Friday, April 1, 2016

Dear Teacher

Dear Teacher,

Back in July of last year, I decided to take on the role of substitute teacher. I didn't make that decision lightly. I knew that I'd need to be flexible with my schedule as well as with my knowledge. I could expect to teach English one day and Biology the next; third grade on a Monday and seniors on a Friday. But I wanted to add a bit more cash to the "three kids in braces" fund, the "vacation" fund, the "let's try to retire before we're 80" fund, or the "four kids need to go to college" fund. And making $10 an hour was better than making $0 an hour at home.

So far, I've coped pretty well, I think. I've gotten used to your surly students and the lack of respect in the classroom. I know my way around two schools better and have confirmed that I am not made out to be a second grade teacher. I've also learned that I can take direction well, as sometimes, I even get to teach a lesson left by you, the regular teacher.

But what I haven't gotten used to is the amount of time I spend waiting for you to confirm that I will actually be subbing for you.

Let me explain. Many times, if you want someone specific to sub for you (i.e. when the 7th grade math teacher asks for me because she knows I can teach 7th grade math), you will contact the sub directly, discuss the date in question, and come to some resolution. The resolution is easy: the sub can either provide the service or the sub can't. As a sub, I try to tell you (and other teachers) within a day (or less) if I am available on the date in question. That way, if I cannot sub for you, there will be time to find someone else.

Every once in a while, though, you will ask for two days in a row. Right now, that scenario works for many people, but it doesn't work for me. I'm at the college on Tuesdays and Thursdays and cannot rearrange those days to fit your schedule. So, when you ask for say, a Thursday and Friday, my reply is most always, "I am unavailable on Thursday but can sub on Friday.  However, if you'd rather have the same sub for both days, I understand. Please let me know what you decide."

I am going to repeat that last sentence for emphasis. Please let me know what you decide. Which means I need for you to get back to me. (I even use please. Every single time!)

Like I say in my response to you, if you want the same sub, I get it: continuity in the classroom is worth more than gold sometimes. All you have to do is shoot me an apologetic email that lets me down easy (insert sarcasm here) and I'll go on my way to either accepting another job or taking care of any number of other things I have on my agenda. Of course, if you don't mind having two different subs in two days, I'll plan on being there on the Friday you stated.

Now maybe you don't see a problem with what you did (or didn't do) but I can tell you this: if you sent an email to a student and requested a reply, you'd expect for that student to get back to you. So I'm going to hold you to the standards you set for your students and request that the next time you contact me directly and ask for me to sub that you let me know when you have, indeed, decided to go with another sub who can be there on both days. I mean, I'm not trying to be rude here, but I have plenty of things to do and I don't really feel like putting my life on hold for you.

Lest you think I'm grumpy and just about to throw in the towel, I'll tell you that I'm not. In fact, just so you know, teacher, I'm thinking I'll keep my sub license for next year. I want to work less at the college and pursue other avenues (if you know of people needing an editor, let me know). That means I'll likely be available for you again in the fall and winter of next academic year, should you want me to sub for you again. And I'll promise you this: I'll try to work on my patience, so that when I encounter this scenario again, I'm less inclined to write a Dear Teacher letter. But maybe you can try to work on your communication skills.

Thanks so much.

Your (possible) substitute teacher


Julie said...

How frustrating!

Perhaps add "if I do not hear from you by X date, I will assume you have made other arrangements for a sub and I will make other plans for that day"?

Anonymous said...

I am constantly amazed at the lack of communication that exists in a time in which it has been made so quick and easy to do so. I've watched a number of friends go through the process of job hunting; they fill out application after application... long, arduous forms online. Then they are rewarded with a complete lack of communication from 90% of their efforts. Nothing. It always gets my goat that this is the standard. When it would be unbelievably easy to send out a form e-mail to everyone who won't be getting an interview. I mean, seriously, all it would take is a quick 'Thank you for your interest in our company, but I regret to inform you that all the positions have been filled.' Perhaps you could add a, 'we would be happy to keep your application on file for future consideration if you so desire.'

Sometimes I wonder if communication has gotten so easy that people are now taking it for granted. There have been times I've been informed of something days after it matters with nothing for an excuse from the person who should have informed me beyond, 'I figured you would have seen it on Facebook.' Really? You've chosen to rely upon social media and the ridiculous algorithms they've come up with for displaying things in comprehensible order... a mix between what they think I'll be most interested in and what a company has paid them to advertise at me.

Okay, end of rant.

Also, I like your blog's spring look... very cheery :)

Christina said...

Yes, Julie, I can do that...great idea!

S.B.--you are allowed to rant. What you said is true, and I agree that people take things for granted.

Thanks about the blog look. The darkness of the heptadecagon was getting to me and I love daffodils.

Anonymous said...

Daffodils are not my favorite (but when your name means lily-of-the-valley you're almost required to like it best); but I LOVE yellow :)

Christina said...