She felt a nudge, and went back to the classroom

09/22/2020

Patrice Pullen

Orange County  Public Schools (OCPS), Orlando, FL

Years with Kelly: One

Patrice substitute teaches in grades 1 -12 for the Orange County School District, and she particularly enjoys teaching English and history. She holds a master’s degree in education with emphasis in counseling from the University of Pittsburgh. She has four children (two are in college and two go to schools in the district) and sells real estate.

Why did you decide to sub this year?

I began my sub career last year.  I had done enough subbing in the past to know I loved it! However, I hadn't made my final decision if I would go back in light of the pandemic. The day before face-to-face classes began, I went to the school one of my kids is attending to drop off a paper and I felt the nudge to ask the sub coordinator about openings. Sure enough, there was a long-term position as an art teacher starting the next day. After a few hours of thinking about it, I decided I could do it, and I did start the next day!

I have four kids and my first priority has always been to be there for them. I’m also a realtor. Substitute teaching lets me be there for my kids and do real estate, too.

“I’m your warrior teacher! Look at my gear! And you are my warrior students—brave because you’re here today!”

What made you feel comfortable about going back?

I know a lot of the people at the schools I most often sub at because I’ve been active as a parent, and so there’s trust. I was in my comfort zone at the school I went to. On the first day, the school provided a facial shield and disinfecting wipes in the classroom. I told my students, “I’m your warrior teacher! Look at my gear! And you are my warrior students—brave because you’re here today!” They loved it. After the first week, you get more comfortable. Everyone [in the middle school] was wearing masks and social distancing.

I’m literally there for the kids. They inspire me. On my third day, a sixth grader said to me, “Thank you for coming to school to teach us.” I almost broke down. I believe she realized the sacrifice that teachers are making to come face to face for their students. I’m honored to be a teacher today, in 2020. I told them, “The skills you’re learning and the ability to pivot are going to make you a force to be reckoned within 20 years.”

What's your favorite part of teaching right now?

There’s a part of me that likes the dynamic of a lot of moving parts and just to be able to say, “I did it. Everyone is looking out their windows right now being scared, ‘oh, it’s so scary out there,’ but I’m out in it. I did it! And I’m doing it!” I’m cautious, but there’s something to be said for the brave hearts. I feel proud to be a teacher in the climate that we’re in. It's a wonderful feeling to know the work you’re doing is making a difference in the lives of the people you serve.

Do you have any advice for someone considering becoming a substitute?

Believe it or not, now is actually a good time to become a substitute teacher. You’d be coming in at a good time because even long-time teachers are new to teaching right now because of the constant shifting new learning environment. Teachers say to me, “We are ALL starting over. We’re all in this together.” If you have any fears, this is a good time because it’s a re-set now. Everything is new to everyone--teachers, students, parents, administrators, and substitute teachers.

But you have to be extremely flexible and able to transition quickly, be creative. You almost have to think of yourself as a performer. “It’s showtime!”  And you need to think on your feet. I think this kind of dynamic learning environment is what could draw new teachers and subs to the field.

It’s great to have the flexibility to own your own schedule and make a few bucks. It's also nice to be able to change your environment and the students you serve by switching up the various schools you work at and grade levels every so often. That way you get to meet new students, teachers, and administrators.

I’d say wear your mask or facial shield, go to a school that you’re familiar with, and you’re good! You go to Walmart to shop, right? If you do, then you can do this! Especially if you’re feeling lonely or an empty nester, go make a difference in somebody’s life and watch what a difference they make in yours.

 

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