From high school to 3rd grade: A teacher’s sub experience

Elementary school is a whole different world. I'm finding this by subbing for third grade. It's an experience I wish others could have. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

Elementary school is a whole different world. I’m finding this by subbing for third grade. It’s an experience I wish others could have. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

As I stood at the door, I greeted 29 eight-year-olds and nine-year-olds. They were going to be my companions for the day, so I wanted to start the day on the right foot.

Twenty nine, I thought. Wow.

I’m a high school teacher. I don’t know if I can survive a day with 29 third graders.

I was signed up, though. Signed my name on the paper in the office and got the key and the lanyard with my key and my substitute ID badge.

This was going to be a new experience.

Really, it’s the kind of experience I want to immerse myself in as much as possible this year. After teaching for 11 years, this year I’m on a one-year sabbatical as I present professional development at schools, districts and conferences all over the country.

If this ends up being just a one-year leave of absence, I want to use it to experience what I never had for 11 years as a high school Spanish teacher. I want to see first-hand what life is like in other lobes of this expansive educational system.

One step I was sure of: I wanted to serve as a substitute teacher, and I wanted some experience in elementary school.

I now officially have four days of experience as a sub — two with this third grade class of 29 kids, one with a junior-high English class and one with a high school social studies class.

Here are some reflections from my two days filling in as a third-grade teacher, and I would love to hear your take on any of this in a comment below:

1. Consistency is huge in elementary school. At least it seems that way to me, a high school teacher stepping into this world momentarily. I’ve struggled being consistent with my grading policies and handling student behavior as a teacher. I always admired teachers who excelled in this area, who didn’t give special treatment to anyone and were aware of their unconscious biases.

It seemed like these third graders were really developing their sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair. My high school kids are starting to understand that other factors go into “fair” and “unfair.” I felt a responsibility to explain to the third graders why I did what I did or why certain things happen as they do.

2. I felt like they were still young enough that I could help them change. That’s not to say that I don’t think I can help my high school students change. But they’re clearly in a different phase of life and are starting to establish their identities, their morals and their assumptions about the world.

These third graders felt like a brand new jar of Play-Doh. Their “doh” is still in a freshly cut cylinder in the jar and didn’t have other colors smushed in from lots and lots of play. Some of my high school students’ Play-Doh, on the other hand, has dirt and rocks in it from being dropped on the floor. Some still have pristine Play-Doh. Both the third graders and the high schoolers need help working with the Play-Doh of their lives … just in different ways.

3. Little things took the most work. One of the most complicated parts of my day was bathroom break time. That was never an issue with me on the high school

4. Sub jobs are way different in elementary school than in high school. This stands to reason because, in many ways, teaching is way different in elementary school compared to high school. In high school, it’s a lot of “here’s your work … do it during class.” In elementary school, there’s some of that, but you’re actually teaching more there.

For example, I taught math during my most recent third grade sub job. I taught math. Me, who has taught high schoolers how to speak Spanish for years. I’m not a math person (if a “math person” exists). But I know how to subtract three-digit numbers from other three-digit numbers, even if the first number is something like 600 with all those tricky zeroes. Teaching material I’m not as comfortable with was taxing … I felt a little like I had been wrestling a bear all day when I was done. But it did really make me feel like an elementary school teacher in a way.

My experience as a sub is one I wish more teachers could have. I have spent so much of my career in my own classroom, my own little kingdom where I’m the king (sort of, in a way). I’ve had assumptions about what students go through in elementary school and in junior high. I’ve even had assumptions about what happens next door in my colleagues’ classes.

I’m finding that my assumptions are often way off what reality really is. The only way for me to really see that has been to step inside a classroom and experience it.

With all 29 of those third graders.

Question: What are your experiences in working with different levels of school? Do you find that you have assumptions, too? What are your reactions to my reflections above? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Matt is scheduled to present at the following upcoming events:

  Date Event / Event Details City / More Info
+ 01/19/2015
Western Wayne (Ind.) Schools Pershing, IN
  Full-day Seminar:Ditch That Textbook: Why and How?Private Event
+ 01/31/2015
9:00-12:00 p.m.
U. Indy's Power of Education Conference Indianapolis, IN
  Keynote:Ditch That Textbook: My JourneyPublic Event
Sponsor:University of Indianapolis Student Education AssociationRegister to attend
Venue:University of Indianapolis Schwitzer Hall Basement
Indianapolis, IN
+ 02/03/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
World Languages Workshop @ Lafayette Jeff HS Lafayette, IN
  Venue:Jefferson High School
1801 S. 18th St.
Lafayette, IN 47905
765-772-4700
Private Event
+ 02/26/2015
9:00-4:05 p.m.
Indiana Conference on Learning Indianapolis, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That Textbook (et al)Public Event
Sponsor:American Student Achievement InstituteRegister to attend
Venue:Wyndham Indianapolis West Hotel
2544 Executive Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46241
317-248-2481
Get more information
+ 03/18/2015
08:00-04:00 p.m.
Fall Creek Intermediate School Workshop Fishers, IN
  Venue:Fall Creek Intermediate School
12011 Olio Road
Fishers, IN 46037
(317) 915-4220
Private Event
+ 03/19/2015
7:30-3:00 p.m.
Hamilton Southeastern (Ind.) Schools Fishers, IN
  Full-day Seminar:Ditch That TextbookPrivate Event
+ 04/09/2015
04:00-06:00 p.m.
PVETI Social Media Workshop Rockville, IN
  Sponsor:Parke-Vermillion Education and Training Interlocal (PVETI)Private Event
Venue:Rockville High School
506 N. Beadle St.
Rockville, IN 47872
765-569-5686
+ 04/11/2015—04/12/2015
08:30-05:30 p.m.
Indiana Google Apps for Education Summit Franklin, IN
  Sponsor:EdTech TeamPublic Event
Venue:Franklin Community High School
2600 Cumberland Drive
Franklin, IN 46131
317-346-8100
Register to attend
+ 05/01/2015
09:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ CIESC Indianapolis, IN
  Venue:Central Indiana Educational Service Center
6036 Lakeside Blvd., Building A
Indianapolis, IN 46278
317-759-5555
Public Event
+ 05/08/2015—05/09/2015
Education On Air by Google for Education  
  Sponsor:Google for EducationPublic Event
+ 05/08/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop (CIESC)  
  Sponsor:Central Indiana Educational Service CenterRegister to attend
+ 05/11/2015—05/13/2015
Ivy Tech Community College Tech Workshop  
  Sponsor:Ivy Tech Community College of IndianaPrivate Event
+ 06/02/2015—06/03/2015
PowerED Up Conference Leopold, IN
  Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
Venue:Perry Central Jr/Sr HS
18677 Old State Road 37
Leopold, IN 47551
812-843-5576
+ 06/04/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
HSE Summer Learning Fair Fishers, IN
  Sponsor:Hamilton Southeastern SchoolsPrivate Event
Venue:Fishers High School
13000 Promise Road
Fishers, IN 46038
(317) 915-4290
+ 06/08/2015
Greencastle EdTech Conference Greencastle, IN
  Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
+ 06/10/2015
08:00-04:00 p.m.
Connecting the 4 C's Conference @ Mt. Vernon (Ind.) Mount Vernon, IN
  Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
Venue:Mount Vernon High School
700 Harriett Street
Mount Vernon, IN 47620
812-833-5136
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+ 06/11/2015—06/12/2015
8:00-3:00 p.m.
Yorktown WeLearn Conference Yorktown, IN
  Keynote:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningRegister to attend
Venue:Yorktown High School
1100 S. County Road 575 West
Yorktown, IN 47396
(765) 759-2550
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+ 06/15/2015—06/16/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Summer Spark Symposium Milwaukee, WI
  Venue:University School of Milwaukee
2100 West Fairy Chasm Road
Milwaukee, WI 53217
414-352-6000
Public Event
+ 06/17/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
eLEAD Madison County Anderson, IN
  Sponsor:CAPE of Madison CountyPublic Event
Venue:Anderson University
1100 E. 5th St.
Anderson, IN 46012
+ 06/22/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Seymour Schools Tech Workshop Seymour, IN
  Sponsor:Seymour Community SchoolsPublic Event
Venue:Seymour High School
1350 W. 2nd St.
Seymour, IN 47274
812-522-4384
+ 06/23/2015—06/24/2015
Digipalooza 2015 Scottsburg, IN
  Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
Venue:Scottsburg Middle School
425 S. 3rd St.
Scottsburg, IN 47170
812-752-8926
+ 06/25/2015—06/26/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
South Vermillion trAnSfoRM Conference Clinton, IN
  Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
Venue:South Vermillion High School
770 Wildcat Drive
Clinton, IN 47842
765-832-3551
+ 06/27/2015
09:00-03:00 p.m.
#ReadTL15 Conference Reading, West Berkshire, UK
