Subbing Stories

I truly love my job as a teacher and I love sharing funny, thoughtful, and interesting stories. Some stories are written as narratives, others are written as lessons and I am sure I will include pictures in the future. All of the stories are 100% true and they have been experienced in the last 5 months. I will update my favourite stories each month. Enjoy, I know I am!

October 

“Day 1: From my own classroom to being a substitute”

This is a day I will never forget. “Can you please come in and teach gr. 6 for the full day?” I replied, “absolutely!” With my first date set into my phone, I was like a child entering their first day of school, too excited to sleep. In fact, I had had my own class for two years but I was itching to get back into the classroom. Immediately, I was connecting with the students and making nick names with them and before Block 1 had even started, I was letting the students call me Mr. Fuzzy, a nick-name (or as I like to call it, a term of endearment) that was given to me in my first year of teaching by my beloved gr.9 class. I guess once you mix my last name (Mr. Ferzli) and my personality/appearance the gr.9’s thought “Fuzzy.” (you gotta love afro-hair) The ability to connect with students so quickly was great, in fact it helped me to resolve a conflict between two boys giving “birthday beats”. If I hadn’t established the relationship with them so quickly I know the day could/would have turned out much differently because they wouldn’t have responded to our conversation. Secondly, the fire alarm rang to test of how quickly I could get out of the school, I mean, to see how quickly I could get the students out of the classroom and out of the building safely. It was a success. What an awesome first day back, I certainly missed it, glad to be back into the classroom.

November

“Guest Speaker”

WOW! If anyone tells you there isn’t power in words, then they clearly have never been inspired or motivated by a speaker! It is a privilege when I stumble into a school or classroom for the first time and the school is hosting a guest speaker. It is even better when the guest speaker is engaging with the audience through their stories. As an educator that believes in learning in different ways outside of the traditional classroom setting, I love when a school is brought together to listen to an inspirational message that motivates students to ‘get up and be a do-er.’ The message of D.R.E.A.M, given by Karen Furneaux was an exceptional message that EVERYONE should hear, young and old!

As an educator, I will make sure every school that I work in has established some time for bringing a motivational speaker to speak to the school. If that can’t happen for the whole school, it will happen in my classroom.

December

“Excitement is in the Air” 

It has often been said that, “you can sense the ‘excitement’ in the air in December…especially in schools.” Well, as a substitute teacher, I am ‘lucky’ enough to experience this ‘excitement’ in a new school everyday. Generally mornings are productive but the ‘excitement air’ seems to enter into the minds of the students after lunch. Of course this varies class-to-class and school-to-school, but whenever the energy is “pumping,” it can be difficult for any student to get work done. I have experienced the ‘good’ students get just as excited and playful as the ‘bad’ students. So what have I learned about the exciting festive season of December as a substitute you ask? I can best answer this question in a short story.

My teaching assignment for the day was  Art class, from grades junior primary to gr. 11. Now it is important to note that it is a week before Christmas holidays and the ‘excitement air’ was felt immediately when I entered into the school. That was most apparent by all the teachers being 20 minutes early still working hard. As I approached my art class, I had noticed pottery on the floor in the hallway. And once I read through the lesson plan, each class was either working on a painting or completing their pottery. It was a rather straight forward day but the last set of instructions from the teacher was, “make sure you keep the noise level down, otherwise they will NOT do their work.” My initial thoughts about the day were, “oh boy, this is the 2nd last art class before the holidays and some are already done the project, I sense lots of energy coming into the class and a long day.” However, class after class, student after student, I could not believe it! The focus and willingness to complete their pottery project was brilliant to watch. Everyone, and I mean everyone, completed their work to the best of their ability. The lesson  I learned that afternoon was to understand that even thought you can prepare and anticipate a lesson going one way, it can take a completely different turn for the better or worse, even during the seasons with ‘excitement air.’

January  

“I’m sorry,” cried HALF the Class” 

One of my favourite things being a substitute teacher is returning to a school that I have taught in the past. Children have amazing memories when it comes to remembering past teachers, and it is always a great feeling when students remember you, especially when they know they have been either really good or bad for you the previous day. In this case, the class knew they were doing a terrible job listening in the gymnasium. Three days later, I was given the same teaching Physical Education assignment. To start every class, I need to bring the class to and from their classroom to the gymnasium. Right as I stood at the door from the students, I received one, two and then three “letters of apology’s.” As a substitute teacher it can be difficult to measure how much impact you can have on a child, but it is nice to think that three days later, the students knew it was important to apologize for their poor behaviour, showing that the relationships I formed with the students are important to them.

February 

“Everyday is the First Day of School for Mr. Fuzzy”

It is always nice when you are given consecutive days at one school. In fact, one week this month I was able to spend one whole week at only one school. I was chatting with one of the students ask me, “do you like going from school to school or do you like when you get to stay at one school for a few days?” First I thought, what a great question to ask and then I said,”it’s great both ways, in one way I get to know your name and build a stronger relationship with you and in the other way, I get to have a first day of school everyday.” He replied with, “oh, that sounds like it sucks?” After laughing, I said, “I enjoy getting to introduce myself over and over again.” Once again, he replied with a great answer, “that’s boring and conceded.” I guess my next lesson for this class will be sarcasm.

