How to Balance Teaching and Your Health

One of the most difficult aspects of teaching is acknowledging that all the tasks that need to be completed for you and your students can not possibly be done in one day. From personal experience, I would spend countless hours in my classroom till late every night (well outside the 8-2 paid hours mind you), trying to put a dent in the never ending paper work that I had to do for administrative purposes, the overflowing amount of student submissions I had to grade, or trying to exhaust every possible idea into functioning lessons to make my students interested in the difference between dependent and independent clauses. In short, I spent a lot of energy on my students, which ultimately is what we teachers are conditioned to do. However, what a lot of education methodology courses in college don’t spend time on is that there is no way you can continue to spend all your energy on your students if you have no energy left. Teacher burnout and turnover is continuing to grow rapidly year to year and in part it is this consistent burning of our creative candle with a thought that we made need to replenish it. In short, educators in particular need to start considering a “work and home” balance in order to be the best for their students. Here are two tips that really made a difference in my overall happiness and ability to manage the stresses I faced everyday in the classroom.

Set Personal Wellness as Part of Your Schedule 

There is usually one particular trait that I have found in most educators, and that is, they usually live and die by their schedules. Many have personal planners that revolve around all the arduous tasks that they need to do for their job. But, just as it is important to plan time to complete these tasks, it is also important to schedule some “me” time. Just to put this into perspective: In my first two years as a teacher, I gained about 20 pounds. This could have been for a number of reasons (stress, long hours working, take out instead of cooking, etc.) but it was really that I didn’t make the time to really take care of myself. I stopped working out just to get 20 more homework assignments graded. Ordering take out meant that I had an additional 30 minutes to make more lesson plans. Ultimately, I was just making excuses to not take care of myself. 

For those of you thinking that’s easier said than done, answer me this: How many minutes a day do you spend checking your Facebook newsfeed mindlessly scrolling? Let’s say an hour. That’s an hour you could spend on the treadmill, or making a home cooked meal. You have the time; you may just have to make some sacrifices and switches in priorities. You will also have to get used to saying, “It can wait till tomorrow.” That being said, if you have a really important event like an observation by the Superintendent that could mean your tenure, you should probably do what you got to do to be successful. But if you only got through 15 out of 30 term papers and in order to finish you have to miss that kickboxing class your friend wants you to try with her, it’s a no brainer. Go to the kickboxing class. No one is going to be devastated if you wait another day.

You need to start scheduling exercising and healthy habits (like laundry and cooking) into your life. Then, and this is the hardest part, you have to stick to it. Once you make it a priority in your life and schedule, you’ll find it easier and easier to keep to it (and your sanity).

Sleep Like You Mean It

For all my years of teaching, I would go to bed at 1am and get up at 5am. That’s a pathetic four hours of sleep. No wonder I burned out. I had no energy in the tank and was still trying to hold myself to a 150% standard in my classroom. You hear it all the time: the average amount of sleep you should get each night to be at optimal health and productivity is 7-8 hours each night. Just like you need to schedule healthy habits you need to put that phone down and get to bed. 

Implementing these two small, but impactful, changes into your every day life will make all the difference in your health and happiness. You’ll also find yourself less stressed at work. For more tips to help make this balance more efficient, check out http://www.subsidekick.com/. contact us

Prepare to Sub in Special Education Classrooms

Special education classrooms can intimidate some substitute teachers but if you are willing to look past some unpredictable behaviors, students in these programs can leave some indelible marks on both your mind and your heart. If you don’t have experience working with kids with developmental disabilities, you may benefit from some additional training before you enter the classroom. There are plenty of ways to gain confidence and knowledge that can help you enjoy many successful days in classrooms that many substitutes would rather decline simply because they’re unprepared.

Volunteer

There are many organizations that serve people of all ages with developmental disabilities. Some of these agencies provide training to help volunteers understand the population they will be working with. That training can also help you learn how to best communicate and interact with those you may serve as a substitute teacher. You will most likely find opportunities with a wide range of commitment levels. Perhaps you want to help at a one-day event to see if special education is something that may interest you. If you enjoy the experience, you could expand and join a weekly program or even spend time each day serving in a vocational training setting for those with developmental delays. 

