Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Substitute Teaching - Early Experiences

A former teacher once told me about early teaching experiences when she road a horse to school, and I remember thinking how "Little House In the Prairie" that sounded. Here's my memories of my first substitute teaching experience...

(Telephone Rings)

"Hello! This is the County School Superintendent. Would you like to substitute teach for 2 days, beginning tomorrow?" 

I didn't even need to think about my answer. 


It was late May, I had just graduated from college, and of course I was broke! Someone had told me I could substitute teach now that I was "officially" a teacher, and I had applied. "Which school is it?" I asked confidently. When I heard the name of the school, I was a little concerned. I lived in a very rural area, and I knew this school was across a bridge and a distance into an area I had never been before. I knew I could ask my Dad for directions; my Dad knew how to get everywhere!

The County Superintendent of Schools gave me the name and phone number of the principal. I eagerly dialed the number and asked to speak to the principal. "Hello! I am the substitute teacher for the next 2 days.  What time do teachers need to be at school?"  "Well", he answered, "I am generally here at 7:15 a.m. Please be here by 7:30." That was good enough for me! He also told me that one of the days would be Field Day, and that sounded great! I told him I would be there, and I hung up the phone wondering, "What will I wear?" I hadn't even thought to ask what grade I would be teaching!

Next, I asked my Dad for directions. Unfortunately, my Dad who I thought knew every road and hollow around, did not know exactly where the school was located, but he gave me directions to the general area.

I will admit: I am "Directionally Challenged", and this was before I even dreamed of having a cell phone or GPS. I left bright and early the next morning, and eventually turned off the main road onto the secondary road that I hoped would lead to the school. I drove for what seemed like forever on an isolated secondary road that at times was only one-lane. When I finally saw an on-coming car, I had to pull to the side and stop until it passed. Evidently a bridge was out, or maybe it had not been built yet, because I vaguely remember driving through a creek at least once.

I had wild imaginings of animals jumping off the mountains and running into my path as I drove along. Most of the road was tree-lined with limited sunlight creating an eerie scene. I remember passing very few houses.

When I finally arrived, I breathed a big sigh of relief. I saw 2 cars in the school (dirt) parking lot, and I thought I was early. I tried to control my expression when I met the principal and he told me the shocking news: There were only 2 teachers for the school! I taught Grades 1-4 and the Principal taught grades 5-8! Hey, they didn't teach me this in college - I didn't know that type of school still existed!

The other staff members, a part-time cook and a part-time secretary, were very friendly and helpful as was the principal. I walked into the classroom feeling a little nervous about teaching 4 grades, but my nervousness quickly faded when I saw all those smiling faces! First things first: students present, absent, and lunch count went smoothly enough.

The teacher had left some lesson plans and lots of worksheets, so there was plenty for the kids to do. The students were very nice and cooperative; they really helped me get through the day! When a student was finished with work, he/she readily helped another who needed help.

The next day was Field Day. This Field Day was different from what I was accustomed to in which the best kids of the schools compete against students at other schools. This event was for that school only, and everyone could participate. Of course the students were excited as they ran races, hopped in sacks, etc. When they weren't participating, they were cheering for those who were. The cook prepared a delicious meal of hot-dogs and all the fixings! I was impressed by how polite the students were as they thanked the her for the meal.

When the second teaching day was over, I left feeling that although I was the teacher, I had also learned a lot that would affect my philosophy of teaching. I learned the importance of flexibility, friendliness, having fun, and reaching and teaching students - no matter what level they are on. I knew more than ever that I wanted to teach and have my own classroom. I wanted to be the teacher who students would remember, and most importantly, I wanted to be the teacher who would make a difference in the life of a child.

“One hundred years from now
It will not matter
What kind of car I drove,
What kind of house I lived in,
How much I had in my bank
Nor what my clothes looked like.
One hundred years from now
It will not matter
What kind of school I attended,
What kind of typewriter I used,
How large or small my church,
But the world may be ...
a little better because...
I was important in the life of a child."

― Forest Whitcraft



  1. Great story! I do not think I ever heard about this.

    1. Thanks, Joshua! I am glad you enjoyed reading about my first substituting teaching experience.