Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer Begins... With a Solid Plan for Next Year

It hasn't really hit me yet, but I am finished with teaching for three months, and finished with five-day-a-week, responsible for my own classroom and curriculum gig--for a year! Next year, I'm taking leave of absence to be home with O more, and I'm planning to substitute in the district. The goal is to work two or three days a week, mostly in my own school, and still make as much money as I made last year, after childcare expenses. Finally, the solution to my work-life-balance with child dilemma.

Subbing will be a great challenge for me. I say "great" because, while I never intended to sub--it always sounded miserable, I hate seeing the way students treat a sub, my strength has always been with building longer-term relationships with students--I believe it will make me a better teacher. The areas of weakness I currently recognize in my teacher-self are the same aspects I will have to nail to survive as a sub: being concise, making a strong first impression, letting go of what is not important, and being entertaining. Since I value my teacher-identity, I really do want to improve in these areas.

You see, a good teacher shouldn't only entertain, but kids certainly remember, relax, and learn more from a teacher who is funny and easy to listen to. Therefore, my public-speaking skills will need improvement, in the same way that people work to improve on them when their success does not rely on a captive audience. I want to be FUNNY, but I'll shoot for entertaining. Some students told me a long time ago that I'm funniest when I try not to be. Even though it may have been a jab, no one, aside from stand-up comics or SNL cast members, is really funny when they are trying too hard.

I want to make a strong first impression. I read that the first 10 words out of a sub's mouth will set the tone for the whole day. This won't be too hard for me, because I know how to be the alpha in the room, but I usually develop that over a longer period of time, so I will be very conscious of how this goes.

Being concise. I hate hearing myself talk too much when I know that kids are tuning out. When I tell stories, or get animated, or get off-topic, they refocus, of course. I want to keep it short and make the words I say COUNT. That is a skill for every aspect of my life, but here's a chance to practice and receive immediate feedback.

Letting go the little stuff and focusing on what is most important will be essential as a sub. I'm not very good about this in general; I dwell on the wrong things or accidentally get into power struggles that serve no one in the class. Without knowing everyone's names, their actual assigned seats, the general tone of the room, I won't be able to worry about the little things. I got some advice from a professional sub to present my three expectations at the beginning, then stick to those three things and let the others go. What are my three things ...

Last, or perhaps first, I think that a good way for a sub to make an impact is to have some stories ready to share, and use them strategically. When the students are at risk of tuning out, as incentive to get 15 minutes of work done, as a way to hook into engagement, etc.

Really, what I want is to be as engaging as a TED talk presenter! Does anyone have more great wisdom for me?