Friday, March 14, 2008

I Made a Mistake and Lost My Temper

And here is a rant I wrote the other day, after a bad day subbing. I have gone back and forth in my mind about actually publishing it, because it doesn't show me in a very good light. Face it, I lost my temper and I should have been in more control.

I had a bad day subbing the other day. Well, it didn't actually start out that bad, but especially in the afternoon, it fell apart. Was it the two girls (approx. 9 years old) who refused to stop coloring when they were supposed to be doing something else? Was it being constantly interrupted before I could complete an entire sentence? (Yes, in spite of all of the teacher techniques of waiting for silence and reminders about classroom rules) Was it the little boy who decided to unfold paper clips and, with the addition of a rubber band, make a sling shot that could shoot the unfolded paper clips, sharp points out, at fellow students? Was it the boy who refused to listen to anything I said and hid under the table or walked around the room whenever he wanted? Was it the two boys who were laughing and teasing each other so loudly that they completely disrupted the lesson? Was it the fact that even separating them and telling them that they would have to sit out for part of recess made no difference it their behavior? Was it the dozens of other things that I won't even bother to detail?

No, the thing that really frustrated me was a parent. It was at the end of the day and I was exhausted from having to remind the kids about their classroom rules, which were clearly posted and signed by all. I was trying to get them to put away their things and clean up the room. Repeatedly, I would go around pointing out things that needed to be done and the kids would pretend to do what I asked, but would stop when I went further. Finally, I got angry and I was reprimanding the students for not helping to clean up the classroom at the end of the day. The parent, who was in the classroom picking up a child 3 minutes before the bell rang, said I was "out of line" to speak sharply to the students. (I told them that their behavior was unacceptable - that they needed to help clean up the classroom and listen to the teacher.) The parent's student was one of the children who, during math class, was putting pencils up his nose instead of doing his work. But I was the one who was "out of line". I was supposed to calmly outline the expected behavior and enforce the rules. I suppose, actually, he was right. I shouldn't have let my frustration get the better part of me. I think the frustration was justified, but I should have handled it better. Sigh.

Maybe I, too, should quit subbing. In general, I feel that I am actually a good sub. A teacher who was observing me last week (she is a long term sub who takes some of the students for part of the day, since the two 6th grades have 28 and 30 students respectively) said that she thought I did an excellent job. So it isn't just my own opinion. But it really does upset me that the students' behaviors are so difficult and that parents seem to think that it is out of line to tell them so.

I guess the saving grace was a little girl who asked the parent "who told him he could tell the teacher what to do". She, too, was probably "out of line", even in my opinion, but it helps put a bit more perspective into the situation for me.


  1. I've taught for 8 years, but I don't think I could ever sub. You just don't have that relationship with kids that develops the respect needed for them to want to follow the rules. So I commend you for your hard and difficult work.

    As for the parent, if he said it loud enough for another student to hear, then HE was definitely out of line.

  2. Yes, that is certainly one of the challenges of being a sub. It is one reason why I am limiting my subbing to several grades and a smaller number of schools. The kids are beginning to know me, and I them, and that is a huge advantage.

    I have since talked to the classroom teacher and my older sister and feel a bit better about the whole thing. The classroom teacher apologized for the children's and the parent's behavior, and said that she, too, had had difficulty with this parent.

    My sister, who is an administrator in a school district in Connecticut, said that they don't even allow parents in the classroom at the end of the day. They have to wait in a holding area where the children are delivered to them. Apparently this is for legal and custody reasons, but it solves the problem of the parents who come in to the classroom at the end of the day, 5 to 10 minutes before school is out and want to take their child. That disrupts the finishing up process and gets the child out of any duties s/he might have, and it is enormously distracting.