The daily musings of a substitute teacher in East Central Illinois.

In Which Students Realise I Am Not All-Powerful

Today I was a 6th grade English/Language Arts teacher at Mahomet-Seymour Junior High. I was quite pleased to accept this assignment, because I had been requested, not just by the teacher for whom I was subbing, but also by her various students. I admit, though, that it took me a bit to figure out exactly when I had subbed for her before. (It was November 30, for those who wish to look at my post from that day.)

Last night it had begun to snow. It continued to snow all through the night and into the morning. We had about 3 inches of accumulation, give or take, but schools had not been cancelled. It normally takes me about 20-25 minutes to get to school. My wife was bringing me in to work, as she has since she started working, and we planned for doubling the driving time in order to accommodate for the poor road conditions. It took almost a full hour to get from our house to the school. I made it just in time for the first bell. Fortunately, there is a co-teacher for the first class period, so things were not completely out of control. Equally fortunate, the administration and teachers were all very understanding of my travel delays.

I spent the bulk of the day reading from Children of Dune while the students took a computer-based reading/literacy assessment in the library. All of them were very good about following test-taking protocol (not talking, staying focused on the task at hand, working quietly when finished, etc). Although I didn’t do much all day, I still had a great day working with the students.

The last period of the day was a study hall, and this was where the title of this post comes to play. During study halls, a teacher may send up to six students to the library for the period, providing none of the students on the list are on the D/F list; that is, any student with a D or an F is not permitted to spend study hall in the library. What wasn’t specified was if a student on the D/F list could go to the library on a short pass (no more than ten minutes). This came to light when a boy who was on the list wanted a short pass to the library. I told him that the note from his teacher said that “No students on the D/F list are permitted to go to the library during study hall.” He maintained that I could send him on a short pass. I explained that, as a substitute, I am bound to follow the directions left by the regular classroom teacher. If she says no library, then that is that. I am not, despite what they think, all-powerful.

There is a considerably amount of leeway given to me in making decisions on the spot. I am able to interpret lesson plans and adjust them as I see necessary. If a student is about to be violently ill all over her classmates, I will make the decision to let her go to the bathroom, even when the classroom policy is to permit no restroom passes. However, this was an issue of a school-wide policy. It came down from on high, and was transmitted to me by a full-time teacher. And thus I had to deny the student permission to go to the library, but I also told him to take the issue up with his teacher and ask her to clarify the issue in her sub plans. I also left her a note explaining the situation, hoping for further instruction.

And so yesterday it was discovered that I am not all-knowing. Today it was discovered that I am not all-powerful. Not sure what I’ll do if I have to explain that no, as a matter of fact, I am not all-present.

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