Flashback or Dream Sequence

I find myself seated in the center of the second row in a nearly empty auditorium. Am I having a flashback to high school play auditions? Or is this a dream where I’m the director seeking a cast for my original short production?

Or maybe it’s neither.

It’s my other job…as a substitute teacher.

And it gives me plenty of flashbacks. Although the dreamlike-moments are far and few between.

An Easy Two Hours

The permanent teacher’s sub plans are the shortest (if not the sweetest) I’ve ever seen. “Hi there. Thanks for taking my classes. I have two amazing TAs who will run the class, so sit back, relax and make sure everyone keeps their phones away and no one dies.”

Seriously. Those are the exact words.

What would any writer do when told to relax?

Write, of course. So that’s what I’m doing. Because this blog needs content, and if I was home, I’d be working on the never-ending edits.

The TAs were responsible. They happily ran the classes (not like other TAs who balked when I asked them to step up to the plate for any reason).

Strangely Disconcerting

My brain rebels at the thought of sitting in a cushy chair while others lead in my place. Even if I’m clueless about what the class might expect.

After all, I’m getting paid for this. Shouldn’t I do something to earn the paycheck?

That’s one hundred percent my mother’s influence on my psyche. No one had a stronger work ethic than she did.

Industriousness isn’t reclining with an iPad on your lap, even if you’re spewing words that will appear on your website at a later date.

Burst of raucous laughter break my train of thought. They’re playing a game, acting off the cuff. Some have a bigger ham-bone than others. You can tell the ones who’ve spent more time onstage.

What about you? Do you find it disconcerting when something is much easier than you expected? Do you feel dishonest getting paid if you don’t really “work”?

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Video Training: Does it train you?

Every year the school district sends a link to some video courses. It wasn’t one of the things I missed when I became a full-time writer. Now that I’m a substitute teacher, guess what?

I get a link to a bunch of video training classes and associate quizzes.

This year their were nine different classes. At least two of them were completely new. At least four of them I had taken at least ten times already.

But a refresher course is good, right?

As I clicked through the slides, scanning the classes I’d already taken, I wondered how much training I was really receiving.

Would I need to dispose of something blood-soaked while I was at the school? Did my knowledge of the homeless statistics and federal programs enable me to assist students?

In short—do these video training courses really train you?

The Process

So many statutes govern public education. And I don’t remember what year the privacy act went into effect. Or when concessions were made advocating special services for homeless students.

Why do I need to recall the year?

But that’s one of the quiz questions. Every. Time.

The district sends a link. An employee or substitute clicks through and verifies their personal information.

The next step is to open up the list of courses you’re required to watch and pass a quiz over. Because we all know, people would just run the videos and walk away from their computer if their wasn’t a quiz at the end.

Once the course has finished running, there is a link to the quiz. Quizzes are between 8 and 20 questions, with most of them being 10 questions.

The Shortcuts

Of course there are ways to shorten the time it takes to go through the courses.

I don’t listen to the narration. Even though I generally am an auditory learner, I’ve taken these courses often enough that just reviewing the information visually will help me pass the quizzes.

After all, do I really need to listen to someone reading the screens to me.

Failed Power Point presentation=when the presenter says exactly what’s on the screen.

You can take the quiz without watching any of the video. I did this with the blood-born pathogen class. After taking the same thing ten times, I think I know the answers. It was also only an 8-question test.

According to the time ratings on my courses, it should have taken me 210 minutes to complete all the videos. Using my shortcuts, I finished in around 100 minutes.

Still a colossal waste of time in my opinion.

Putting it in Practice

To answer the question, I think that video training courses benefit regular employees more than they do a substitute. (No, I’m not just saying this because I don’t want to take the classes.)

Daily interaction with homeless students and educational records make an employee aware that their are rules in place. They might even use some of the best practices if they have affected students in their classroom.

The truth is, if I witness bullying, I will step in and stop it. And I will report it. Because that’s who I am, not because I read a bunch of Power Point slides on the subject.

And, yes, I passed all the quizzes. I have to in order to substitute in the school district.

But I don’t think these videos make me more prepared. I still need to adopt a mindset of caring toward the students. This will involve daily choices when I’m on a job.

What do you think? Have you completed video training? Is it effective? How is it better/worse than in-person training sessions?

