Middle School Hero

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 19 2012

Empty Covers

You might remember those class days growing up when you had a substitute teacher. Well, things don’t quite roll the exact same way here at Roosevelt. You see, the school’s reputation keeps many subs from lasting more than a day and we often have trouble getting more than one or two subs to come for the building, even though we might have as many as ten teachers out onĀ  a given day.

the administration navigates around this problem by allowing teachers to “cover” other classes during their planning period. Because I am broke and the district pays us 17 dollars an hour, I often spend my planning period looking after other classes as a substitute.

On some days, this isn’t bad at all. Some classes are an absolute pleasure to cover. Sometimes the students know what work they need to do and work quietly all class while I simply supervise. Other times, it’s a nightmare. Once, early in the year, I had a student swear at me in Spanish and then refuse to follow my directions. Two minutes after class started, a principal was in my room getting the situation under control. Often, I get to cover for students that I have in my class, which provides a good opportunity to get to know them better.

While the extra money is nice, my time spent covering classes has opened my eyes to some of the massive inequalities engendered by the achievement gap. For example, right now I’m covering for the computer science teacher. He’s not out of school, but is instead having to run around the campus dealing with technical issues with the school computers. Because of that, his students are all sitting in small groups, talking with no assginement. For these students, there is absolutely no learning taking place right now. It makes me wonder how often this teacher is called away because the district won’t provide our poor school with the support staff, such as tech support, to help out.
The same thing goes for the geography class down the hall from me. Because this particular teacher almost has a master’s in education, he is constantly called in to help the principals with administrative duties. He’s a great teacher but he spends less than half his time actually in the classroom. Most days, his students do their work for a covering sub and he pops in for five minutes at a time when there’s nothing crazy going on that requires his attention.

In situations like this, all teachers work hard. The subs and those having to miss class time both do their best with the situation that they are dealt. However, it strikes me as unfair that we can’t hire the additional support staff and administrators that other schools get. It strikes me as just another institutional hardship that my kids have to deal with.

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