March 

“Different Perspectives Lead to Different Results”

It’s funny to think about the past. One year ago, when March Break began, I couldn’t help my feelings of excitement and a need for a break from work. This year, when the final bell rang on Friday, the idea of another week off for me was not exciting but rather I thought, “I won’t be making any money, I will miss the interactions with students even more and I don’t enjoy the feeling of not knowing when my next job will be.” These are normal thoughts for a substitute teacher throughout the course of the year. However, thankfully on the last day of March break I received a job that would be for a minimum two or three weeks. Of course I was excited, but this was an experience in teaching I have never experienced before. I was comfortable with the idea of being a first year teacher with a full-time contract; I was also comfortable with the idea of subbing day-to-day in a new city. However, the idea of coming into someone else’s classroom in the middle of the school year, only for a few weeks, was difficult for me to prepare for and I wasn’t sure how I would respond to it. Having your own classroom you use your own management strategies, resources, and you know the rules and regulations of the school. This was the first time that I was no longer a one or two day fill-in sub. I have substituted for a whole week, but sub plans had been clearly defined by the teacher, plus I knew they would be back from the school trip. This proved to be a new subbing experience for me because I knew I would be in the classroom for a short period of time where I needed to get a substantially amount of learning done, while developing relationships with 30 students. This experience has made me reflect and think about something crucial in education: different perspectives.

Students, teachers, parents and colleagues are the main perspectives that I have focused on in my first two years in education. However, I never thought much about substitute teachers being my colleagues when I was a full-time teacher in my first two years of teaching because I would only use a substitute teacher for a day or two. However, life happens and you never know what can happen and you don’t know how or when things can change so quickly. Similar to my changing perspectives on March Break, my thoughts of what kinds of lesson plans I want to leave for my substitute teachers have also changed. The idea of having an “emergency sub-folder” has great meaning for me. As I continue in this current position,I look forward to continue to learn and enhance my teaching practice by continuing to meet the needs of all the different perspectives in education as a teacher.

April

Six weeks in the same school has made me think about the reasons why I love teaching. Here are my “Top 10 Reasons I Love Being a School Teacher”

1. I love laughing with students.

2. I love collaboration with colleagues.

3.  I love watching students collaborate with one another and learn from each other.

4. I love connecting with students on a level outside of the classroom.

5. I love reading to students and I love listening to students read.

6. I love challenging students outside their comfort zone to gain their deepest learning.

7. I love when learning happens through playing games.

8. I love watching students express their personality and when they share their strengths.

9. I love when students discover their passion in the classroom, school and extra-curricular activity.

10. I love the feeling of cultivating a classroom and a school culture.

 May

“Hugs & High-Five”

Building relationships as a school teacher is one of my main objectives. As a substitute teacher, it can be difficult to gauge the progress of a relationship because of the possible infrequent visits to a school. However, I know I have been successful with building a relationship with students when I come into the school or the class and receive a hug or a high-five from a student welcoming me back. Also, it is a wonderful feeling to hear students cheer for me once I immediately step into the class. Those are the touching moments that help refresh the importance of making a connection with students.

Hugs, hive-fives and cheers all around make the world a better place. 🙂

June

The school year has come to a close and that means my journey as a substitute teacher in Halifax, NS comes to an end. I have been privileged to work for Halifax Regional School Board, Armbrae Academy and Sacred Heart School of Halifax. All 3 school boards have been an enjoyable and fruitful experience for my professional career. There are a number of great skills and strategies that I will be taking with me to my own classroom. I organized the fruitful experiences as philosophy development, strategies and behaviour management.

1. Philosophy Development

A. High Expectations – no matter the classroom, or the students in the classroom – having good standards yields good results; having excellent expectations can yield excellent results!

B. Stay on top of EVERY student in a “busy” class.

C. Appreciate different teaching and learning styles in the school. It allows for diversity and diversity is a great lesson for everyone!

D. The wheel doesn’t need to be reinvented – but you don’t have to ride it until it is flat! Adaptations and change can be a good thing sometimes.

2. Strategies 

A. For each unit/topic/subject, have 1 independent project that students can work on when they are finished their work early. OR having a “finished early” folder that has fun activities, projects and games etc.

B. Have simple and clear consequences or as my old boss said, “say it, mean it, do it!”

3. Behaviour Management  

      i: Individual Strategies

A. Move students quickly if they are not being productive and disruptive.

B. Green, yellow, red – a behaviour strategy that physically has each student’s name on an object (cloths pins, velcro, popsicle sticks). If a student is at red, then they need to take a time out and write a reflection of the behaviour. If a student receives their name on the red 3 times, then they write a letter or have a phone conversation with home. Yellow means a student needs to refocus and if behaviour gets worse it will move to red. If students are behaving and working well they stay on green.

C. Individual reward system (many options)

D. 5 min free time, computer time, leader position in class, prize etc

         ii: Group strategies

A. Class point system: everyday the class starts with 3 stars on the board, if it is too loud or the class gets off task, I take one star off the board as a consequence. At the end of the school day, the students add the total to daily tally, and once the students receive 100 stars they receive a reward.

B. Training and repetition for class routines is essential.

C. Listen and talk box – It is known as the Listen and Talk Box because the person standing in the box will have the class’s attention immediately. Tape a 2′ x 2′ box on the ground. Whenever a student or the teacher stands in the box, everyone needs to be quiet and listening. (works similarly to chiming a bell/sound to get everyone’s attention) If students don’t immediately listen or try and abuse the use of the box, then necessary consequences will immediately follow. Hopefully it works, I’ll let you know in September!

As much as I have enjoyed my year travelling from school to school, “cherry picking” great ideas from classroom to classroom, I am excited to get back into my own classroom. I am excited to be moving back to Alberta, and to teach in a great school board like Parkland School Division. Next year I will continue blogging and I am sure I will create another tab for the coming school year. Thanks for a wonderful experience, Halifax!

Gaby Ferzli

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