Sunday, May 09, 2010

The 500th Time


Last Friday was the 500th day I subbed in high school classrooms since I volunteered to quit my career job nearly 5 years ago. In August 2005 I retired from a wonderful career in corporate management that lasted 32.5 years at L'eggs, Sara Lee Hosiery, Adams-Millis, Sara Lee Sock Company and Sara Lee Branded Apparel.

I had no plan for what to do when I retired. I just felt that 3 years of military service, 4 years in a university, and the time spent in business totaled almost 40 years since I became an adult. I thought that was enough years of striving for more success and additional money.

My wife came up with the idea for me to try substitute teaching in the public schools. She was a career teacher in a private school and knew the personal rewards of teaching.

I applied through the proper channels, was vetted by the human resources department of the WS/FC school system, and became eligible to sub in the fall of 2005. I was confident I could do the job and felt my life experiences and education, my work with corporate executives and plant employees, my people skills, my family life, and the involvement I had in manufacturing plants throughout the United States and Central America prepared me well to be a teacher.

My first dozen days in the classroom were shocking and a surprise. Students didn't respond to me as I expected. It took another fifty to one hundred days of subbing in various schools and numerous classes to affirm my potential to be effective in the classroom with students who barely knew me. Concurrent with my start of subbing I took thirty-three hours of training at Forsyth Technical College over eleven weeks in a course called Effective Teacher Training which supplemented my life experiences to manage teenagers in the classrooms. Daily critiques and continuous coaching by my wife around our fireplace at night proved helpful and encouraging.

Now after five hundred days few actions surprise me with teenagers. I've seen the best and the worst of student behaviors. A forty-eight-minute period inside a classroom teaching 30 teenagers can feel like an unpleasant eternity. On the other hand, it can be the most rewarding feeling I've ever experienced. I now understand why teachers love the job. It is the most satisfying job imaginable to inspire young people to learn, to get them to concentrate on my every word, to watch them grow and mature, and to see them succeed in accomplishing the tasks at hand.

After working for five years along side career teachers, and being inside classrooms that would total into the thousands of unique students, I've concluded that today's students and teachers are far better than they were in my generation. Generally speaking, I believe almost everything about the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system is better than it was fifty years or twenty-five years ago. I was in the same system fifty years ago as a student, saw it twenty years ago as a parent, and today I'm in it as a sub with insight from many points of view.

Have a good week!

(The picture of my wife and me was taken two years ago at a military ball in Greensboro, North Carolina.)



4 Comments:

At 5/09/2010 3:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Without a doubt, you both are the teacher's favorite substitutes as well as the students! When you are here, students look forward to your class. I even hear them discussing your "coolness" factor in the hallways. And I have no doubt that when I return from a workshop that the job will have been tackled with dignity and aplomb. You are a model gentleman for children and adults. Thanks for being there. We need more of your caliber in school!

Joyce Sharp

 
At 5/09/2010 3:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, Thank you so much for your comments. I feel that so few people, other than educators themselves, actually understand educators and what they experience from day to day. So frequently I infer from parents that they know better than I how I should do my job, simply because they attended school, or that their child's teachers are uninspired,incompetent, or uncaring. I read in editorials in the newspaper that our schools are failing, and I wonder how that can be when I know I have worked for the past 40 years to improve my skills and that I am devoted and willing to work year round regardless of how much I am paid. I see new young teachers arrive on our campuses with skills and enthusiasm that surpass mine, and I hope that they will stay in the profession when they discover how much will be demanded of them. I know that I am appreciated by those who know my work, i.e. my fellow educators, but I am occasionally offended by the blatant lack of respect from others. I am grateful for the appreciation of someone like you, from outside the profession, but knowledgeable because you educated yourself. Your students and fellow teachers are lucky to have you.

Susan K. Browder

 
At 5/09/2010 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent, Mr.Mike, as I have said to you many, many times, I couldn't do what you do. It is the kid factor, not the teaching, I have done that many times in my career with adults that at the least are respectful, even if they are not that interested. However, usually they were interested in learning......that is the challenge with kids, keeping their interest along with enough discipline to maintain control. Fine line, but it sounds like you have gotten it, congratulations my friend ;)

Sandy B

 
At 5/09/2010 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, You are an integral part of what we as teachers do. Most people have no clue that teachers depend on to notch substitutes so that we can be absent for whatever reason and return to a class that has been able to proceed without us! Subtitutes like you who are dedicated to the students and to providing a valuable service to teachers are an integral part of keeping our school going strong. Without a doubt your love of the students and your dedication to their needs allows you the luxury of receiving their love in return. As we know, those students do love even if they don't always know how to show it!

Linda Martin

 

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