Trees of Transition

Planting seeds of hope throughout our world through sharing photography and thoughts on teaching, cooking, and life transitions.


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Thinking About Being a Teaching Assistant? There Are Perks…Among the Humbleness

I earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching degree to become an assistant? An aide?? A substitute???Well, yes, for a season. For the last three years I have been an aide, then a substitute, and finally a teaching assistant. I called myself a teacher, partly to keep up face and it is true, I am a certified teacher. But I was the assistant. It was like another round of student teaching, but this time with elementary students, which meant lots of parenting:

“No, you do not run in here!”

“You need to say that again without whining and then I’ll hear you.”

“Let’s play the quiet game!!”

I’m thankful to be learning how to parent with other peoples’ children; you can only become better, right?

Some things challenged me. Students knew where the power was…Maybe I had more power than I realized because for some reason I let the assistant title get to me. The students knew the difference — that I was the assistant and when I stepped in to be the full teacher a couple of times, they acted just like they do for a substitute. I felt bound to follow the guidelines, ask permission, and not just be free to teach. I learned how to follow a leader and work under someone. I enjoyed doing more team teaching and that happened occasionally. Being an assistant is humbling, but there ARE perks.

 

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If you’re a newly graduated teacher or if you have taught and are looking for a new job, here are some advantages to being an assistant:

This is a double-edged blade: You are not the one in charge. That means you might hear about some of the challenges, but you don’t have to fix them. This job showed me more of my control issues; I like to be the one in charge. I had to submit to Jesus, then to those over me. You get to follow and serve.

I learned on a deeper level how to have fun with learning. Students learn better when they are interested and having fun while learning important principles. The teacher I worked with was great at making learning enjoyable. For example, we learned about the rain forest by making a bulletin board collage of the layers of the rain forest; we also planted seeds to learn about how plants grow.

I learned different methods and ways of handling kids from seeing the teacher I worked with and the specials teachers work with our students. The art teacher ruled the class with an iron-hand, but the students created colorful, intricate art projects that impressed us all. She laughed at me when she saw I was reading a teaching book that another teacher had recommended, but I just laughed back. Because the kids were busy most of the time, I could read a few lines of the book, then when a kid needed me I could go right then and put into practice what I had just been learning about classroom management. My “teaching style” grew, got challenged, and grew some more.

It has helped me see more of my teaching gaps. I’ve been too sensitive at times, and made mountains out of mole-hills; my skin is getting tougher. I had this weird feeling of not being sure of what I should be doing at times; sometimes it was because I didn’t ask and I needed to talk with the teacher I worked with, and sometimes I just feel weird when I’m not in charge. Following well is harder than it looks. I’m also a slower processor when there’s lots of activity around, so it’s much easier for me to think when it is quiet. Now that I know those things about me, I can work with those traits in me so that they won’t hold me back.

It was a perk to just leave work at work!

Remembering that Jesus, the greatest example of how to live life, served those around him helped me. Being an assistant is a serving job, which is humbling, but you learn so much. And you never know what opportunities will open up because you have been faithfully serving. Take it from me…good things blossom. I received an offer to teach Bible and College Writing–a combination of my gifts I never would have even thought to ask for! Humility and faithfulness pay off. Go for it: assist, help, serve.

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A Cranky Teacher: Seeing Myself Through My Students’ Eyes

Substitute teaching is harder than it looks.

“Miss Campbell, are you married?” The junior higher asked. “No,” I said as they continued. “Are you engaged?” “No,” I responded.

Then a junior high boy made a comment that I didn’t fully hear: “Maybe that’s why…” I looked sternly in his direction and didn’t hear the rest. I had had enough battles for that day of substitute teaching.

My imagination added the rest: “Maybe that’s why she’s cranky and unreasonable sometimes.”

Or “Maybe that’s why she’s quiet and doesn’t laugh much.”

Taking the time to consider myself from my students’ perspective is helpful, sobering, and a little funny (I shouldn’t take myself so seriously!)

Cranky teacher

Did I really need to let one student get under my skin so that she started shouting when I asked her to leave the room?
How could have I made it more fun to transition instead of just repeating the same instructions several times?

The life of a substitute teacher flows with newness and lots of challenging students. Students go on their worst behavior when a substitute comes; why is that?
It’s human nature, so I guess they just have to test the limits.
I’ve done okay, but I’m not an amazing sub. However, I’ve learned a lot from subbing:

I’m a grouch sometimes. Period. And a little chocolate helps.

Students can’t read my mind, so I need to give them clear directions and then if they choose not to follow then they get a consequence.

I forget to smile and am nit-picky.

My processing speed in new situations is slow at times when I’m stressed out, and I need space to figure out what to do next.

I need to know my high expectations for my students, have fun getting there, and not let them get away with being sloppy.

My teaching voice needs work (maybe voice lessons?).

Assume I’m right and don’t argue with students!

Be confident; I am the teacher, even if I’m grouchy sometimes, and students must have an okay attitude or if there’s a bad attitude, work through it with me.

Apologies help with everyone.
Be confident enough to admit I was wrong and humbly apologize when needed.

Be observant. Students are sneaky!

Students want the sub to be strong and not let other students push him or her around.

Don’t nit-pick; save the correction for important times, but you can be establishing your standards in a fun way. I’ve been unsure of correction, so I’m nice until I need to confront someone, then I come down hard to show who is boss, then students take offense because I didn’t have a connection with them and emotional capital to use. Students are not machines!

I saw a friend over-do correction recently and then it clicked in my head why I had been offending some students. There is a relational balance, and I had been over-doing it. They had just been talking when they should have been studying, but I came on full-force; adjust to the situation.
I’m learning to build rapport and trust with my students.

Teaching is worth the hassle! Do it.

Be yourself and teach well.

To all the substitute teachers out there: My hat is off to you. Continue teaching and serving those students! You have a hard, but rewarding job.

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