When I returned to Virginia to embark on being a substitute teacher once again, there was one thing I upon which I never bargained: Spare time! To those readers who are unfamiliar with this term - and wonder what language I'm speaking - you are not alone. I, too, had forgotten this state of being years ago and only recently has become reacquainted with it. Spare time is a block of time in which a person is devoid of obligations, destinations, or expectations. It is free. As I progressed in my adult life, I carried the assumption that spare time would be less and less frequent as the years continued. I was apparently wrong (as I have time to write this article).
In the time since I was last a substitute, I had managed to forget one truth: subbing is not steady work. I entered this academic year thinking that if I were to be employed by a large enough district, and opened myself to enough grade levels and subjects, I would receive a placement each day that I wanted one. One week and many early mornings later, I have learned the flaw in my logic. As was the case as a two-day-a-week substitute in previous years, the role has a supply-and-demand basis. If there are no teachers out, there is no need for substitutes. Further, if there are more available substitute than available assignments, someone is without work. Nothing has change with respect to this rule of common sense. Perhaps my financial situation, linked with my strong desire to be in a classroom everyday, has blinded me to reality: I will not teach every day in which I want.
It's not until today that I've become okay with that reality.
So the result is extra time on my hands. Ever since I began undergraduate studies 15 years ago, I've been conditioned to think of all time as useable. It wasn't a matter of choice for me; I just always had something expected of me and somewhere expected to be. I enter unchartered waters and ample ticks of the clock. For the first time in my adult life, I must actually see this experience as a set of choices. The following words illustrate the choices I have made.
I continue to wake at 5:30AM and prepare for a potential teaching day. While middle schools do not open until 8:30 and high schools do not open until 9:00, I live between twenty and thirty miles away from them. Awaking early provided sufficient time to prepare for such opportunities. When I do not receive a call, I spend a few extra minutes in bed - something of which many readers may become envious and I see as a wonderful gift. Who doesn't say, "If only I had fifteen more minutes"?
Already prepped for the day, I have a second cup of coffee and make choices about how best to spend this unexpected time. As I don't currently have internet at home, I drive to the local Starbucks and borrow some bandwidth. After catching up on emails, I visit the usual sites (Facebook, Twitter, Blogger) to catch up on world events and the lives of my friends and peers - the result of which has been starting thought-provoking discussions on Facebook. These discussions have been very interesting, and help to hone my skills of facilitating discussions on social issues - a top skill I practice when given the opportunity to teach. Further, I write articles - such as this one - to voice my thoughts, ideals, and visions as an educator. Admittedly, this task is also a marketing ploy for me to advertise myself to potential employers, colleagues, and administrators. Here, I not only post my thoughts, but direct these key individuals to my online professional portfolio (see the links on the right of this page). Cheap in that it is free marketing: yes. Devoid of care or seriousness: far from it. I hope whoever you are, you see something that will enrich your day.
FInally, the remainder of my otherwise-spent-in-the-classroom day is spent calling upon resources that may lead to my eventual and ultimate goal: becoming a permanent classroom teacher in social studies. As stated in yesterday's article, I'm not merely a warm body hoping to fill a void left by someone else's misfortune, I am a determined and driven professional who wants to make a difference in the lives of those who may not think they can make one. It is more than a job, it is a state of mind and heart. In sum, this state of mind and heart drives most everything I say, do, and think. That is why I blog, that is why I start discussions, and that is why I market myself. So free time can be viewed as a lack of income or a lack of on-the-job training, or it can be viewed as an opportunity to learn, improve, and teach in other ways. Decide for yourself which option I've chosen.
Take care and remember: no matter where you are and what you do, little ones are watching you and learning from you. Be careful what you teach them!
ONLINE PORTFOLIO & ISSUES IN SOCIAL STUDIES EDUCATION
- Eric Joseph Nally
- Annandale, Virginia
- Social Studies teacher with 2 years experience as a substitute, 1 year as a student teacher, and 6 years of volunteer work in various roles. I specialize in differentiated instruction, data driven curriculum, and authentic assessment. A New York State certified teacher, I graduated from Fordham University with an MST degree and high accolades. Finally, I hold membership with Kappa Delta Pi and NCSS as well. It is my intention to grow student confidence and widen content knowledge for students of all backgrounds, cultures and abilities through modeling literacy comprehension, critical thinking and communication skills. I believe each and every student is a valuable asset to the learning community, capable of achieving academic success. I am able to lead these young people to such success. Please click on the links on the right to learn more. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you.