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

Day Off

And Thus It Ends

Today was the last possible day I could have been asked to substitute in Mahomet. Champaign and Urbana both ended earlier this week. I didn’t work, because none of the teachers or administrators in Mahomet are sadistic enough to ask a sub to come in on the last day of the year. This is also true of those in Champaign and Urbana. Just one of the many reasons I love these districts!

And thus it ends. My third year as a substitute teacher.

Year one was a decent year, with assignments a few times a week. Year two was dreadful, with an average of one assignment a week, and then only when a teacher at Robeson Elementary had requested me. So I began this year with the desire to expand my opportunities. I officially entered the sub lists for Mahomet, Urbana, and Rantoul. Rantoul called me about four or five times, but always late in the morning when I already had an assignment. I spent a total of two days in Urbana, although they, too, had called when I was already working.

This year, on the other hand, has been a very busy year. It had a slow start, with about three assignments a week, but by the beginning of the second term, I was working just about every single day possible. My reputation had spread, and many teachers wanted me in their rooms. It was exciting to have multiple requests come for the same day. Hopefully no feelings were hurt if I selected one teacher over another.

This was also the year I decided to blog my experiences. My one regret is that I didn’t start doing this three years ago! I think I have learned more about my craft by writing about it then I possibly could have just doing it. Reflection is such an important element of teaching. I remember my cooperating teacher from my first student teaching experience complimenting me on my natural desire to reflect and evaluate myself. I am glad that I have kept it up.

This summer will bring new adventures. I am on the list to sub for summer school teachers in Champaign, and I will be looking into whether or not Mahomet also uses subs in the summer. I have also applied for a variety of summer jobs, including evening custodial work, pharmacy/convenience store jobs, and small boutique firms. I will most likely be swabbing toilets again, which is a return to my first summer job after graduating from the University of Illinois. (It was a part-time temp job that turned into a full-time vocation as I ended up running the company with my wife for about a year and a half!)

And, of course, there are the scores of full-time teaching positions to be sought. I have spent the past two days applying for several dozen already, and there will be many more to go.

So, what of Adventures in Substituting over the summer? Well, the poll results are in (thank you to the six people who seem to actually stop by and read), and it looks like I am going to be writing about whatever education-y things that pop into my head. But, no fear, Laurie and mystery vote! I will also blog about books I’ve read and about my philosophy! So I guess I’ll be doing an all-of-the-above blog.

Please keep coming by! You can also follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook to find out when I update!



Summer Posts (A Poll)

Today was a day that I have spent (and will continue to spend, for those noticing that I am updating around noon) applying for teaching jobs all over Illinois. I am also going to be applying for jobs in the community for summer work. Which leads me to an all-so-important question:

What should I do with my blog until August comes? If I get a full-time teaching position, I will no longer have any adventures in substituting to share. I will, of course, create a new blog to track my adventures as a full-time teacher. If I don’t get a full-time position, I will have brand-new adventures to share when school starts up again. But that gives 12 weeks, at least, in which I won’t have much to write about. My wife and I share a personal blog, so there’s no need to make personal updates here (besides, that’s not really what I want this blog to be). So, I’ve thought about a couple of things I can do, and thought I’d post them here as a poll to see what you all suggest. (Note: I still don’t know who “you all” actually are… I know a few of you, but I seem to have far more site visitors than commenters, so either I have web crawlers all over the place, or I just have people who come read, and then run away.) (more…)

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day here in the United States of America, and so it is that all government buildings are shut down, including the schools. It is a day to reflect upon the great sacrifices made by men and women throughout history in the defense of our nation. I tend to avoid any overt religious commentary on this blog, for the simple fact that I wish to focus on my work as an educator, more specifically so as a substitute teacher, but I thought I’d make an exception today. I figure that if we truly believe that we are “one nation under God” then it is totally okay for me to bring up my own faith every now and then.

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–a church commonly known to many as “the Mormon Church” because of our belief in the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon as an additional book of scripture, similar in purpose to the Holy Bible. I give this introduction because, on this Memorial Day, I have been thinking of one of my great military heroes. There are some, even within my faith community, who do not value him for what he represents, but I am not one of those. This man was named Moroni, and he was the chief captain of the military forces of a group of people known as the Nephites. As the chief captain, he had to lead his people in war against those who sought to take away their freedoms.

There is an account in the Book of Mormon that tells of him rallying the people together under what was known as the Title of Liberty. This was a flag or banner made from his own coat that had written upon it these words: “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.” It was with this that he raised an army and conquered his people’s enemies.

But what I love most about Captain Moroni is that he did not glory in battle. He understood that his purpose was not to conquer, but to protect, and he trusted always in his God. As the Book of Mormon says about him,

 11And Moroni was a astrong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect bunderstanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;

12Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the awelfare and safety of his people.

13Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had asworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.

14Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught anever to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.

15And this was their afaith, that by so doing God would bprosperthem in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger;

16And also, that God would make it known unto them awhitherthey should go to defend themselves against their enemies, and by so doing, the Lord would deliver them; and this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; bnot in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity.

17Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto aMoroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the bdevilwould never have power over the hearts of the children of men.

And so it is on this Memorial Day that I give honour to the men and women who “labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of [our] people.” To all the families of all the slain of our battles, I give thanks for your sacrifice, and for the sacrifice of your loved ones.


