Tag Archives: substitute teaching

Welcome, New Subs!

ZIPNON / Pixabay

The recent Substitute Teacher Workshop sponsored by MSAD 53 in Pittsfield included a nice mix of people who are already subbing and some who will be subbing for the first time. One of my favorite comments on the evaluation was “The class taught that being a substitute was far more than a fill-in babysitter in a classroom.

Okay, so my ego also liked the comment, “Mr. Boomsma is an excellent teacher!

Folks who’ve participated in the workshop know that my bias is that we can worry less about classroom management if we keep a laser focus on teaching and learning. In an engaged and energetic classroom, there simply isn’t time for disruption.

It’s always exciting to welcome new substitutes to what can be an enjoyable and rewarding job. Remember, Mr. Boomsma’s “rule number two” is “we will enjoy learning!

For the benefit of all those who are embarking on substituting, I’ve recently created a one-page Getting Started (fingerprinting) guide. It will remain available on the Substitute Teacher Resources Page for future downloading.

 

Substitute Teachers and Fingerprinting

Robin Higgins / Pixabay

Bizzare! That’s one word used to describe a “rule change” made by the Department of Education that affects substitute teachers. I will attempt to sort this out for you.  You don’t have to understand the why, but you will need to understand the what and how.

When you first become a sub, fingerprinting is a requirement. The process is relatively uncomplicated. Information is typically available from the superintendant’s office of the district where you plan to work. You are fingerprinted and so state in an application to the DOE (Department of Education). The fingerprinting includes a background check. In short, you will ultimately be issued a “certificate” indicating you are “approved” to work with children in public schools. The certificate is good for five years.

You will not be reminded of the expiration date by the DOE. When the time comes, if you apply logic, you will likely attempt “renew” your approval, ideally before expiration. Well, under current rules you can’t.

I recently discovered that subs and mentors do not have that option… even though you’ve worked consistently during the past five years. (Other employees who have worked during those five years can simply renew.) You are going to have to start over.  In other words, the process is the same for first-time substitutes and those who have been fingerprinted in the past.

The”why” ultimately doesn’t matter, although we could probably have some fun speculating. You’ll need to make an appointment to be fingerprinted, complete and submit an application to the DOE, much the same as you did the first time!

As I often tell students, you don’t have to like it, but you do have to do it.

Maine Department of Education Approval Instructions

Maine Department of Education Application Form

Identogo Site to make an appointment to be fingerprinted

 

 

Substitute Teacher Workshops…

Here’s a reminder that I’ll be teaching the Substitute Teacher Workshop Tuesday, September 12 at PVAEC. And yes, there’s still some space left! By the way, if you saw the program listed in the PVAEC Catalog, the start time is incorrect; we actually start at 9: a.m. For additional information or to register, contact PVAEC at 564-6525 or visit the PVAEC website. I’ll also be teaching an evening version with MSAD 53 Adult Education at Warsaw Elementary School in Pittsfield starting on Tuesday, September 26. Contact them at 487-5145 or visit the MSAD 53 Adult Ed Website for more information or to register.

We’ll address some questions like “To go or not to go…” Believe it or not, managing bathroom breaks can be a challenge for subs!

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.