The subbing field is opening up now that I’m accepted into my home district and another one up north; I had my doubts at cracking the mysterious code to getting into the local district. Applied years ago when I first came back into the field, and was told no subs were being accepted. I tried to find out what the criteria were, since I knew that teachers freshly graduated from the local university were getting on the sub list. Thinking I had as much a right to enter the field as they, I went to the HR office–were they looking for subs in science and math, even? To the university–should I study for and take the new content knowledge exams, even set up an internship to get my foot in the door? No real protocol I could see. It even occurred to me there might be grounds for a lawsuit, if there was some kind of age discrimination going on.
I decided to make a big push this year, which took numerous emails back and forth to solve the problem of no recent observation-based references. Finally got it solved, using references from a former professor who barely remembered me but had cheat notes, and some homeschooling colleagues who filled out checklists based on seeing me teach over the years. Now thanks to a new need for extra subs, my application was approved and I was invited to the orientation.
The orientation was entirely about paperwork, the atmosphere at the central office much removed from the dynamic classrooms and hallways full of children. It was a lifeless conference room table full of hopefuls with folders of paperwork in front of each–a quiet, rather passive bunch on first impression, some looking a little scared, others distasteful. Were some of them here from lack of other options? Financial need?
We were told by the sub coordinator that the administration “appreciates what we do,” that we are “qualified to teach pre-K through high school calculus (new definition of “qualified”? new definition of “teach”?), and that what principals and secretaries notice and remember is when we do some special cleaning up or organizing during our preps or after early releases when they have to pay us to stay the whole day. A clean microwave in the break room or neatly filed reports being true measurable outcomes.
Still, can’t blame them. I suppose the sub coordinator, HR managers, payroll personnel, curriculum experts and so on don’t get to be in schools much, to remember what it’s all about, and their work has to me attended to. The central office does get to display the nicest student artwork in their hallways, though. Makes me think, again, that Mao’s and the Fuhrer’s ideas of “re-education” that obliged bureaucrats to rotate out to the country for a season wasn’t such a bad idea. Let the first to go be the ones who use the terms “front lines,” trenches,” and “grassroots” overmuch, and those whose decisions affect day to day operations the most.
On the way home, driving through the damp streets lined with trees in their autumn finery, I tried to think of improvements to the substitute orientation. First, ice breakers: opportunities for each sub to share a bit about what brought them to the field, and their career plans. Next, maybe while the IDs were being photocopied, a small panel including current and former substitutes, current teachers, and several students, each offering their perspectives, expertise, and encouragement. Finally, refreshments.