SUBSTITUTE PURGATORY: THE SERIES FINALE!

Before I get started, I just want to thank everyone who took some time from their day to read these posts. Even though the last post was in December, the hits keep coming and I thank you for your messages and encouragement.

Given that it’s been nearly 16 weeks since my last post, most of you probably figured out that “Substitute Purgatory” is finished. Like a good British mini-series, I figured it was best to have a short run and end it before it got stale.

Here’s a quick refresher: After subbing around the Lansing area, I was able to get a long-term sub position teaching English in a high school. In January, it was decided that I would stay in this position until the end of the year. So, I have steady employment until June 6th! There’s also a shot that this sub job will turn into a regular position next year.

Originally, I intended to post on a weekly basis until school ended in June, but there are three reasons why I decided I shouldn’t update “Substitute Purgatory” except to do this final sign-off.

REASON #1: MY COVER WAS BLOWN

After Christmas break, a student came into the classroom and, without any type of greeting, exclaimed, “I found your blog! It’s really good! I actually showed it to a few friends, too.”

“How did you find it?” I asked.

“I was Googling your name over break and I came across it! It’s actually pretty good!” said the student – who was acting like Googling someone’s name is totally acceptable and doesn’t resemble stalker-ish behavior at all. I mean, how creepy would it be if I then said to the student, “Hey, during winter break, I Googled your name, too!” However, in 2012 I suppose that looking someone up on the Internet is like checking references or something. Maybe I should be flattered that the student even took the time to do a lo-fi background check on me.

Anyway, when I lost the anonymity, I also lost the ability to be direct in my writing. I knew that if I continued to post, any time a new installment went online I ran the risk of students in my own classroom:

a) complaining that they’d been unfairly represented

b) possibly telling their parents if I said anything remotely negative about them

c) repeating what I said out of context

d) losing trust

If you’ve ever seen any type of Mafia movie, you know what happens to the informant; someone eventually finds out that the guy, who was such a nice guy, was in fact a snitch. Then two hired goons pull up in a car and take the snitch to the Meadowlands of New Jersey…and, well, you know what happens next. The point is, in almost every single movie, the informant’s cover is blown and trust is lost.

Although there was never any risk of being driven out to the Meadowlands, I didn’t want to lose the trust of my students. I didn’t want my students to think that if they said something quirky, or amusing, or the slightest bit embarrassing, that their words would be recorded on the Internet for all to read.

From the beginning of this blog, when I composed an entry, I always tried to frame students and their (often entertaining) behavior in the context of showing the reader, “Isn’t this amusing?” I never wanted “Substitute Purgatory” to be a collection of posts where I said,  “boy, these kids sure are dumb!”

Over the course of “SP” there were two posts that I composed that were pretty mean-spirited. Segments of those posts ended up in “Thanksgiving Leftovers,” but most of it was deleted because revenge-via-print is just not my style.

REASON #2: LACK OF FREE TIME

Before I landed the long-term sub job, I had loads of free time. When I was subbing at different schools, I usually had zero teaching responsibilities and I would often start composing that day’s blog entry as the class was watching movies or doing worksheets.

However, when I took the long-term job, I also signed on to do lesson planning and actual teaching. I have no complaints about the increased responsibility. Believe me, it is way more satisfying to use my skills! I also make myself available for tutoring after school 2-3 days a week. The demands of the preparation, planning, and grading leave me with little time to write for fun.

I also go to the regular staff meetings, professional development days, and I also participated in this year’s Parent-Teacher Conferences (which was amusing – but I really can’t write about that event. If you live in the area, call me up and we’ll go out and I’ll tell you everything in person).

Of course, even though I treat this sub job like a real teaching job, I still get paid like a sub. The financial compensation is the only major drawback to this job.

REASON #3: FAMILIARITY REDUCES MAYHEM

Since I’ve been working in the same classroom since Thanksgiving, I’ve had a chance to build a good rapport with my classes. For most of my students, I am now their “real” teacher. That rapport drastically reduces the chances of any type of classroom mayhem. For the most part, my classes are well-behaved and respectful. While working at this long-term job, there have been a few behavior problems, but nothing on the level of what I had to deal with at my old job in Detroit.

The most comical thing that’s happened so far was when I was showing the students a movie and, after starting the film, left the class to briefly talk with another teacher. When I returned back to my class, the students had reversed the order of the desks so that everybody was facing the wall instead of watching the film. I had a good laugh and saw this as evidence that the students actually enjoyed having me as a teacher. It’s like they cared enough to actually play a practical joke on me.

CONCLUSION:

So, what’s next?

I think one of the best parts about this long-term sub job was that I had an opportunity to teach in a functional district. The school where I work now is such a departure from my old school in Detroit.

I’m already in the process of applying for teaching jobs for the 2012-2013 school year. I’ve also spent time researching other careers if teaching doesn’t pan out. From a financial perspective, I can’t spend another year without steady, full-time employment. I’ve considered going back to college and completely changing careers (pharmacist, electrical engineer, professional Renaissance man) but I’m still holding out for a teaching position in the mean time. So, if you’re hiring, give me a call!

Thanks for taking the time to read this. And, like any good sitcom, there’s always a possibility of a spin-off. So, coming this summer to a blog near you: “Job-Hunt Purgatory!” Check your local listings!

Thank you & good night!

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