Today I was a candidate for a teaching position at Lincoln Grade School in Washington, Illinois. As such, I did not accept any assignments for today, so that I could focus on preparing for the interview. Regarding the interview, I will only say at this point that it went very well, and that I was given many opportunities to share some of my fundamentals beliefs about education. Ironically, though, I was not asked the standard “tell us about yourself” question that I have been stressing out about for weeks. Maybe next time!

I had been preparing for this interview for several weeks now, and was very excited about the opportunity. For those who don’t know, I grew up in Washington, and it was at this very school, when I was in fourth grade, that I first knew that I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. My fourth grade teacher is still at Lincoln Grade School, although she has been teaching third grade for several years now. The open positions at the school are first, second, and fourth grade (one of each). I officially applied for the second and fourth grade positions, but I may be considered for the first grade one, as well.

The interview was very brief; only about fifteen minutes. The purpose was to allow the superintendent and his two principals to screen roughly 10% of the over 530 applicants for the positions, so the fact that I was selected at all says much. I will find out on Friday if they would like me to come back for a second, longer, interview. Needless to say, I would be delighted to do so. It has been a childhood dream to teach in the very building that first started me on the path I am on now. I love the school, I love the district, and I love the community. There is much I have to offer, and much I can learn.

Thanks to everyone who has kept me and wife in your prayers and thoughts! I’ll be sure to let you know what happens next!

Recovering from Tests

Today I was an English teacher at Mahomet-Seymour High School. This was a return assignment, specifically requested by not only the teacher, but also the secretary to the principal. For those who don’t know, I recently subbed for this teacher and reportedly managed to teach in one day what two other subs had been unable to do–as the teacher herself told me a week ago, “[I] did three days’ worth of teaching in one day!” I am going to be with these classes again tomorrow, as the teacher is away on an overnight student council retreat (I didn’t really catch what was going on).

If you know any students or teachers within the public education system, you are surely aware that standardised testing has been underway throughout the nation. Many teachers with blogs have been writing about this. For example, there is this teacher in New Jersey or this teacher in Texas. As a general rule, I have avoided the stress of high-stakes testing, mostly because few teachers are out of school when the tests are being administered. However, today was the day that the Advanced Placement English exam was administered, so the students in two of my four periods were busy all morning sweating bullets while hoping and praying they will score high enough to get credit for a university-level course. They have been working hard all year in preparation for this test, so their teacher promised them that there would be no work for them this afternoon.

As a result of this, my afternoon went something like this: After taking attendance (and noting that half the class had left school after the test), I told them that they could watch a movie, vent about the test, or just talk. I further suggested that they could really do anything they wanted, provided they didn’t: a) set the room on fire, b) throw anything or anyone out the window, or c) go all Lord of the Flies on me. Both classes readily agreed to this plan.

The first class looked at the movie selections left by their teacher, and decided none were satisfactory. (Their choices were Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, a different Frankenstein, The Great Gatsby, or Their Eyes Were Watching God.) So they took the pass, went to the library, and found a copy of Pride and Prejudice (the new version, starring Keira Knightley).

The second class spent the first half of the period watching videos of Man Cooking on YouTube–I didn’t quite figure out how they were accessing the Internet through the laptop, but I think one of them was using his phone as a wireless hotspot. Bright kids, the lot of them. (I should point out that it isn’t really a very appropriate video…) Eventually they got bored with that, and decided to watch Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff.

I should insert at this point that they had just recently finished reading the book, and so there was quite a bit of confusion during the movie, since it doesn’t really follow Mary Shelley’s book at all.

Still, they had a fun time and they definitely enjoyed having time to recover from the high-stakes testing they did. Tomorrow we will get started on their final project of the year but for today, it was a relaxing time for all.

Word Origins

Today is Sunday, but I felt like making a brief blog post about something I recently learned in one of my vocational texts. I am reading about balanced literacy, in terms of philosophy and practice, and one of the sections discusses the mechanics of teaching writing. In so doing, the author makes this point about spelling conventions:

Some words are phonetic. Several are not. And there are some words that used to be phonetic but, due to being truncated, they have acquired silent letters that are purely semantic, rather than having any syntactic relevance. For example:

  • The g in sign is silent for no other reason than sign is a truncated form of the word signature.
  • Likewise, the silent b in bomb exists simply because the word is derived from bombardment.

I don’t know why I didn’t know this before, or, rather, why I wasn’t aware of it. Ah, English, what a strange mistress you are.

Book Review IV: The First Days of School

Today is Good Friday, so there is no school in Champaign, Mahomet, or Urbana. The official name for the day off is “Spring Holiday” but I don’t think there is anyone who believes that it is merely coincidence that this day off occurs each year on Good Friday. And thus it is that I have spent my day taking care of things around the home, like washing and bagging fresh fruit and vegetables for my wife and I to grab for snacks while at work and cleaning up around the house.

As is my policy now, if I have the day off and have recently finished reading a vocational book, I write up a review. I don’t know how many people actually read the reviews or find them useful, but I do know that, by far, the most popular post of mine (based on specific page views and search terms), has been my review of The Dreamkeepers. The two other books I have read and reviewed so far have been Setting Limits in the Classroom and The Internet and the Law.

The next book in this series is How To Be an Effective Teacher: The First Days of School by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong. This is billed as the best-selling book in the education field. While it is ostensibly about the importance of the first days of school, it is much more than that. It is a book that emphasises the need for teachers to stop being workers and start being professionals. While I find that parts of it are outdated (I have a copy of the 2nd edition, though, so it is possible that the 4th edition is up-to-date), it is an excellent source for information on not just how to start the school year off right, but why the thing suggested are suggested. (more…)