Tag Archives: substitute teaching

Teachers — Born or Made?

“Teaching  is a natural gift; it cannot be taught through college training.” This statement posted on a substitute teacher’s forum was actually directed to me based on some previous discussion around the qualifications for a substitute teacher. I decided not to engage in a “nature versus nurture” debate and actually fell back on my “it depends,” answer to the question “What do you say?”

One of the things teachers must learn is to make sure you understand the question before you answer it.  I’m still not sure if this was a question about teaching or a question about the value of a college education.  But it did set me to thinking.

I think some of the fundamental qualities required to be a teacher are not easily taught. A couple of examples:

  • A love of children
  • A love of learning
  • A love of teaching/nurturing
  • Flexible thinking skills

I do think those qualities can be learned. There is a, however, a difference between learning and teaching. I know a lot of people (kids included) who are tired of being taught but are anxious to learn. One of the distinguishing features of an outstanding teacher is his or her ability to engage the learners and make learning “fun.”

When I started in the business of education, my focus was on adults. Macolm Knowles was just developing his adult learning theory and the word “andragogy” was becoming commonplace. They were heady times for educators.  As is often the case with new concepts, an unfortunate polarity developed. The term “pedagogy” had been around longer, applied to child learning. No one thought to raise the question of whether or not it makes sense to draw such a solid line between child learning and adult learning. We were too enamored of the labels and the differences.

But I digress–mostly to make the point that adults tend to be more task-oriented and self-directed learners than kids.  For most adults, learning is about application rather than memorization.

Colleges have been too slow to recognize this difference as an opportunity. Ironically, there has been a tendency to cling to teaching methods more suited to kids. Another digression we could take–what is the teacher’s role in teaching students how to learn?

When we look at teaching, there’s a lot that can be taught in a classroom–college or otherwise– including strategies and techniques. But if we’re not careful, we end up with the equivalent of trying to teach someone how to play tennis without spending any time on the court.

I “interviewed” my niece (Thanks, Abigail!) for this article–she’s currently completing her student teaching, a 75 day (15 weeks–one semester) assignment. She estimates that 15-25% of her college program involves actual teaching–partly because she ended up team teaching during her observations.  Not all students get that opportunity–much depends on the supervising teacher.

Can teaching be taught in college? We need to be cautious about one-dimensional thinking and yes or no answers. If  we think the answer is found in whether or not the teacher can pass the test, let’s remember that the real test isn’t a final exam or achieving certification. The real test will happen in the classroom–one reason it’s important to learn there.  Or maybe in a Dr. Seuss like way, we should be learning “here, and there, and everywhere.”

A Page in Mr. Boomsma’s Brag Book

Teachers are, I think, students just by nature of the profession.  But in this case, I became a student both officially and formally by completing an online course offered by STEDI (Substitute Teacher Division, Utah State University) titled “Advanced Classroom Management.”

I wish I could tell you that it was a grueling and stressful experience. Truth be told, I’d actually taken an older version of the course some years ago. So this was a bit of a review and I was able to complete the self-paced course quickly.  Being a typical adult learner, I undervalued the material–at least until I finished.

Then I remembered, sometimes the greatest value of a course is that it reinforces what you already know and increases your confidence. I use many of these techniques while teaching. They are integrated into the Substitute Teacher’s Workshop I offer in conjunction with several adult education programs. So, as the saying goes, “It’s all good.”

Students of all ages often ask, “Do we have to learn this?” I understand the question but also find it a sad one. What happened to the joy of learning?

Seth Godin recently posted some thoughts about the smoker’s lounge at the Helsinki Airport. (There’s still one there.) He observed that most smokers in the lounge didn’t look particularly happy. They had the appearance of doing something because they had to do it.  He also observed many people standing about the lounge checking their phones. They didn’t seem particularly happy either–probably for the same reason. He wondered when we are going to start building social media lounges.

One thing to like about Seth is he makes you think. I’m not sure if his post is about addiction, human nature, social media or something else.

But I do know this: Things that initially bring us pleasure can easily turn into habit and drudgery.  We continue to do them because we have to do them even though the value has diminished. That may include learning.  But when we really start to think about it, the cigarettes, phones, and I would include lessons, do not change. We change–collectively and individually.

But when we really start to think about it, the cigarettes, phones, and I would include lessons, do not change. We change–collectively and individually–how we think about things and our attitude towards them.

Let’s make learning fun.

