The Truth Gift by H. Nunnenmacher

This story is one that I share because I think it tells the truth about supply teaching.

I had been asked to take a long term occasional position at a school where the teacher was off on stress leave. I took the position with great optimism. Upon my arrival at the school I had the other teachers introducing themselves to me and warning me about the classes I was going to get (I was teaching French to grades 4-8 students). But, the class I seemed to be warned the most about was the grade 8 class. When I met the class I was even more than firm. They weren’t able to do anything. I handed out detentions left, right and centre. But, soon I was able to loosen the reigns and relax a little more.

One day the boys were at a volleyball tournament and the grade 8 class was made up of all girls and only a couple of boys. Not wanting to start anything new we played a game of Bingo.

During our game one of the girls told a joke (a very clean joke) that was funny and I laughed. She remarked that I had changed a lot since being there. When I asked why she commented that at first I came in and was so tough and now I was kind of cool. I said “You didn’t think I was going to come in here and let you walk all over me did you?” Her response “No, but you have to understand, we have to see what you are made of too.”.

So, now whenever a supply teacher is telling me how hard it is I tell them it is, but it is the student’s test that makes it hard.


3 Replies to “The Truth Gift by H. Nunnenmacher”

  1. I am currently on a LTO covering for a Mat leave for French Grade 4-8 and your grade 8’s are my 7’s. It’s a small school, there is only one grade 7 class and they’ve been together since kindergarden. This class is out of control and no one including the principal can gain it. There are only a few decent kids and detentions for the whole class just seem like a time for them to socialize. I’ve tried having them write out lines, I’ve tried the parents (most of them say they’ve heard it all before, what can they do?) Any suggestions?

  2. As a supply teacher I know exactly what it’s like to deal with really difficult classes,,,especially on rotary subjects where you see them for 40 minutes and then the next group comes in. When I first started to supply these situations really stressed me out. I believed that I had to be tough. I have learned a few tricks since that time – first and foremost to be preventitive rather than reactive. I greet every class at the door – I actually say, “hello”, “good morning”, or Hi, welcome to class” to each student as they walk by. This is your first contact and says you are the person in charge. Many students respond – some don’t. Once they are settled – a struggle in some cases – I thank them for their response, telling them they have made me, a visiting teacher, feel welcome in their school by responding to my welcome. I am extremely polite to students – they are often surprised at that – we expect them to be courteous to us but often forget to return the favor. So, the student who takes the attendance to the office is thanked: “Amir, thank you for taking the attendance to the office. I really appreciate you doing that job!” When I hand out work, I always reply with a “you’re welcome” when I hear a thank you. I get lots of thank yous…even in the intermediate grades. Still, there are some classes that come in totally ignoring you and doing whatever they want. I used to stress a lot about that, but now I hand out work, write directions on the board, and walk the aisles. There are always students who do work, and these I help first, thanking them for being on task. Then, I work on students one at a time…I might talk about things other than their work, but slowly…and surely…I get them to settle down. Such days are, nonetheless stressful, but, by remaining calm, relaxed, and having a smile on my face, they are easier to get through. Last but not least, at the end of the day, I write down in a journal about incidents – positive and negative – and how I handled them and what I might do differently. Putting it down on paper is cathartic, it’s a record of strategies I have used, and puts it all into perspective. Remember, kids watch you from the first moment they see you. They intuitively know what your buttons are…keep them hidden, be positive, and don’t forget, the day will come to an end, you will get paid, and there are lots of great classes out there too. Don’t sweat it! A final note: get to know your fellow supply teachers…you can rely on each other for support, suggestions, and new ideas about how to handle challenging students. You won’t feel so isolated and you’ll learn lots of great ideas. I’d be glad to e-mail with anyone on this topic!

  3. Hi… I am a very new teacher and probably don’t have the best advice to offer…but could you maybe try giving them detentions in various rooms so that they are not together? Also, you could keep them in from recess…and if that is like a social time as well maybe keep half in for one recess, half in for a different recess? Take away privileges – sports, free time, fun activities when they aren’t listening or being respectful. do you have buddy classes (to send misbehaving students to?). If a grade 7 student is being rude and disrepectful, you could send them with their work to a primary classroom to complete there work – there is no one for them to socialize with there.
    I don’t know if any of this is helpful, but it’s what I’ve seen being used in my short experience thusfar with teaching!

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