These past few weeks, I’ve been working as a substitute teacher at the middle school in my hometown. While I was genuinely excited about the idea from the beginning, it really only seemed to be just something to hold me over and keep me busy until I found a full-time job of some kind.
I’ve always liked working with kids. I work with kids in a club called Just Be Kind, and part of the fun of subbing is running into them in the hallway and in some of the classes. I also love the conversations I have with the students, my favorite still being,
Student: So you’re still a miss?
Me: Yup. Not married.
Student: Well do you at least have someone that you love, or even like?
Me: No, not at the moment.
Student: Well that’s sad.
I was reluctant to add this experience to my LinkedIn page at first, honestly because I still felt a little bummed that I wasn’t working in public relations or something like it just yet. While eating with a teacher I was working with one day, though, she said something that stuck with me after she asked me about my story.
“Well if you can sub, you can do anything.”
It hit me that I’m learning important professional lessons while working with these students. I’m learning so many things from the incredible teachers around me. I shouldn’t be too bummed about the fact that I’m substitute teaching until I get a full-time job; I should be so grateful
I’m learning to be flexible
On the first day of my second week, I was set to sub for a gym class. I showed up to the building wearing yoga pants, a t-shirt and my running shoes. While waiting for the morning announcements to start, the sub caller came into the gym and said an English teacher called in at the last minute and they couldn’t find a replacement. So I stood in front of a few classes of eighth graders, attempting to be an authority figure while I was dressed like one of them.
It was weird, and a huge part of me wanted to run home and change because I only live two minutes away, but I simply walked to the classroom with my badge being the only thing showing that I wasn’t a student (for those of you who don’t know me, I look young).
I’ve learned to go with the flow at this job now more than ever, and that’s something I’ve always struggled with.
I’m learning to trust my gut
No, I didn’t just add this because I just started rewatching Scandal. I want anyone reading this to think back to your days in school, and think of how many times you saw you had a sub and thought “I wonder what I can get away with today?” A kid literally saw me in a class one day and started chanting “Sub! Sub! Sub! Sub!”
“Oh he always lets us listen to music.” “She lets us move seats while we’re working on homework.” “Yes, these are our assigned seats.” Some of these things, I’ve learned, are totally true. Some, however, are lies the students are using to test me. I’ve learned that 9 times out of 10, whatever my gut is telling me is usually what’s true. Even though I’m not Olivia Pope, this can be an important skill for the professional world.
I’m learning to use my voice
I’m a small person. I’m not a very loud person. Usually when I’m put in charge of people, I have to have someone who is loud get everyone’s attention for me. But I firmly believe that everybody has a voice that they need to use.
In the professional world, I probably won’t be saying things like “You all need to be quiet, there are still people working!” but working up the nerve to say things like this rather than sitting quietly at the desk is going to help me in the long run. I’m still finding my specific teacher voice. Maybe I’ll pull it out in a meeting one day.
I’m learning sixth-grade math
Mostly a joke. But not really. I felt genuine pride when I could solve an equation.
Most importantly, I’m re-learning how important it is to listen to young people
In high school, I rolled my eyes at middle school students and in college, I did the same to high schoolers. While I was a student, I wanted so badly to be heard, but I didn’t grant that same respect to those younger than me. I was always respectful to the kids I worked with in the Just Be Kind club, but I didn’t realize just how important this was until I started subbing.
Young people want to be heard. Students would just walk up to me and start telling me random stories or ask me questions. One of them even told me that part of why she liked me is because I took the time to talk to her. I was floored. It reminded me of the importance of listening.
So until I find a full-time job, I’m so happy to keep subbing. It’s been an unlikely adventure and every day is so wonderful. Just today, some kids said that I was a good sub. Granted, when I asked them why they said it was because I wasn’t old and cranky, but I must be doing something right.