Substitute Q&A: A short-term gig with a lasting impact
Rome City School District, Rome, GA
Time with Kelly: one month
A recent graduate of Shorter University, in Rome, Georgia, Matt decided to substitute teach until the accounting job he has lined up starts later this year. At the time of the interview, he was teaching language arts to eighth graders.
Why did you decide to sub this year?
I really enjoy working with the youth group at my church. It’s just a large part of who I am. I really feel like I can have an impact on people. It was my youth pastor there who mentioned substitute teaching, and once I really got bored [waiting for my accounting job to start], I decided to step into it. I learned there’s only so much TV I can watch in a day before I start to lose my mind a bit.
What was it like going back to the classroom?
It’s completely different than what I grew up with, so a little strange. Everyone wears masks. All the hallways are one way, and everyone maintains an acceptable distance from each other. The school is doing a good job at tracking students, so if someone does test positive, all students surrounding that person would be quarantined for 14 days.
"The biggest difference is getting used to everything. It’s nothing to be afraid of, but it is something to be conscious of."
What do you like best about substitute teaching?
Having an impact on impressionable young boys and girls. Some days you come home annoyed and tired, but it’s still fulfilling.
I like the days when we don’t have to be too serious, we don’t have to get to work right away, and I can be real with the kids. It helps them listen to me more and helps them get to know me better than the times when I have to put on that strict teacher persona. “Real Matt” is very easygoing and goofy. But “strict teacher Matt” will very happily call a parent if a student is misbehaving, although I do give a fair number of warnings.
Any advice for someone considering becoming a substitute?
I would say the kids definitely will try to fool you. They played me like a fiddle before I had access to Google Classroom. They claimed the assignment wasn’t posted and I believed them. When I got access, I was not happy because the assignment was there in bold, black letters. I applauded them a little bit, but I was also disappointed in them.
About the health concerns, it’s not too much to worry about when you take into account all the precautions that the school takes. The biggest difference is getting used to everything. It’s nothing to be afraid of, but it is something to be conscious of.
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