On Wednesday, I filled in for a middle school science teacher. When I got there, the teacher next door (Mrs. S.) warned me that the classes I would have are really rowdy, and that the teacher normally in that class has pretty much given up on trying to rein them in. Great. And Mrs. S. said that my 8th period class would be especially challenging. Super.
So I put on my in-charge face, which is the face I usually wear when subbing, but I put it on a little more firmly that morning. Things weren’t terrible. The kids talked when they weren’t supposed to and a few of them were wandering around the room and trying to switch seats so that I would be confused (but doing it in a totally obvious way so that I wasn’t confused) but I managed to keep relative control.
Eighth period was indeed the worst. The last period of the day is often the worst behaved. I think part of that is because the kids are tired and they want to go home, but I also think that teachers expect last period to be poorly behaved and they project that expectation so the students live up to it. Anyway, the students were talking during their test (mostly complaining about other people being loud, which of course just makes things louder), and I saw one kid cheating off another (and that other kid letting him) and they were just really rude and unruly. It was not enjoyable.
After school, I stopped by Mrs. S’s room and said, “You weren’t kidding about that 8th period class.”
She said, “Well, it sounded like you had everything under control. The students didn’t sound any worse for you than they do for the regular teacher.”
That was a little bit encouraging, I guess.
Then Mrs. S. said, “In fact, my kids were saying how quiet it was next door and they wanted to know if your class was even in there. I told them that the classes were taking a test, but yes they were there and they had a sub. The students asked, ‘Who’s the sub? ‘ and I said ‘Mrs. K.’ The students said, ‘Ohhhhh, she’s strict.’ And one of them asked, ‘Was she in the Army or something?'”
I cracked up. (I was never in the Army, by the way.) It made me laugh that they think I’m military in my classroom management.
But you have to be at the best of times as a substitute teacher — and especially when there are less than two weeks left in the school year and the classroom teacher has already given up on maintaining order.