Professional Organizations

Look to professional organizations for webinars, articles, or podcasts that can help you understand the joys and challenges of teaching in a special education setting. Remember, there is a wide range of ability within special education. The learning that a teachers experience by working with these students is varied and interesting. 

Keep an Open Mind

If you haven’t had the opportunity to meet and connect with someone with a developmental disability or other delays, you may not realize what you’ve been missing. Often times, students who fall into this category are eager to learn, enter the classroom with joy, extend love to teachers, and express emotion in ways that will help you learn something deeper about your own life.

Contact us for more information on substitute teaching tips.

Pros and Cons of Preferred Substitutes in Schools

If you’re looking at the subject of a preferred substitute teacher through the eyes of a classroom teacher, the logic is pretty simple. It’s the same way that one might look at having a preferred painter, or repair person, or a preferred car wash, for example. When you count on someone to do a job and they knock it out of the park, generally one will return to that person for more business. It’s the same way for a classroom teacher who’s been out of the classroom and had to depend on a substitute teacher to keep the ship afloat in his/her absence. When a teacher returns and finds the room spotless, and no bad reports, and all tasks completed that teacher will more than likely want that particular substitute teacher to return for future work, hence “preferred substitute.” Are there pros and cons? Well, it depends on how you look at it. As a substitute teacher, if you look at it as a challenge of making lemonade out of lemons, then there will be more pros than cons! Let’s go over some possible pros and cons, and let’s start with the cons first.

Possible Cons of a “Preferred” Substitute in School.

Naturally, if a particular campus has a list of preferred substitute teachers, or if a certain teacher has his/her personal choice for a substitute, it could be harder for a new substitute to get a good footing in a school. But this can be the situation for any profession. If you have your mind set on substituting at one particular campus and you’re finding it hard to get a call because that school has established a “go to” list for their subs, then take the initiative and sell yourself! Do whatever it takes! If it means dropping by the lounge with a box of donuts and saying to the teachers… “Hey, I’m a excellent substitute and I’d like a chance if your regular substitute is unable to take an assignment.” You can also call or drop by and visit with the campus secretary. As a substitute teacher, if you’re going to “get in good” with anyone, you better choose the secretary! She’s the one who usually makes the phone calls to call substitutes, and her job can be overwhelming at times. So if you personally introduce yourself to her, hand her a business card and tell her you really, really just want a chance, that in itself will go a long way! So, yes, if you want to know the cons of having the preferred substitute system in place at a certain school, the biggest and maybe only con there is at all is that there’s others in front of you. But that’s life. We’re always waiting in a line somewhere, aren’t we?

The Pros of a “Preferred” Substitute in School.

There are so many pros for a substitute teacher who works in a school that recognizes a substitute as one who is “preferred.” Not only does “preferred” substitute look and sound great on a resume, but also word gets around about you that you’re knowledgeable, dependable, responsible and have an eye for detail. All of this means that you’ll continue to get calls and your paycheck will be steady. Additionally, if you’re a substitute teacher who’s working toward his/her education degree, having a preferred substitute teacher status means that you have a much greater chance of easing into a contract position at that campus when you complete your degree. You are basically a walking billboard if you’re a substitute teacher who is trying to finish an education degree and get certified. So, if you’ve been selected as that “go to” preferred substitute at a particular campus or school district, you’re a lot closer to getting a full time teaching job in the future because you’ve already made a positive impact on certain faculty and administrators.

So continue to think positive and know that if you have your eye set on a particular campus, anything’s possible! Good luck with your endeavors and should you have any additional questions remember that SubSidekick is just a phone call away. Feel free to contact us anytime!

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”― Malala Yousafzai

Savvy Substitute Teachers Are Always Prepared!

Before you leave for an elementary substitute teaching job, it’s a good idea to have a sub bag ready to grab as you go out the door. What is a sub bag? It’s a tote of your choice filled with supplies to help you survive your day with your students. Here are some great ideas to help you create your own bag.

A very important item in your bag will be a three ring notebook. You need to fill it with ideas for time-filling activities. Divide your notebook into three or more sections. Some examples for your sections might be Activities, Writing Prompts, and Brainteasers/Riddles.  Following are some ideas for each section. Print them out for your use in the classroom. 

