Cluttered Desks, A Substitute’s Nightmare

               Substitutes don’t have time to mine the teacher’s desk for classwork or the correct textbooks to use for the lesson plan at hand.  Students need to be on task, and the substitute needs to appear competent.  If not, the efficient system of education breaks down.  Students think it is a “free” day, and the substitute feels ineffectual.  

Many times—especially in the primary grades—the series books of Reading, Grammar, and Spelling all look the same with no distinguishing titles written on the front cover, just glorious colorful images.  The books all seem closely related in activities and structure.  Grammar and Spelling exercises are laid out in a story format, and the Reading books have their own set of vocabulary and context clues set up in sentences.      
I’ve unearthed the correct textbook on a table by the whiteboard after combing a cluttered desk for fifteen minutes—fifteen long, noisy minutes as students who have nothing to do chatter along and the time allotted for that subject rushes by. 
As I have explained before, it can be dangerous—time wise—to ask elementary school students which or where books or papers are in the classroom because; a. they don’t know, or b. they need 45 minutes to explain Mrs. Jones’ system of organization.  And then you can’t get them to stop midway into the explanation because the student will cry or say you are rude for interrupting or that they haven’t gotten to the important part yet.
            It can be equally dangerous—work wise—to ask the high school students.  They also might not know, but they would rather have a free period than do classwork more often than not. 
            How do you get around this problem?  Try to arrive extra early, before any duties begin, and ask grade level or same subject matter teachers if they know where something in the lesson plan is or where the teacher left off working the day before or what an acronym in the lesson plan means.  If you don’t have time before class begins, in high school look for a student you know to be trustworthy to ask questions pertaining to where the teacher left off or routine classroom procedure.  Only as a last resort, go with a majority of the students to clarify lesson plans.  I still believe you should refrain from asking the elementary school students unless absolutely necessary. 
Many times the teacher does not plan on being out the next day so things are not organized on his or her desk.  It’s like my husband and his garage.  HE knows where everything is [most times], but I think a tornado hit the inside of our garage. 

2 thoughts on “Cluttered Desks, A Substitute’s Nightmare”

  1. My personal desk too, Ellen. And, true, only sometimes am I searching for something.

    But I'm not under the 40 minute class period to be able to begin a lesson–a lesson that I am unfamiliar with–while about 30 children chatter around me.

    Thank you so much for reading my blog post. It is greatly appreciated.


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