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Back in the Classroom

Once upon a time there was a girl who loved to play school. She didn’t care if she was the teacher or the student, she just loved school. That little girl jumps for joy every time I get a call to substitute teach.

If you know me at all, you understand I have a LONG history of spending time in the classroom. My longest employment was with the St. Helens School District, where I worked as a classified substitute and temporary classroom aide for six years before getting a regular job.

My first two years were as a cashier in the cafeteria at a grade school (while still taking the temporary overload classroom aide positions). Finally, I managed to land a job as a special education instructional assistant at the middle school. I was there for seven years before leaving to pursue this writing gig.

Now I’m back in the classroom. Because this writing gig feeds my soul and keeps my hands and head flying in numerous directions, but it doesn’t pay well. Not with all my contracts being for royalties only. And I don’t push or publicize my self-published titles.

The Position

When I began pursuing my English degree, I planned to get a restricted substitute teaching license when I finished. That was 2010. At the time, there was a shortage of substitute teachers and some of our best subs had degrees in anything BUT education.

All that changed in 2012. School districts all over Oregon were down-sizing (had been since 2007). Suddenly, there were more licensed teachers than positions. The substitute pool became bloated with all these graduates who couldn’t score their own classroom.

Most of the districts rescinded their use of the restrictive substitutes. People who had these licenses were allowed to continuing working until the expiration. No new licenses could be issued.

When I graduated in July 2013, that was still the state of things in the substitute teaching world.

This fall, the substitute pool was depleted. Not enough people floated in the thing to cover vacancies.

The major school districts went on a recruiting campaign. They sent out a flyer to all the school reinstating their use of restrictive substitute licencees to fill classroom teacher roles.

The secretary at the middle school where I worked kindly forwarded the email to me. Her note: “There are plenty of people here who would love to see you subbing in our classrooms.”

Alrighty, then.

soitbegins

The Process

First step: Attend a half-day conference-like event at the NWRESD (Northwest Regional Education Service District). They supply subs to most of the districts in northwestern Oregon.

At this event, you found out how the process worked, completed an interview and filled out an online application form. They would notify you within a week or two if you were selected to continue in the program.

Hurray! I was selected.

Step two: Register for the ORELA Civil Rights examination and pass it ($95).

Then November happened. As you know, I was writing a novel in three weeks and taking a week-long vacation to the Oregon coast for Thanksgiving with my sister.

Step three: Attend a full-day training session at the NWRESD offices.

This is where we learned about the expectations of the job. Also, they gave tips and tools for surviving in a crazy classroom. The best part was acting out different scenarios.

Yep. I can still perform the role of snotty, rebellious teenager with pizzazz.

We also filled out all our employment forms and had our photos taken for an identification badge. I still have yet to see that badge, so who knows if the paperwork is even ready.

Step four: Complete the fingerprinting and background check process ($74)

I performed this step the Monday before Christmas, but the state never acknowledged it until a month later.

Step five: Submit the application with the appropriate fees and information (including certified transcripts). The fee had to include a $99 expedite fee or else you wouldn’t see your license until June. Just in time for it to expire. The application fee was $129.

Step six: Get a bunch of emails from the state acknowledging every slip of paper they get. However,the email stating what is still required – which is what the HR gal said they would send – never came.

Ever.

Two month after I sent the application (does that sound like expedited service to you???), I got an email stating my license was issued. There would be no paper license mailed and I should print the email for my records.

The Payoff

When I wrote this post, I had been in the classroom four separate days. However, I haven’t completed a payroll cycle yet.

I’m hoping theirs a payoff. It seems like the figure was $150 per day (before taxes, of course), I haven’t seen any actual money.

If you do the math, you can see that I’ve spent close to $300 to get the license. And it expires June 30, 2016.

Here’s hoping the renewal process involves fewer hoops and red tape. The next license will be good for three years.

I’ve discovered a renewed ear for teenage dialogue already. Getting back among my target audience is one of the primary reasons for going through all this rigamarole.

The State sent me a questionnaire about the fluidity of the process. Do they really want me to complete it? I think my numbers will skew their data toward the negative end of the scale.

The good news: I’m out of my office and in the classroom, interacting with teenagers.

I’ve missed these guys.