Brainteasers and Riddles

Something that kids absolutely love are riddles and brainteasers. In fact, if you sub at a school enough, it is practically guaranteed a child will ask if you are going to give them some. Be prepared and have them in the brainteaser/riddle section so they will be available at a moment’s notice. Here is a website that will help you get started – Brainteasers and Riddles

Writing Prompts

Students sometimes don’t enjoy writing, but you can make it fun and help them think creatively. Here’s an idea for you to use. Hand out paper, and write on the board these fill in the blank statements. “If I was the teacher, I would teach _______. If the students weren’t paying attention, I would ______. To have fun, I would let them ________. Encourage the kids to creatively use their thinking skills, and then let them share with the class when they are finished. There will be lots of giggles! An excellent website for ideas is Story Starters and Writing Ideas .

Activities

There are also many small activities that can be used as time fillers, such as “Simon Says” or “Seven Up”. A game children enjoy is this number guessing activity. Tell them you are thinking of a number between one and one hundred. Raise or lower the range based on the age of your students. Tell them to raise their hand when they think of a number. When they guess, tell them your number is “higher” or “lower”, until they narrow it down to the correct number. Another activity involves them listening very carefully. Give each child a piece of paper. Tell them you are going to instruct them to draw items, and you won’t repeat a direction. An example would be:

  1. Draw a large circle in the middle of your paper.
  2. Draw a square in the upper right hand corner.
  3. Draw a star in the middle of the circle.
  4. On the left hand side of the circle, draw three small circles.

Have the students hold up their drawings to see who was able to correctly follow directions. More activities can be found at the Substitute Mini Lessons website.    

Your notebook should be put in your sub bag. Other items to add to the bag are: some tissues, dry erase markers, money for snacks, your cell phone, a small notebook to record problems in case of future questions, hand sanitizer, lotion, a highlighter, a red pen, pencils, flash cards, a whistle for recess duty, stickers for rewards, and last, but not least, books to read for time fillers. Keep a selection at home for different grades and choose which books would be appropriate for that day’s grade level. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us .  

Tips to Find Health Insurance as a Sub

Substitute teachers are basically super heroes for schools. Your job is to come to a new classroom, often on short notice, well briefed enough on daily activities and routines that you students don’t feel the effects of their usual teacher being out too much. Sometimes that does not go so well, but you still persevere and do the best you possibly can for the class. 

For the step-in heroes of the classroom though, there are no benefits beyond the actual pay that comes through, which is not a secure place to be. No retirement, no sick days since you are the sick day backup, and most of all, no group health insurance. It can be a real struggle to find health insurance that suits your needs even if it is provided by your employer. If it isn’t? It’s a thousand times more difficult. To help out with finding reliable, affordable insurance that suits your needs, here are some resources and tips.

First things first: check the government websites. These sites are good ways to find information on any form of health insurance you need, at an array of costs.

USA.gov provides information on regular private health insurance, as well as Medicare, Medicaid, disability, and long term care needs for you or your family. It is still a lot of information to sift through, but it’s a great jumping off point from a credible source. 

HealthCare.gov is the site you’ll want to visit to find information on how to get insurance through the Affordable Health Care Act. It likes you to your states local site for specific plans available and provides filters for your insurance needs, including premium and deductible costs. The state site will also provide you with online or phone assistance to filter your specific needs.

Second, you’ll want to know what you need.  Depending on your medical needs, a too high deductible or premium can cause problems. If you make regular visits to your doctor, go for a higher premium and lower deductible, it will help spare you some out of pocket costs in the long run. 

Make sure that when you review the insurance plan that it covers your specific needs.

  • Double check that childcare or mental health costs will be covered.
  • Check co-pay and co-insurance percentages. 
  • Make sure you select insurance that your preferred doctor accepts. 

It can be overwhelming to sift through all of the information, but make use of available credible resources and have your own needs in mind, and you can find insurance that will help you be ready to be the substitute teacher you want to be, without all the stress of having no health coverage.

For more content for substitute teachers, visit our site or follow us on Twitter!

May I Have Your Attention, Please?

It’s often said that teachers must have a “bag of tricks”.  If teachers need a bag, then substitute teachers better have a whole trunk! There aren’t many jobs more challenging than that of a substitute teacher, but with a bag, or a trunk, of tricks it can be infinitely easier.