  Sponsor:Reading College (Reading, West Berkshire, United Kingdom)Public Event
Venue:Reading College
King's Road, Reading, West Berkshire RG1 4HJ
Reading, West Berkshire, UK
United Kingdom
+44 800 371434
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+ 06/28/2015—07/01/2015
ISTE Conference 2015 Philadelphia, PA
  Full-day Seminar:Sharing Is Caring: Collaborative Google Apps ActivitiesPublic Event
Sponsor:International Society for Technology in EducationRegister to attend
Venue:Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
800-428-9000
Get more information
+ 07/08/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
USD 242 Weskan Schools Staff Development Weskan, KS
  Venue:Weskan Schools
219 Coyote Blvd.
Weskan, KS 67762
785-943-5222
Private Event
+ 07/22/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Northeastern Middle School Workshop Fountain City, IN
  Venue:Northeastern Middle School
7295 U.S. 27 North
Fountain City, IN 47341
(765) 847-1331
Private Event
+ 07/24/2015
08:00-3:00 p.m.
Greater Clark Connected Conference Jeffersonville, IN
  Sponsor:Greater Clark County SchoolsPublic Event
+ 07/28/2015—07/29/2015
Catching the Wave of eLearning Lafayette, IN
  Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
+ 07/30/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Seymour Schools Tech Workshop Seymour, IN
  Sponsor:Seymour Community SchoolsPrivate Event
Venue:Seymour High School
1350 W. 2nd St.
Seymour, IN 47274
812-522-4384
+ 08/10/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Idabel Public Schools  
  Sponsor:Idabel (OK) Public SchoolsPrivate Event
+ 08/13/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Palmer ISD (Texas) Palmer, TX
  Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPrivate Event
Venue:Palmer Independent School District
Palmer, TX
+ 08/18/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Brandywine Heights Area School District Topton, PA
  Workshop:The Digital PIRATE 
Sponsor:Brandywine Heights Area School District
+ 09/08/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Cascade Middle School Clayton, IN
  Venue:Cascade Middle School
6423 S. County Road 200 West
Clayton, IN 46118
(317) 539-9285
Private Event
+ 09/15/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ SIEC Jasper, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That Textbook Public Event
Sponsor:Southern Indiana Education Center
+ 09/23/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ WVEC West Lafayette, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
+ 09/24/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ CIESC Indianapolis, IN
  Workshop:DItch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:Central Indiana Educational Service Center
+ 09/25/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
MSD of Steuben Co. (Ind.) Angola, IN
  Keynote:Ditch That Textbook Private Event
Sponsor:MSD of Steuben County
Venue:Angola High School
350 S. John McBride Ave.
Angola, IN 46703
260-665-2186
+ 10/03/2015—10/03/2015
weLEAD Symposium Islamabad, Pakistan
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Islamabad, Pakistan
Pakistan
Public Event
+ 10/06/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Anderson (Ind.) Schools Anderson, Indiana
  Workshop:Ditch That Textbook Private Event
Sponsor:Anderson Community Schools
+ 10/07/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ Region 8 ESC Decatur, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:Region 8 Educational Service Center
+ 10/08/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ NIESC Plymouth, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:Northern Indiana Educational Services Center
Venue:Christo's Banquet Center
830 Lincolnway E, Plymouth
Plymouth, IN 46563
+ 10/12/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Tyler ISD Tyler, TX
  Sponsor:Tyler Indpendent School DistrictPrivate Event
+ 10/15/2015—10/16/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
ICE Conference (Indiana) Noblesville, IN
  Sponsor:Indiana Connected Educators ConferencePublic Event
Venue:Noblesville High School
18111 Cumberland
Noblesville, IN
Register to attend
+ 10/22/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Mt. Vernon CSC (Indiana) Fortville, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That Textbook Private Event
Sponsor:Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation
+ 11/10/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Cascade Middle School Clayton, IN
  Venue:Cascade Middle School
6423 S. County Road 200 West
Clayton, IN 46118
(317) 539-9285
Private Event
+ 11/11/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Hamilton Southeastern Schools (Indiana) Fishers/Noblesville, Indiana
  Full-day Seminar:Ditch That TextbookPrivate Event
