Friday, March 7, 2014

I'm an ironman.

No, I'm not talking about my blog-writing prowess -- although, y'know, I've had a blog stretching all the way back to late 2004 -- I'm talking about my record of sick days at work.

I started teaching in the fall of 2000. I took a sick day about 3 years ago. And I took another one Tuesday. (Oh, there have been days I've been away -- workshops, field trips, funerals, weddings, master's thesis stuff -- but we're talking about actual sick days here.) Boy-howdy, did I need it.

I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that, at 3:15am on Tuesday, working up the strength to type up lesson plans for my classes, and email them into the school, was no small feat. I lucked-out because all three of 'em could do something fairly independently, which is actually kind of a rare thing in my subject area. So yeah, I didn't feel quite so bad about that.

Here's the thing, though. When you're not there for the day, you don't really know who you're going to get in your place. You assume they're going to be about 30% competent, for a variety of reasons:
  • There have been times when you neatly copy handouts, sticky-note the hell out of stuff, leaving detailed directions... and when you come back, you find the same neat piles of stuff, sticky-noted, with directions... exactly where you left them. The dope didn't come and get your stuff, and your kids sat there and dicked-around the whole class.
  • The person who came in was just flat-out crazy. You've heard rumours that such-and-such a person was a little off their rocker, and you know kids exaggerate whenever possible, but the stories they tell when you get back can't possibly be made up by them.
  • Maybe they saw the stuff the kids were looking at and thought, "Hey, I can teach that!" So they go off and try to teach the kids, usually with one of the following outcomes:
    • they do it in a totally different way than you would, and/or they do it entirely wrong and screw up the kids and you have to spend the next two days undoing all the damage
    • the kids see a supply teacher and immediately flip their brains into, "pff, it's not the regular guy, I ain't learnin' shit" mode
Now, don't get me wrong. It's a tough gig, coming in for someone who has routines all set up, knows their personalities and knows who should NEVER be sitting beside who, and has a general idea about where the class is going.

But, having supplied for a bit on the tail-end of my leave a few years ago, a lot of it has to do with how you approach the students. I found a good attitude to take was something along the lines of, "Look, this isn't optimal, and I know I'm not who you were expecting. But, we've got some work to do; I'll help you get it done, and if we get finished, we'll have some time to chill out at the end."

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