I went from a Substitute Teacher trying to work and study my way into the wonderful world of being a credentialed teacher to a District Intern trying to do the same. I'm a teacher, jumping life hurdles as I continue to learn to teach and teach to learn.
I am a little behind on my adventures.
For the past two days I have come home exhausted. Subbing in the Special Education class that I am familiar with is not difficult, except when there is a new student and I do not know any information from her Individualized Education Program (IEP) or anything else for that matter. On her first-day of school she made a positive impression on the teacher so he had nothing but nice things to say. On her second day (when I first met her and started my three day subbing gig) she decides to steal something from the mall and I had to make a phone call to her parent informing them of the matter. On the third day, well, she pretty much had a tantrum.
What is a Guest Teacher to do? Protect the students.
Based on my prior experience, we leave her alone, as in do not bother her. My Instructional Assistant for that day was also a substitute so it was just me and her trying to work with this student. Eventually the student got a little aggressive on the Instructional Assistant and the Adaptive Physical Education Teacher.
Based on this information alone, I had to make a decision and the best decision I could make was send the student home. I KNOW that going home is what the student wanted. Her poor attitude and refusal to do any activity (I mean, c’mon, we BAKED cookies AND played tennis! All the other students enjoyed it!), but she sat and pouted. If any other student had behaved as such, a student whose background I knew with an IEP I was already familiar with, I would not have given to such behavior.
How would any substitute teacher have handled this? I had to handle this as if I did not know any of these students.
But this, THIS was different. Her aggressive behavior was something I was not familiar with and I was not going to put these students, myself, or the Instructional Assistant at risk. On top of that, because she has been unresponsive except with mumbles, pushing, and slapping hands, I would not know if she would get up to go to the school bus when her bus arrived.
In the end, the student responded to our male Assistant Principal and he escorted her out of the room and to the attendance office where the mother would pick-up the student. Why does it matter that I point out that he is a male? She did not respond to me, the Instructional Assistant, or the Adaptive Physical Education Teacher - all women. The student lives with her divorced mother, and I am assuming the student’s mother is the ONLY female in her life she is willing to listen to.
The mother is upset that she had to come to the school and pick up her daughter. She was on her way to work when I made the phone call and I calmly explained that her unfamiliar behavior will put the students at risk and be a challenge when it is time for her to go home.
The Instructional Assistant felt like a failure that day because she felt we let the student “win.” I explained, because she too wants to be a Substitute Teacher, that when I know I am responsible for a group of students, I had to look at the larger picture and I was not willing to put the other students at risk. Fine, she was aggressive toward us, but what about the other students? And what if she did not get on the school bus? And, if she did go on the bus, what if her aggression took place with the other students on her school bus? As a substitute we HAVE to look at the bigger picture because for that one day (or two, or three, or an entire semester…) someone has allowed us to take responsibility.
I know I will be asked to sub this class again, and so will the Instructional Assistant, but we now know a bit more about this student and when we return, we will know even more.