Sponsor:Hamilton Southeastern Schools
+ 11/14/2015
09:00-02:30 p.m.
Northeast Literacy Retreat Fort Wayne, IN
   Public Event
+ 11/17/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ ECESC Connersville, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:East Central Educational Service Center
+ 11/18/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook @ WCIESC Greencastle, Indiana
  Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:West Central Indiana Educational Service Center
+ 11/19/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Elgin Local Schools (Ohio) Elgin, OH
  Sponsor:Elgin Local SchoolsPrivate Event
+ 01/13/2016
8:00am-3:00pm
Madison eLearning Madison, IN
   Private Event
+ 01/18/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Hudson ISD (Texas) Lufkin, TX
  Venue:Hudson Indpendent School District
6735 Ted Trout Drive
Lufkin, TX 75904
936-875-3351
Private Event
+ 01/26/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
South Putnam Greencastle, IN
  Sponsor:South Putnam SchoolsPrivate Event
+ 02/03/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Sheridan MS/HS Sheridan, IN
  Sponsor:Sheridan Community SchoolsPrivate Event
+ 02/09/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Southern Indiana Education Center Jasper, IN
  Sponsor:Southern Indiana Education CenterPublic Event
Venue:Southern Indiana Education Center
1102 Tree Lane Drive
Jasper, IN 47546
812-482-6641
Register to attend
+ 02/15/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Educational Service Unit #13 Scottsbluff, NE
  Workshop:The Digital PIRATEPublic Event
Sponsor:Educational Service Unit #13
+ 02/16/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Rockford Public Schools Rockford, MI
  Keynote:Ditch That Textbook!Private Event
Sponsor:Rockford Public Schools
+ 02/24/2016—02/25/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
ICE Conference St. Charles, IL
  Sponsor:Illinois Computing EducatorsPublic Event
Venue:Pheasant Run Resort and Conference Center
4051 E. Main St.
St. Charles, IL 60174
(630) 584-6300
Register to attend
+ 02/25/2016—02/26/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
ICE Conference (Illinois) St. Charles, IL
  Sponsor:Illinois Computing EducatorsPublic Event
+ 03/07/2016
01:15-03:30 p.m.
Mandan Public Schools Mandan, ND
  Sponsor:Mandan Public School DistrictPrivate Event
+ 03/09/2016—03/11/2016
MACUL Conference Grand Rapids, MI
  Sponsor:Michigan Association for Computer Users in LearningPublic Event
Venue:DeVos Place
303 Monroe Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
(616) 742-6500
Register to attend
+ 03/14/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Concordia Lutheran HS Fort Wayne, IN
  Sponsor:Concordia Lutheran High SchoolPrivate Event
+ 03/23/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Westwood Community School District Sloan, IA
  Sponsor:Westwood Community School DistrictPrivate Event
+ 04/13/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Wabash Valley Education Center West Lafayette, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That Textbook!Public Event
Sponsor:Wabash Valley Education CenterRegister to attend
Venue:Wabash Valley Education Center
3061 Benton Street
West Lafayette, IN 47906
(765) 463-1589
+ 04/18/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Monroe #1 BOCES (New York) Fairport, N.Y.
  Full-day Seminar:The Digital PIRATEPublic Event
Sponsor:Monroe #1 BOCES
+ 04/26/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Caesar Rodney School District Camden, DE
  Keynote:Ditch That Textbook Private Event
Venue:Caesar Rodney High School
239 Old North Road
Camden, DE 19934
+ 05/03/2016
Paoli Community School Corporation Paoli, IN
  Venue:To be determined
Paoli, IN
Private Event
+ 05/25/2016
09:00-09:45 a.m.
Pacific Northwest Apprenticeship Education Conference Portland, OR
  Sponsor:The Bureau of Labor and Industries, Oregon Building Congress and Oregon Tradeswomen Inc.Public Event
Venue:DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and Conference Center
1000 NE Multnomah Street
Portland, OR
Register to attend
+ 05/31/2016
10:30-12:00pm
West Central Career Cooperative Crawfordsville, IN
  Venue:Crawfordsville Country Club
Crawfordsville, IN
Private Event
+ 06/06/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
PowerED Up Conference Leopold, IN
  Venue:Perry Central Schools
18677 Old State Road 37
Leopold, IN 47551
(812) 843-5576
Public Event
+ 06/07/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Making a Splash with Digital Learning Conference Batesville, IN
  Venue:Batesville Community School Corporation
626 N. Huntersville Road
Batesville, IN 47006
(812) 934-2194
Public Event
