Subbing: The Comfort Zone

I was so excited to sub at my school; even the week of Halloween didn’t put a damper on my joyful feelings about being back in the classroom. I was a bit apprehensive to be perfectly honest. After all these years in my own classroom I was curious how all this would play out! And, it was wonderful. The lower and upper elementary school had on campus Professional Development days reinforcing their work in the literacy program with the literacy consultant. I had met the consultant last year in our ongoing PD learning around literacy: reading and writing in the elementary years and I was excited for my colleagues.

Tuesday, October 27th, 2nd grade. In our school we team teach so there were two subs for the day. I knew most of these students because they were in either my kinder class or next door. I don’t know who was more excited, the students or me! Their classroom teachers led the Morning Greeting vis a vie Responsive Classroom model and I saw first hand how that worked. (We had used some components last year in kinder.) I observed a Language Arts lesson in the morning before recess/snack and then my sub partner and I worked with the students with math in the afternoon. I had time to do a read aloud, The Widow’s Broom by Chris Van Allsburg and the interactions with the kids was so sweet. We  had a social study presentation by one of the students that included a snack treat. The best was the end of day meeting and the children shared with us what happens in this group meeting: comments and compliments. LOVED that. The children made good connections and thoughtful comments. Of course the social studies snack was a big winner of the day! Lots of compliments to the “sub” teachers for their good work. One student gave me a great comment/compliment when she said, “I like that you stepped out of your comfort zone.” What can I say “out of the mouths of babes.”

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The next day I was back in kindergarten, my old room with the same sub, Lindsey. We were thrilled to be together again. Here to I observed Responsive Classroom morning meeting model before entering into the calendar  routine that I was familiar with. Knowing most of the schedule and the lay of the land, so to speak, it was as if I had never left. They had a busy specialist schedule and in the afternoon we had a Halloween related art activity. I read the book Look and it was fun having the kinders try and guess the clues from a little square view space. Before I knew it the day was over; pack up time and lining up on the yard.

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On Thursday was my big quandary day. I was to sub in 4th grade, IN FOURTH GRADE!! But as the gods were looking down on me, only one of the teachers in this class was attending the PD, and I was to be teamed up with one of the classroom teachers, Olan, someone I had know for a zillion years. It was wonderful watching him teach and his interactions with the students. He presented a thoughtful social studies lesson that included the students working in pairs making land formations with clay (Alaska, Russia, Bering Strait) and using ice cubes to study indigenous people’s migrations. I knew many of these students, some were in my kinder class. And they greeted me with such warmth; smiles and hugs. Some were a bit timid and unsure and I could identify with them; not the timid but the UNSURE. The teacher I subbed for left detailed notes/lesson plans which really helped with the Languae Arts lesson I presented. We went over work in their books and then I read a few chapters in The One and Only Ivan, a book I loved and had read. As I read I had questions and strategies points for them as part of the lesson. Of course I choked up, tears in my eyes, as I read about Stella. It was wonderful having them participate so engaged and involved in the story. We did some imaging and reflecting as they shared with each other and the whole class. Then it was dismissal and time to leave.

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It took me a few days to think about my experience as a sub. I am comfortable with “guide on the side” role; letting students have the platform to share their learning. And so it was okay, no much more than that! It was reassuring to still be part of a group that has played such an important role in my life. And to paraphrase what the 2nd grader had said, “Good for me to get out of my comfort zone.”

As I think about that, I wonder about our students feeling safe, secure and knowing we are there for them as they venture out of their comfort zone.

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