After graduation, many students expect to go out and get their first “big kid” job. Ideally, it would be the job that you’ve been dreaming about all of your college years and one that you want to stick with for a while, but life doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes you have to get a job (or several before that) that is a stepping stone to your dream job. For me, my dream is to be an English teacher, but I have yet to find that position. In the meantime, I’m a substitute teacher. While being a substitute is not a job that I want for my entire adult life, I’m actually happy that I have this job. Here are a few reasons why:
I Enjoy The Flexibility And Freedom.
At this point in my life, my life has been very structured. I always had to be somewhere at a certain time until whatever institution I was attending told me I could be finished. While this is true to a certain degree with every job, as a substitute, I have the power to set my own schedule; I can choose which days I want to accept a job and which days I’d like to do something else (like travel). Even though I work full time, I’m doing it because I want to. This might not mean much to everyone, but at this point in my life, this freedom means a lot and it’s something I likely won’t have again in my working life.
I’m Gaining Classroom Management Experience.
Classroom management is the ability to handle behavior in the classroom and foresee problems before they happen. I had the advantage of learning how to set expectations for my classroom and I was able to build trust within the classroom I was in. As a substitute, I no longer have that advantage. I have to start again with every classroom I walk into. That means I get a lot of practice reacting to situations within a classroom and learning to handle them and use the resources available to me. Classroom Management is one of the hardest things for a teacher to learn-- it’s not something taught in our college classes, it’s something that we’re expected to learn while out in the field. All of this experience is only going to help me.
I Get To Explore Schools Before Applying There.
No school is created like any other. Individual teachers are better suited to different teaching environments, some administration is better and more supportive than others, the student bodies are all different (even in small ways). As someone who is looking for full-time work, I want to find a job at a place where I feel that I can do good work and where I can grow as a teacher. If I get a job at a school where most of my day is spent doing classroom management, then that is not a school I want to work for. Here, I get to try out a school for a day (or longer, depending on the job) and see how the school works with where I am now in my life. How many people get the chance to do that for their future job? I can’t think of many.
I Get To Work With People Who Are Different Than Me.
Because I end up at a different school almost every day, I have the chance to practice making new connections with people, working with different educational philosophies and work styles, people who come from different backgrounds than my own… this is a special opportunity because this means that when I have a permanent job (one place and one job to go to every single day), I will be able to work with people because I’ve had so much practice doing so with people who come at their jobs as teachers from so many different angles. I can be a better team player and I can build patience this way. In my limited experience, when I have interviewed for jobs where I will work with children, this is something I have been asked consistently-- “Have you worked with people from diverse backgrounds?” And now I can really say I have and be better at my job because of it.
I Can Explore Different Content Areas.
This is particularly important for me because I have been thinking about someday going back to school to earn my license in ESL education. By being a substitute, I can try on this job and see if it would be a good fit for me before I bother applying to programs in order to earn this credential. ESL teachers are very in demand across the U.S., as well as Special Education teachers, so this is a prime opportunity for me to test out my career goals before I commit to them. I can see what the daily responsibility for someone in my content area of interest could be like and try to perform the job based on instructions I’m given. It’s like putting on a costume and assuming another life, even for a brief amount of time. For me, that’s wonderful.In my job, there are many hard days: days where I break up multiple fights, where I butt heads with students who don’t understand where I’m coming from, where students just won’t listen for one reason or another. But those days are balanced out by these factors. I don’t want to be a substitute teacher forever, but for now, it’s exactly what I need.