+ 06/08/2016—06/09/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ignite Your Superpower Lafayette, IN
  Venue:Sunnyside Intermediate School
530 N 26th St
Lafayette, IN 47904
(765) 771-6100
Public Event
+ 06/13/2016—06/14/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Summer Spark (Wisconsin) Milwaukee, WI
  Sponsor:University School of MilwaukeePublic Event
+ 06/15/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
REMAST Conference (South Dakota) Brookings, S.D.
  Sponsor:South Dakota State Noyce Scholarship ProgramPublic Event
+ 06/20/2016
Indianapolis Sister Cities Int'l Conference Indianapolis, IN
  Keynote:Connecting Your Classroom to the WorldPublic Event
Sponsor:Indianapolis Sister Cities InternationalRegister to attend
Venue:Covenant Christian High School
7525 W. 21st St.
Indianapolis, IN 46214
+ 06/22/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Western North Dakota ESA Dickinson, ND
  Workshop:The Digital PIRATEPublic Event
+ 06/26/2016—06/29/2016
ISTE Conference Denver, CO
  Venue:Colorado Convention Center
700 14th St.
Denver, CO 80202
Public Event
+ 07/12/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
MSD of Martinsville Martinsville, IN
  Sponsor:MSD of MartinsvillePrivate Event
+ 07/13/2016—07/14/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Pulaski County Special School District Little Rock, AR
  Sponsor:Pulaski County Special School DistrictPrivate Event
+ 07/18/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Sheridan/Hamilton Heights Sheridan, IN
   Public Event
+ 07/19/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Launching INquiry Fishers, IN
  Venue:Fishers High School College & Career Academy
13000 Promise Rd
Fishers, IN 46038
Public Event
+ 07/20/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Blended Learning Summit Salina, KS
  Sponsor:Smoky Hill Education Service CenterPublic Event
Venue:Smoky Hill Education Service Center
605 E. Crawford
Salina, KS 67401
785-825-9185
+ 07/21/2016
08:30-04:00 p.m.
iPadpaloozaEastTX Longview, TX
  Keynote:Ditch That Textbook!Public Event
Sponsor:Region 7 Education Service CenterRegister to attend
Venue:Pine Tree High School
900 Northwest Drive
Longview, TX 75604
(903) 295-5031
Get more information
+ 07/22/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Tyler ISD Tyler, TX
  Sponsor:Tyler ISD 
+ 07/25/2016—07/26/2016
E3 Technology Conference Warsaw, IN
  Venue:Warsaw High School
1 Tiger Lane
Warsaw, IN 46580
(574) 371-5098
Public Event
+ 08/01/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Catholic High School New Iberia, LA
  Sponsor:Catholic High SchoolPrivate Event
Venue:Catholic High School
1301 de La Salle Drive
New Iberia, LA 70560
+ 08/05/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Fort Wayne Lutheran Schools Partnership Fort Wayne, IN
  Sponsor:Fort Wayne Lutheran Schools PartnershipPrivate Event
+ 08/09/2016
Southwest School Corporation Sullivan, IN
  Venue:Southwest School Corporation
110 North Main Street
Sullivan, IN 47882
(812) 268-6311
Private Event
+ 08/11/2016
Groesbeck ISD Tech Conference Groesbeck, TX
  Keynote:Ditch That Textbook!Private Event
Venue:Groesbeck Independent School District
1202 N. Ellis
Groesbeck, TX 76642
(254) 729-4100
+ 08/15/2016
Beggs Public Schools Beggs, OK
  Venue:Beggs Public Schools
1201 West 9th
Beggs, OK 74421
(918) 267-3628
Private Event
+ 08/16/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Etoile ISD Etoile, TX
  Sponsor:Etoile ISDPrivate Event
+ 08/17/2016
8:00-3:00 pm
Tech Academy  
   Private Event
+ 08/22/2016—08/23/2016
West Central School District Hartford, SD
  Venue:West Central School District
705 E. 2nd St.
Hartford, SD 57033
(605) 528-3217
Private Event
+ 08/24/2016
8:00am-3:00pm
Walled Lake Consolidated School District  
   Public Event
+ 08/25/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Hillsboro School District Hillsboro, OR
  Sponsor:Hillsboro School DistrictPrivate Event
+ 08/29/2016
8:00am-3:00pm
Service Learning School District Detroit, MI
  Sponsor:Service Learning School District 
+ 09/16/2016
New Prairie High School New Carlisle, IN
  Venue:New Praire High School
New Carlisle, IN
Private Event
+ 09/19/2016
Big Walnut Local Schools Sunbury, OH
  Workshop:The Digital PIRATE: Tech Like a PIRATEPrivate Event
Venue:Big Walnut Local Schools
36 Harrison St
Sunbury, OH 43074
(740) 965-3205
+ 09/20/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
NH Best Practices in Curriculum, Assessment and Assessment Conference Concord, NH
  Sponsor:New Hampshire School Administrators AssociationPublic Event
Venue:Grappone Conference Center
Concord, NH
+ 10/12/2016—10/13/2016
Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency Betterdorf, IA
  Sponsor:Mississippi Area Bend Education AgencyPrivate Event