Close your eyes and picture a classroom equipped with dimmable lights and a microphone. When you were ready to teach, you could dim the lights, get on the microphone, and say in a big, deep voice, “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please?”  A hush would fall over the classroom, and your audience would wait with bated breath for the wisdom you are about to extol.  Okay, time to wake up, because that’s not happening! But…you can pull some tricks from your trunk to get the attention of your learners.

The Whisper

Whisper? You’re thinking, “That’s insane!”  Often times in the classroom, teachers try to talk over students.  The kids are loud, so the adults in the room get louder.  Some teachers can handle that level of noise, but not all, so what do you do? Whisper.  Maybe not a full-blown whisper but a very quiet voice.  If they want to hear you, the decibel level has to drop.  Those that want to hear you will help to quiet their peers.  The noise level comes down, and you can teach or give directions. 

The Whisper-Clap

This trick will likely work quicker than the plain old whisper.  With this strategy, position yourself next to a student who was designated in the sub folder as being helpful. In a low voice, say, “If you can hear my voice, clap three times.”  The student, and potentially some others, will clap.  In that same low voice, say, “If you can hear my voice, clap four times.”  More students join the clapping, and at this point, those who aren’t are looking around and wondering why their classmates are clapping.  If you repeat the process a third time, you will typically have all the students clapping.  For good measure, end with, “If you can hear my voice, clap once.”  The classroom is quiet.  You didn’t have to scream.  You can proceed with your agenda.

Finish My Line

If the students are finishing my line, they’re talking.  Isn’t their talking going to interfere with getting their attention? Not necessarily! Let’s face it.  Kids like to talk.  We just have to find a way to get that talking to work to our advantage. To utilize this method, start your day with the students explaining how this is going to work. Tell them that you are going to say something, and then they are going to respond, and then get quiet after they say their part.  It’s best to practice a few times, because getting instantly quiet after they say their part can be tricky, but they catch on quickly after practicing a few times.  Sing out, “Red Robin,” and the students will instantly respond with, “Yummmmm.”  Another favorite is, “Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?” which will promptly be followed with a resounding, “SpongeBob SquarePants.”  Just pay attention to catchy jingles and theme songs.  You will have an arsenal of attention grabbers at the ready, and the kids will have fun getting quiet.  It’s a win-win!

Until all those classrooms get equipped with dimmable lights and microphones, keep pulling from your trunk of tricks and keep visiting SubSidekick, and you’ll make substitute teaching look easy! Don’t hesitate to contact us as you continue to grow in your career as a substitute teacher. 

What to do when There is a Fight in the Classroom

Having spent most of the last 20 years serving as an English teacher in various behavioral alternative schools, I can tell you first hand, the short answer is there is no short answer! There are many variables that play a part in what a teacher or substitute teacher should do if a fight breaks out under their supervision. There are a lot of moving parts and often split second decisions have to be made in these situations.  There’s no need to sugarcoat this subject; we all watch the news and are well aware of how fast things can spiral out of control in a matter of seconds in a school setting. Some classroom or school fights are mediocre at best and some can be aggressive and violent. What you do in the first seconds of a fight could prevent more serve injuries to those in fight and also to those student spectators that will try to gather around to watch. So here are just a few thoughts and ideas to take into consideration as a substitute teacher.

Send a Student to get Help.

You can always quickly send a kid to go get help as soon as a fight starts; in my experience, I’ve never had this backfire on me. By doing that one thing you can at least count on some adult backup in minutes. Now keep in mind, many times those minutes can seem like hours when something violent in going on, just mentally talk to yourself to stay calm and remember that help’s on the way.

Use your Classroom Phone

If you’ve got a desk phone in your classroom, think fast and use it! Call the front office and let them know you need help because there’s a fight in your room. In five seconds or less, you can pick your phone up and call someone in the building, and if all you can do is yell into the receiver “There’s a fight,” then do that!

