Love to Learn, Learn to Love.

JuicyLesson 242: Why Did the Sec. 4 Student Throw a Chair at Her Teacher? … Music From Dire Straits Live at Wembley With Eric Clapton, “Walk of Life” …

Featured music for is the tune “Walk of Life performed live at Wembley by Dire Straits f Eric Clapton. Great guitar work by Clapton and Mark Knopfler.

From Brazil, here is a short clip from the group stage of the World Cup. It shows the Americans scoring what would prove to be the winning marker to defeat Ghana, arguably the best African team in this tournament.

Before going forward with this philosophical treatise I like to think of it as a treatise or a manifesto rather than as a rant, I must detail my feelings about subbing to which I have for some reason given short shrift, as if I look down on substitutes or that I think the work undemanding and the people who do it not worthy of being called teachers – before one gets the idea that I harbour anywhere inside me such total and complete disrespect for an honoured part of our profession, the substitute teacher, please read on.

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First let me say that as far as jumping to any conclusions regarding my perception of subs, please don’t.

To begin with, let me tell you what I mean when I say “substitute teacher” of which, at Bialik anyway, there are/were two types:

Type 1: let’s call these guys “in-school subs”. They are gainfully-employed part- or full-time teachers looking to earn some extra bread. When I left Bialik in December 2004, I believe that Type 1 substitutes at Bialik were earning scale when they subbed.

What does “earning scale” or “getting paid to scale” mean? It means that a teacher earns 1/1000 of her gross pay p.a. for every period this teacher subbed. In the case of a teacher earning $70k annually, that teacher would earn $70 per period minus taxes, $40 net, hardly worth the opportunity cost which could be time spent doing whatever I feel like doing during a spare, taking a walk, for example.

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Type 2: the outside substitute who is just what the term suggests. Even though Type 2 subs must have teacher qualifications, they do NOT get paid to scale, far from it. When I was teaching at Bialik, outside substitutes were getting something like $15 to $20 for a 70 minute period. It may have even been $35,00 per period, which converts to $30,00 an hour, a pittance, something like $25,00 Max (per hour) after taxes.

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Shelly Weinstein, who has spent most of his life as an educator, finds himself substituting at Bialik. He must really be bored or need the money. Weinstein, who was Vice-Principal at Bialik when Paul Shaviv arrived on the scene was purged along with another Vice Principal and previous guidance counsellor, Roz Pinker. Sheldon, after a career as a high school social studies teacher in the public sector in New York City spanning more than 15 years, at least that is what he once told me, and a vice-principal at Bialik, seemingly landed on his feet ending up as the Principal of Herzliah High School in St. Laurent, now closed.

After leaving Herzliah, Weinstein worked for a synagogue and fancy my surprise about two months ago when I walked into the office at Bialik and saw Weinstein there. That’s when I learnt that Weinstein had returned to the scene of the crime, as a substitute teacher.

Looks like things have come full circle as far as Weinstein and I are concerned. You see I bumped into that guy at Raffi’s just after I left Bialik, I believe it was early in 2005. My future at that point was somewhat uncertain and I asked Weinstein who was the principal of Herzliah if there were any jobs going.

What I got from that considerate soul was this sensitive response: “Would you hire you if you were me?” Thanks a lot, Weinstein. You’re a nice guy and deserve everything that happens to you or doesn’t. Reality bites and karma pays dividends, eh Shelly? Enjoy subbing.

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Why did the sec. 4 student throw a chair at her teacher? Because it was a substitute teacher and she felt she could get away with it. In my limited exposure to public sector teaching, I conclude that kids regard teachers they have never had before as their enemies and treat them as such. With substitutes, it’s even worse.

At Bialik, the class teacher was/is(?) responsible for preparing classes and/or providing work to be administered during that teacher’s absence by the sub. Whether or not the work gets done depends on the efforts of both the absent teacher and the person substituting for her or him, mostly, believe it or not, it actually depends largely on the type of work left by the absent teacher and the student responsibilities associated with this assigned work.

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I used to leave work which was to be submitted for marking at the end of the class. In that way, it was guaranteed that the kids would do the work. If they knew it counted, they would take it seriously and do their best work even while I wasn’t there, at least in the private school environment and at Phoenix Alternative. (As far as LTM and Laurier Senior go, I don’t know if this would hsve worked.) The sub was then responsible for ensuring that all students did their own work, with no cooperation between or among them, with the penalty for inappropriate behaviour being the removal of the offending student’s paper and with that student receiving a big fat effes, a large zero, for his lack of effort and for his or her cheating ways.

It all depends on how seriously the classroom teachers take their responsibilities to leave legitimate work when they are absent, whether they know about their absence in advance or not. As a teacher, you must be ready and willing to put in the hours required to do the job to the best of your abilities – even if doing so requires more time spent on task, for example, providing meaningful work which has to be marked when you are absent, both of which jobs take time, more time for example than this bit of “left work”: Read pp. 36 to 50 of your manual. (“Be prepared to answer questions on this material next class” would be good to append to this particular assignment but may not be added in the end because making up questions requires more time than a lazy teacher is willing to expend.)

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This is important because you are always role modelling for the kids, again in the private school context and at Phoenix; when and if they see you working hard, they may and probably will do the same. If they see you returning work quickly instead of two or three or even four weeks after they have turned it in, they will most likely try to imitate you, doing their work as quickly as necessary and well enough in advance of the deadline to ensure that it is submitted in fine form and on time. There is no substitute for effort and time spent on task, for both teachers and their students. More than a few times in my teaching career, I spent hours correcting work submitted on that same day so that it would be ready to be returned the very next day. But that’s me.

Which is not to say that it should not and could not be you. Work hard and long and you will be well rewarded.

Peace out.

2 Comments

  • Darren says:

    Like your post, makes sense. I wouldn’t mind trying one of your sugar cubes. Maybe it will give me more confidence to speak my mind, like you do 🙂

    • Jerry Cohen says:

      I hope you don’t need dope to help you speak your mind. All it does is relax me and I take it from there. Self-confidence comes from deep inside one, it is not superficially or artificially induced.

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