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25 thoughts on “From high school to 3rd grade: A teacher’s sub experience

  1. I began teaching at the age of 38; I’d been a hairdresser for 17 years, and returned to college in my 30s. Since graduating, I have taught English at a men’s prison for a year, special needs preschool for two years, third grade for six years, and am currently in the third year of teaching eighth grade English (I also threw in high school summer school last year just so I don’t miss an age group!). Every job has taught me more about kids and about education. Right now, I feel like I am where I need to be. I enjoyed third grade, but the kids are still so needy at that age. I feel like eighth graders are really choosing what paths they will take in life, and that I have a huge opportunity and responsibility to guide them. I really like eighth graders! As far as the actual teaching, lesson planning is much more taxing in elementary school, but grading takes much more time in junior and senior high. I also like being able to master one subject area rather than trying to teach several with some degree of confidence. No matter what at which level we teach, there are challenges; some of us are better suited to handle the hormonal teens, and some are better with the homesick first graders. I’ll take teenagers any day!

    • Wow, Joyce, you have been all over! My wife teaches eighth graders and really feels that that’s her calling. I like following what I’m called to do, but I do love being able to experience other areas to make myself more well rounded. Thanks so much for adding your thoughts!

  2. I teach technology at our elementary school but one year I was asked to teach a high school computer basics class. I was a little intimidated but accepted because I had a son in high school and had taught most of the kids at some point.
    It was so much fun and I had a completely different relationship with the kids as high schoolers than I did when they were in elementary school with me.
    I love my little ones – it’s so much fun seeing their excitement when they discover and understand something for the first time.
    I would do the high school class again in a heartbeat – because I enjoyed getting to know them as almost adults!

    • It’s amazing how you can have deep relationships with students but in completely different ways based on their age, isn’t it? One of the joys of finding your specialty in education! Thanks Heidi!

  3. I teach 5th grade and I completely agree with your second point. As the last stop before middle school, my goal is to help those students figure out the person they want to be and viewed as; not the person their friends want or their parents want them to be but the person they want to be. I believe they need to have a sense of self before going to middle school and back into that egocentric mindset.
    Thanks for your post, elementary is a world of its own within one building between K-2 and 3-5.

    • Indeed! I think that if students come out of school with a good view of who they are and who they want to be, that may be the most important thing they get from their time in education. Thanks Arley!

  4. Great post, Matt! I started my teaching career as a high school business teacher. After 12 years of marriage, my husband and I became parents and I decided to stay home. When my daughter entered kindergarten and my son went to preschool, I returned part-time to numerous roles including subbing. The elementary classroom was indeed a rude awakening, but I loved it and thought that I wanted to be an elementary teacher. So I went back and got certified, but no school would hire me since all my experience (except for subbing) was at the high school. So I returned to full-time teaching at the secondary level, teaching grades 7-12. I have to say that those admins were right. No question that I belong with teens, but I do treasure those days with the little ones. Enjoy your sabbatical and keep up the good work!

    • I love how you put that, Anabel … “No question that I belong with teens, but I do treasure those days with the little ones.” I feel the same about my sub experience as well as time with my own children, even though my strength is in teaching teens. Thanks for your insights!

  5. I, too, am a high school teacher. Years ago I had to teach a lesson to a group of 4th graders for a graduate internship. I had 20 minutes in this 4th grade class to teach a self-esteem lesson. I brought in big sheets of butcher paper and markers for the activity. I ended up spending 15 minutes trying to make groups of 4 and establishing which was the “lower right corner” of the paper. I discovered that a great debate arose when you have 1 kid sit a each corner of the paper. By the end of the lesson my self-esteem was bruised.

    • Ha … “By the end of the lesson my self-esteem was bruised.” When I read that, I literally laughed out loud! I know exactly what you mean … it’s like the bathroom break I talked about in the post! Teaching younger kids and older ones are really two different worlds, aren’t they??

