Substitute Teacher Q&A: “Just getting back to the routine was comforting”

Substitute Teacher Q&A: “Just getting back to the routine was comforting”

Cynthia White 

Polk County Public Schools, Lakeland, FL 

Years with Kelly Education: One 

Teaching is a second career for Cynthia, but she came to it fairly early on in her professional lifeAfter graduating from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in international relationsshe worked in the nonprofit sector. After her son was born, she pursued alternative certification for teaching at Polk State College. She discovered she had a passion for teaching and taught full-time for 15 years. She substitute teaches as a way of staying connected to her profession. At the time of this interview, she was teaching high school language arts. 

Why did you decide to sub this year? 

Because the schools need subs now more than ever. They need reliable people who can come in and fill in the gaps. [Because of COVID] there’s an element of uncertainty for the students, and it’s better for them if they have someone in there who is projecting confidence. I’m in a long-term position right now and the class had several teachers before I came in. You could see that they were yearning to do what they were there to do—to learn.  

I think people felt helpless during COVID. They didn’t know what they could do to make a difference or help. If you’re feeling that way, if you’re wondering “what can I do to help?”, this is one way. 

What did the school district do to help you feel comfortable with going back?  

The school and district both have been in constant communication with us.  And the administration has been consistent about modeling what should be done and reminding students about wearing masks and social distancing, which is hard for teenagersAt George Jenkins High School, where I teach, the seating chart is based on social distance, there are dots marking six feet, and hallways are one-wayI have disinfectant and I open the windows. The janitorial staff is working hard. We are doing everything that we could possibly do, so I feel safe. 

Was there anything that surprised you about going back? 

I was surprised I wasn’t more nervous, but the school had taken so many precautions. And I tell you what: just getting back into the routine was comforting. It was comforting to have something to focus on. For the students, too. They wanted some semblance of normalcy. That feeling of normalcy assuaged any fear and reservations I might have had about going back into the classroom. 

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

I would 100% recommend that they do. The schools are in desperate need of subs. I know people might feel trepidation, but I’d say it feels very safe and comfortable. In some ways, it’s a lot easier. If you get a class that has only 10 students, it gives you the chance to hone your classroom management skills before you have to manage a large class 

Don’t be reluctant to take a grade level or a course you’re not familiar with. It can be nerve wracking because you already have to learn while you’re on your feet about the seating chart and how they do things, and this adds another moving piece and makes things more challenging. But it can also be extremely rewarding because each time you do that you’re expanding your repertoire. I once did an agriculture class that felt like being “on location” on a farm and I learned so much! Subbing is a great way to “try on” teaching and find your niche! 

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