Substitute Teacher Classes Announced

classroom-658002_1280This fun one-day program is designed  to prepare people interested in serving as a substitute teacher or ed tech.  There will be plenty of “hands on learning” that will include important classroom management techniques and teaching strategies. We’ll also cover some legal aspects and help you develop your own “sub pack” of resources and an action plan that will get you started on the right foot! If you’ve been subbing, this is a great opportunity for a “refresher” and some new ideas. Attendees will earn a certificate recognized by many local districts. One student comments, “…very engaging with a lot of real life scenarios. I came away with new information even after subbing for a year.” The program is taught by Walter Boomsma, an experienced substitute teacher and adult educator.

There are currently two opportunities to learn scheduled:

Saturday, August 27, 2016

RSU 19 Adult Education
Nokomis High School, Newport
Call 368-3290 or visit http://rsu19.maineadulted.org/

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative
Penquis Higher Education Center, Dover-Foxcroft
Call 564-6525 or visit http://pvaec.maineadulted.org/

Both courses are likely to fill up quickly… reserve your spot early!

Substitute Teaching — FAQ

teacher_colaberation_pc_400_clr_3388When announcements of the Substitute Teacher Training Course are made, I always get a few calls and emails with questions. I occasionally joke in classes that “It depends…” is rarely a wrong answer, so before I try to answer a few, I’ll make a general disclaimer: Individual school districts set policy and procedure–including the required qualifications for substitutes, amount of pay, etc. That said, here are some questions I hear often and general answers.

Am I required to take this course before I apply or substitute teach?

No!

What are the requirements for being hired as a substitute teacher?

It depends! In general, you’ll need a minimum of a high school education. You’ll also be required to be fingerprinted and pass a background check. The fingerprinting and background check is universal–districts may vary in terms of educational level and other requirements.

Does this course include help getting a job?

The course will briefly review the general process, including information regarding fingerprinting. We cannot, obviously, guarantee you’ll be hired.

Will this course qualify me to be an ed tech (also sometimes referred to as “para professional)?

Given the topics covered, this course will likely be helpful to an ed tech, but is not an “approved course of study.” Unlike substitute teacher, there are very specific state requirements. For more specific information, see the Department of Education’s website.

What topics does the course include?

A lot! Some of the topic headings are: Expectations of stakeholders, a “typical” day, classroom management techniques, teaching strategies, legal aspects,  and special education. Of necessity, some topics are handled as an overview.

How will I be paid as a sub?

This may vary by district, but in our area the most common schedule seems to be bi-weekly (every two weeks).

I’m already a working substitute–will this course be of any benefit to me?

Some districts offer a slightly higher pay rate for substitutes who’ve attended this training. That aside, subs who’ve taken the course have often found the course beneficial either because they’ve learned new techniques or because laws and rules have changed since they started.

What’s the easiest grade level to sub for?

Do you like chocolate or vanilla ice cream?  Seriously, this is truly a matter of personal preference based somewhat on the age/grade the sub is most confident with.

If you have a question, please send it along… or better yet, bring it to class! I encourage class participation and questions–and we try to have fun learning!

Substitute Teacher Class scheduled in Dexter and Dover

school_house

This fun one-day program is designed in collaboration with PVAEC to prepare people interested in serving as a substitute teacher or ed tech.  There will be plenty of “hands on learning” that will include important classroom management techniques and teaching strategies. We’ll also cover some legal aspects and help you develop your own “sub pack” of resources and an action plan that will get you started on the right foot! If you’ve been subbing, this is a great opportunity for a “refresher” and some new ideas. The workshop is based on Utah State University’s STEDI Program and attendees will earn a certificate recognized by PVAEC member districts. One student comments, “…very engaging with a lot of real life scenarios. I came away with new information even after subbing for a year.” The program is taught by Walter Boomsma, an experienced substitute teacher and adult educator. An optional recommended text containing educational strategies and classroom activities will be available for $25.

The fee for this one day class is $10 and the class is being offered twice:

  1. Tuesday, January 28th at Dexter Regional High School Dexter starting at 9 AM and ending at 4 PM.
  2. Tuesday, February 11th at Penquis Higher Education Center (Dover Foxcroft) starting at 9 AM and ending at 4 PM

For additional information or to register, contact PVAEC at 564-6525 or visit their website to sign up online. For questions about course content, email “Mr. Boomsma.”

Help spread the word! Download this flyer/poster:  Flyer – Sub Course 2014