  6. I have taught for 30 years, “officially” Preschool, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th grades, as well as adult education. I echo the fairness issue. Also, even though little kids don’t know the work “hypocrisy”, they know it when they see it.
    Best teacher activity ever- one year, for Teacher Appreciation Week, our principal decided that the teachers needed to appreciate each other. So we all substituted in each others’ classrooms. We learned many things, such as, “What a good lesson plan for a sub looks like” and “Why don’t the teachers in the grade before us teach the kids ______________?” We found that even moving up or down by just one grade level makes a huge difference in the kids’ development.

    • Your “hypocrisy” comment made me laugh out loud … so true! And I would personally love the opportunity to sub in other teachers’ classrooms in my school. What a cool, eye-opening experience, for the teachers AND the students — they probably didn’t know what hit them when all the teachers were in different rooms!

  7. Personal experience in a different role, in a different educational environment is invaluable. After 10 years in delivering professional development and serving in administrative roles, I took a full-time job teaching Spanish in an urban setting. Whew! I’m still processing all of my experiences. You’ll have a great year subbing.

  8. I have taught high school and junior high (grades 7 to 12) for twelve years. I started my career with the United States Department of Agriculture where I worked with farmers helping them understand the complexities of the Farm Bill. In a way I have been a teacher my whole life just in different venues. Walking into my own classroom 12 years ago was exciting and in a way very similar to working with farmers understand legislation. During my masters program I had the amazing opportunity to travel to 242 schools in Indiana and experience classrooms from K to 12 from math to english, to language to kindergarten. What strikes me the most is that many times elementary classes push 20 plus students in a room and the middle levels crowd just as many and in high school as students begin to filter in to higher levels of learning class sizes begin to become a little smaller. One thing is consistent, one teacher versus many learners, needing many different levels of learning until they get to those higher classes. Teachers are constantly pushed to the max but then again I experienced the same when I had to work with farmers and explain the farm bill. In all cases I had to find a means that worked best for their learning, how they were able to understand.
    I can honestly say that I am cut out for the rigors of high school I like my teenagers and helping them learn and use tools that they have already acquired but now they are expected to synthesize that information. I commend the elementary teachers who teach skills, such as reading, and writing that I end up with students who know language because with out them I would have much more to teach.
    I think it would be a wonderful experience for all teachers to experience another classroom, to step inside someone else’s shoes so we all have a better understanding of how we are all connected and how one doesn’t function without the other. It truly does take a village to raise a child and teach them and the learning never ceases because as adults many of them are still learning and need others to help guide them in the maize of life.

    • Two things I loved about your comment, Susan — 1. Whether it’s farmers and the farm bill or kids and science, teaching is teaching! 2. We’re better at the high school because of the good elementary teachers that taught the kids before us … when they do their jobs well, we can focus on what we’re best at and provide them outstanding experiences!

  9. As part of a practicum to become a high school ICT teacher (7-12) I spent some 6 weeks in a k-12 school in the country(ie about 8 hour drive from home). In order to get my load up, I had to take grades 1-6 for a whole day. Because of the size of the school they were 1-2, 3-4 & 5-6 composite classes. I had to learn a whole new language (double click become click-click). Being an ex-software developer , before turning too teachin in my very late 40s (I was 50 on that prac) I have a habit of speaking in TLAs (three letter acronyms) – a habit that was well and truly broken on that prac.

    Luckily I was being hosted by a teacher who lived an hours drive away, and although we swapped the driving, he always drove on that day – I was mentally drained and ususally asleep by the time we got out of the carpark.

    Its nice to get out of one’s comfort zone & see how the other half live.

    • “Get out of one’s comfort zone & see how the other half live” — yes, it definitely is nice to do! I’ll bet your practicum really stretched your comfort zone, but I’ll bet your background gave you lots of advantages that others didn’t have.

  10. Subs don’t deal with the parents. The kindergarten/first grade teachers are often the first to tell the parents their child is not the gifted and talented angel they think they are. Elementary teachers have to prep for every subject, unlike junior high and high school. They also have fewer opportunities to make extra money, like in coaching or directing, working athletics, tutoring……. But alas, they are too tired at the end of the day anyway. Let’s not forget the ever changing, competitive bulletin boards!

