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

Improvement and Growth

Today I was a 6th grade social studies teacher at Mahomet-Seymour Junior High. It was a pretty cool experience showing a different side of my knowledge-base to students who are incredibly used to having me teach language arts. It was also interesting to be subbing for the teacher who was teaching 6th grade social studies back when a good friend of mine was in school in Mahomet. Best of all, though, was realising that this teacher has been there for a very long time, yet he is clearly interested in keeping his teaching strategies and methods current. After hearing about so many teachers in his position who refuse to change, it is good to know that there are great teachers with whom I work who understand how to be true professionals in this field. (Incidentally, I just finished reading another one of my vocational books, and will be posting the review on Friday, when there is no school in any of the three districts.)

I really enjoy working at MSJH. Not only are the faculty and staff incredibly supportive, and not only are they devoted and passionate about their work, but they are also very open about meaningful critiques of the profession, the district, and the school. If you’ve ever spent much time around teachers outside the classroom, you’ve probably heard at least one of them complain about the school. These are the teachers who seem to be only in the profession because they needed a job and a teaching position happened to be available. They are not professional educators–they are wage-earners in the education field. The men and women with whom I have had the opportunity to work in Mahomet and in Champaign are, by and large, of the former rather than the later. And thus I am able to learn about the nuts and bolts that hold the education field together in a way that helps me know how I can improve as an educator and how I can help improve the profession.

The teachers in the building were discussing their frustrations with the district’s improvement plan (something that is required of all districts in the nation as a part of the No Child Left Behind law). Rather than just comment on what they didn’t like about, they focused on the changes that need to be made. I was really impressed at the vision which they have for the future of their district. I have had similar conversations with the teachers in Champaign. I look forward to the day that substitute teaching is included in the strategic plan for every district. I have held this position for almost three years now, and I have learned a lot about how my own work impacts the entire school community. I’ve seen substitute teachers who have no business being anywhere near a classroom, and I have seen substitute teachers who are incredibly skilled at what they do. I don’t hesitate to put myself in the latter category. I’m not bragging–I am simply recognising the successes I have in the classroom. I value my work and I value my contributions. As a result, others see value in what I do, as well. There is a reason that students say hi to me in the hallways and tell me what a great job they think I do as a teacher. Few are the students who refer to me as “just a sub” these days.

As I continue to seek out full-time employment as a generalist educator, I hope that I will be able to have a hand in improving the quality of substitute teaching, as well. It has become something that I did not know much about when I started but I have quickly come to value. I am still on a quest to find a worthwhile book that discusses the contributions of substitute teachers and how I can improve in what I do now. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to pass them on!


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