Distance Between Fighters and Student Spectators

Often if two kids don’t have a student audience, it’s easier to talk to them and get them to weigh the pros and cons of a school fight. Now getting some distance between the classroom and the two or more involved in a fight depends on age group of students, size of class, and where the fighters are in relation to the exit. You’ve got to think on your feet! If you’ve got a small class of high school kids and they’re sitting close to the exit door and the fight is on the other side of the class, tell those students that aren’t involved to get out in the hall and send one to go get help. Normally in these situations, you can depend on a student to go get help in the form of another teacher or a nearby administrator.

Keep a Whistle on You

This might sound funny but it helps! If you don’t have a phone in your room and when all else fails, open your classroom door, blow your whistle as loud as you can and scream “I’ve got a Fight!” Believe me when I say this, it works! Depending on where your classroom is in relation to the rest of the campus, you could be in a wing out in the middle of nowhere, so you want to be able to get someone’s attention. A whistle will do just that, especially the bright orange marine safety whistles! And as I write this post I can say that I just spoke with a substitute teacher last week that said she had to use her whistle during a fight; she keeps it in her pocket.

Extra Thoughts

I can promise you that fights among elementary age kids are not going to be near as frightening as seeing older kids fight. When you get to senior guys that play football level, they can destroy a classroom and the only thing you and everyone else can do is get out of the way; you’re outnumbered an undersized. And boy fight are usually not near as fast and scary to watch as those fights between girls. Those boy fights usually involve having fists up in the air like boxers and those girls fight like wildcats, pulling hair, biting, you name it. I tell you all of this because if you can de-escalate a fight before it even starts, it’s definitely to your advantage! If you know two girls, for example, are using threatening words toward each other and are just about to tie into it, get one of them in the hallway as fast as you can. It’s those little things that help the most.

School Policy

Many ISD school policies now have rules that instruct teachers and substitute teachers to not get physically involved in a fight. In otherwords, don’t try to break it up. This looks and sounds great on paper but often times it’s not realistic or morally the right thing to do. That’s going to be your personal judgement call on what you feel comfortable doing. As a human being, I would have a hard time not helping someone that’s getting serioulsly hurt, and as a teacher I’ve been in situations like that before.

The Good News

What I’ve mentioned about classroom fights might sound extreme, but they are by for not at all unrealistic. The good news is that most of your days will be fight free. In fact, you may go a whole school year or more without a classroom fight. But as my Dad always told me, “It’s better to be safe than sorry!” So be aware and stay on your toes and thank you for your service to the next generation of minds. And please don’t forget to contact us with any of you subsitute teaching questions are concerns!

“Of all the hard jobs around, one of the hardest is being a good teacher.” ~ Maggie Gallagher

5 Education Conferences to Attend in 2020

As an educator, you know the importance of taking advantage of learning opportunities. Chances are if you’re a substitute teacher, it’s because you care about the education system and those students in it. That’s where education conferences come in. Education conferences are not only for permanent educators or board members—they are a great way for substitute teachers to connect, learn, and stay informed on the latest education trends.

Below are five education conferences happening in 2020:

SXSW Edu 2020

The SXSW Edu Conference and Festival is a four-day event that will take place March 9-12 in Austin, Texas. SXSW Edu is an annual education conference that focuses on professional growth, networking, and collaborating with one another regarding current trends in the world of education.

The conference website boasts “more than 400 sessions,” and “an estimated 1,200+ speakers.” The conference will also host competitions and challenges, pop-up events, and networking opportunities.

Read more about SXSW Edu 2020 here.

AMLE

AMLE is the Annual Conference for Middle Level Education. This conference is geared specifically towards educators who specialize in middle-level education and holds hundreds of sessions and workshops discussing the best methods for working with students of that age.

Although no date has yet been scheduled for the 2020 conference, AMLE19 takes place November 7-9 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Click here for more information about AMLE.

PL Summit

The PL Summit—or Personalized Learning Summit—took place in May 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. No official date has been set for PL Summit 2020, but the website has a sign-up option to stay informed regarding all updates.

Personalized Learning Summit focuses on promoting and exploring what it means to offer personalized learning to students. The conference hosts several keynote speakers,  networking events, and has a number of sessions and professional opportunities.

Click here to read more about PL Summit.

DL2020

DL2020 will be held March 25-27 in San Diego, California. DL stands for Deeper Learning. According to the website, the 2020 conference will address questions like, “how can we help students engage in deeper learning?” and “how can we create and advance equitable learning environments?”

