn’t leave. I was also green. Fast forward to present day: kids who’ve been in my class before tend not to be troublesome when I cover a class for someone. They understand that I am not playing around when I run a classroom. I tell them, “I am in the system and have no problem sending you to another room where you can work.” I have a sense of humor, but do not mess with me.
I leave a sub folder with directions, seating charts, attendance sheets, lesson plans, etc. I also ask them to tell me about who was absent, tardy, or a problem. They are given a list of students who are responsible and those who have special needs. A while back, I had a student who used a wheelchair and would park his ride by the desk and haul himself out. He had a wicked sense of humor, so I had to pick on him. He wrote some funny entries that he shared during our journal time. Some of my students have medical concerns, so I let the substitute know about those, too. I’ve had diabetic students before, so they were on a permanent “If student X asks to go to the nurse, send right away!!!” basis. My students are warned that I reward bad decisions with detentions after they have the opportunity to explain themselves to me face-to-face in a student-teacher conference. Few accept my offer. Subs are guests in our home, and they should be treated with respect. Two of my favorite subs are retired teachers who do not play around at all. The kids know it, and they stay in line.
When I plan an absence, I remind my classes of my expectations. The vast majority of them comply with my request and save their humor and zany behavior for me when I return. When my grandmother died in late January 2007, I went to her funeral in Phoenix during the first weekend of February. I was crying as I told my kids about what had happened, so they saw my pain was real. One year later, my father’s baby sister—my youngest aunt—died the same month. She was a mean Chinese checkers player and would always beat me. Aunt Pat had cerebral palsy and never walked, but boy could she be center of attention when you took Miss Thing to the mall. She was always scoping out the good-looking guys. I went to her funeral out in Phoenix and missed a day at work. Within a week of that loss, my mother’s older brother and my favorite uncle died. He is the one who I bantered with about the silliest stuff whenever we were together. Unc and I loved strong coffee and beignets. My one regret was not getting him to this cute little New Orleans-themed sandwich shop called The Big Easy where they will make some good beignets and coffee with chicory. My kids were there for me when I needed them to be. They were PERFECT. That class of students is graduating this year. I can hardly wait to see what they will do as they enter the world of life after high school. I pray they do well. Their former teacher is rooting for them. ¡Ciao!