  11. Matt, your post is insightful. It’s especially interesting to me that you picked up very quickly on the fact that routine is everything to elementary school students. Yet, they are so inconsistent themselves! I was a high school English teacher for about 15 years, then I went into administration. Even then, all of my experience was at the high school level. Last year, I took on the role of curriculum specialist for my district, and I now serve preK-12. Imagine that range! What an eye-opening experience this has been for me. The most interesting thing that I have found is that secondary teachers rarely ask for or accept support. Elementary school teachers either ask for a lot of help (even when they really don’t need it) or they just want someone to reassure them that what they are doing is right. I spend the vast majority of my time in the classrooms of little people. I cringe when I suspect that crying is about to start (as is often the case). I find myself having to form my sentences very carefully when I work with elementary people because my high school background gave me a bit of a sharp edge. I am overly direct at times–often a necessity in my former position. That’s not so appreciated in elementary school.

    What’s most valuable to me is seeing just how much kiddos change from kindergarten through 12th grade. I have my own grown children, but I watched them develop through the eyes of a parent–not through the eyes of an educator. Our children learn so much so fast. It’s amazing to me.

    I, too, think that every high school teacher would benefit from seeing an elementary teacher in action. It certainly has changed my perspective on what it’s like to work with young children!

    • Interesting … I’ve seen ways that elementary kids are different from high school, and ways that elementary teachers are different from high school, but I’ve never seen it from a support perspective. That’s good for me to know as I do present professional development on a regular basis. You’re right … kids do change a lot in 13 years and learn a TON. It’d be nice if all those making important decisions about education saw and appreciated that!

  12. I really enjoyed your post about subbing in elementary. I’ve been an elementary teacher for 20 years, but 3 years ago when we moved to a new town, I didn’t have steady work for some time. So I got on the sub lists. I ended up in high demand at a local K-12 school, where most of my subbing was in the K-4 end of the school, where I was most comfortable. Then the high school Science guru got sick, and I was asked to cover for him for 2 weeks!
    I felt, and was indeed, very much out of my depth teaching Grade 12 Chem and Physics! Your thoughts in your blog resonated strongly with me, in an opposite kind of way. Those teenagers were resourceful and independent, and helped me find ways to help them. It was very much a “here’s your work, do it during class” sort of situation, and I found that quite boring, having been used to the busy-ness of early elementary classrooms. At the same time, it was fascinating to watch the way these young adults were so focused and determined with their work, with a whole lot more persistence than your average 7-year-old!
    I wholeheartedly agree with you, that all teachers should have the opportunity to experience the profession with many age groups of students. I believe it increases the respect we have for the jobs that our peers are doing. I’ll certainly never forget the day I taught Kindergarten and Grade 12 in the same day!

    • I know what you mean, Wendy. I subbed for my wife’s high school social studies classes, and although I had lots of time to work on things at my desk, I didn’t get to connect with them like I did with the elementary school kids. I’m glad we’ve both had a chance to experience education at both ends of the spectrum, although I’ve never done it all in one day! 🙂

  13. I’m going on 20 yrs of teaching, in 2 stints. My first teaching job was right after I got my credential, hired 3 was into the school year. A summer job became full-time and I left teaching. Fast-forward 15 yrs, I began subbing elem an middle school so I could match my kids’ schedules. It was a great learning lab.
    Every teacher should have the chance to sub–to see different routines, grade level needs, student stages (your Play Doh analogy), school ecosystems, teacher philosophies and collaboration. Being the sub also meant I could try 1 of my techniques in differing environs to see if they were effective or not.

  14. 6 years as a 4th Bilingual teacher, then jumped to High School Spanish for 3 years, RIF sent back to Elementary 3rd Bilingual, one year SS/LA and other Math/Science then taught online Math for 2 years, laid off and I have been subbing this year and I LOVE it, too bad the pay is soooo bad. I discovered that I love PK and K, that I still enjoy 4 very much, that I like teaching HS in some places, that there are teachers that think low of of any grade that is not theirs (HS thinking Elementary is a piece of cake and the opposite) but that there are also the ones that understand that ANY grade is hard, if you find a niche you are lucky, stay there and enjoy. That sub are looked down in many places and by many people but that ‘intelligent’ people get to know the ones they like and they take care of them. I just have enjoyed so much seeing different grade levels, different classrooms, different schools and districts. The classes that I have enjoyed more are the ones where I have been a sub in several times, you start to make a connection there. Would love to be a ‘permanent’ sub for about 4/5 different grade levels each year. Oh well, dreaming here. Enjoy the subbing year, I certainly did (not over yet and who knows, if I don’t get a job I might have to keep doing it)