Click here to learn more about DL2020’s deeper learning initiative and conference details.

ASCD Empower20: The Conference of Learning, Teaching, and Leading Together

Empower20 is a conference headed by The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. The conference is geared towards connecting and empowering educators in order to grow and “learn from one another.”

Empower20 will begin March 13, 2020, in Los Angeles, California. Click here to learn more.

With so many options—many not listed—you are sure to find a conference that suits your interests and passions as a substitute teacher. Contact us or visit our website to learn about other opportunities for substitute teachers.

How to Find Long-Term Sub Jobs

Most substitute assignments are short term. Usually when a teacher or their children are sick, they call-in requesting a sub for a day or two at the most. Sometimes teachers are required to attend specialized training during the school year and a day or two is needed. On occasion there is a need for a long-term substitute. When this happens school administrators will try to find a substitute with the highest level of qualifications (most often a teacher’s license in the applicable state.) There are a few things you can do to find long-term substitute positions if that is your goal. 

Personal Resume Delivery

We at Sub Sidekick understand that every district handles their substitute teachers differently. Some use SubFinder, SmartFindExpress or other agencies, while others prefer to handle the hiring of their subs in-house. Every school administrator will be able to have some direction over who is filling long-term roles however. Administrators will look forward to meeting and getting your information if you are interested in a long-term role. They are more hands-on in this area because the sub will be with the students for an extended period of time. Think of it like a mini job interview. 

Get to Know Local Teachers

Getting to know the local teachers and making sure they know that you are willing to do substitute work can be a huge boost. Teachers want their classes left in the most capable hands possible because they don’t want chaos upon their return. Maternity leaves, extended illness and just life’s unforeseen circumstances can cause a teacher to be out for several weeks. If they know you’re available for long-term assignments then they’ll pass that on to their administrators. 

Attend Professional Development

Attending local professional development can be a good way to show that you are committed to education and teaching. It’s also a great way to make professional contacts and build your skills as a classroom manager. Make sure you reach out to local school administrators to ask if you can sit-in on some of these meetings. 

Once you’ve done a few successful long-term sub positions word will spread quickly and you’ll be getting called frequently. Whether you intend to substitute teach periodically or as your long-term career Sub Sidekick can be a trusted partner. Contact us for more information about how we can work with you to make you successful. 

How to Be the Best Substitute Teacher

If you want to be the best substitute teacher you can, there are two realizations that have to be made: First, remind yourself that you are a teacher. Being a substitute doesn’t mean you’re less than a normal teacher–although some would have you think so–; it means that you’re a suitable stand-in for the students’ normal teacher, with all the rights and privileges therein. Second, remember that as a teaching professional, what you do in the classroom is impactful. The actions you take, the words you say, and the way you teach should show kids they’re valuable and cared for, which in turn will show their teachers that you’re the right candidate for any absent day. Once these two vital realizations have been made, check out the two educational resources below because they will help you start making professional decisions that not only get you one job, but keep the phone ringing.

Substitute teaching starts off simply, as the Education World Online Substitute Survival Kit would tell you. Yes, follow the plan. Yes, be prepared and keep your composure. And when the heart you have shines is when you let the kids see who you are. “Sing! Play! Read! Write! Homework! Manage!” are some of the tips Education World provides, and what they’re really getting at is that it’s okay to be yourself. You don’t have to be mean or harsh; you can be a courteous, exciting, and playful teacher (because that’s what you are). You chose to be a substitute for only a handful out of so many reasons, but you love kids! You might even possibly want to make a career out of being with them. The plan the absent teacher leaves is only a frame that you fill out, and you have the professional skills and tricks to make it through the day (and the others, if you have more). 

Also visit Teacher Created Resources’ Tips for Being a Successful Substitute Teacher page to understand more about the ins and outs of excelling in any classroom. Then remind yourself that you’re a teaching professional who has all the capabilities of instruction and will impact every curious set of eyes in attendance that day. Becoming the most desirable substitute teacher takes time and practice, but if you have a heart to really get students to learn material, and so much more beyond it, follow these simple yet professional tips so that you’ll already be on your way to success.

For more posts on professional development as a substitute teacher all year round, contact us over at Sub Sidekick to learn more.