Wednesday, April 20, 2011

6 Tips for Students from a Substitute Teacher

I've seen a lot in my year as a substitute teacher. Experienced a lot.

Actually that's not entirely true. But I'll play to my strong suit and write authoritatively from my wealth of inexperience on a subject.

This is for all the high schoolers out there, none of whom read my blog.

  1. When you ask to go to the bathroom, I know that the chances of you actually needing to use it are as tiny as my paycheck. I know that you instead will wander the halls aimlessly, just for the thrill of getting out of class and having "put one over" on the sub. Well, you didn't. There's just not an easy way to retrieve you. Sending another student out to get you is like sending a search party out in Sasquatch-controlled territory. They're just as liable to join you and not come back as anything. 
  2. When you ask to go to lunch early, or leave class early at the end of the day, and justify it by saying that your teacher ALWAYS lets you, I know that they don't. Your teachers are there to put even a smidgen of structure into your rapidly-spiraling-out-of-control-mainly-digital lives. And the secret is, you don't know that you need it, but you really do need structure. It will help you in the long run. Even though now it seems oppressive and unfair, you will find soon enough that the trick to life is repeatedly forcing yourself to do things that you don't want to do. So better to start now.
  3. Having computers in class all day every day is actually a huge disadvantage to you, because they don't make you more productive like they're supposed to. Sorry to pull out the old man card, but when I went to high school, no one had computers. Hell, I had a pager in 9th grade, and I wasn't even a drug dealer. Would I have wanted a laptop or iPad in class? Yes. But I'm glad I didn't have one. I can distract myself with a paper clip, and the only notifications it sends me is that it's too bent out of shape to return to it's primary function. Oh, Facebook can be used collaboratively to work on class projects, blah blah blah. So can meeting in the library face to face. I'm normally a huge proponent of doing as many things digitally as one can, but I see how much time is wasted, how much of your parents money, frankly, is wasted by you "surfing" the web. You don't use that terminology anymore, but there's a reason that most surfers are beach "bums". Close your laptop and read a book, for the future of the world's sake, please.
  4. Your teachers are as stressed and overworked as you feel. By that I mean, you think you have it rough. And in a certain way you do. Especially with the sense of doom that every test and quiz is that one thing that might lower your grade and prevent you from getting into the college of your dreams and then you'll end up as a substitute teacher like me. But your teachers have so much more going on in their lives than you'll ever know. While they're at school, you're pretty high up on their priority list, but outside of that, you're relative to kids and family and actually trying to have a life outside of their jobs. The only reason I tell you all this is that you should do whatever you can to make it easier on them. By that I mean, do the sort of work that helps your teacher help you. Go out of your way to proofread your essays. Be the sort of student you would want to have. And trust me, this isn't just about them, it's about you. The better and more teacher-friendly your work is, the better you'll do. I had the wrong idea about that in high school - with a few exceptions I thought that my teachers and I weren't on the same side. But you're all in this educational endeavor together, so show some respect, and you'll see that respect returned to you. 
  5. Don't wait until college, or after college like I did, to start thinking about what you actually, practically want to do with your life. The more work you do ahead of time on this, the more things you try out and decide aren't for you, the easier it will be to land in something you really want and that fits you well. Also, learn about personal finance. I don't care how rich your parents are, the only way you're going to feel positive about your eventual independence from them is to learn how to manage your own money and live within your means. I should have learned this much earlier. 
  6. Always address your teachers by name, and say please and thank you. Duh!
Thanks for stopping by! Comments and additions to this list welcome below!

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