One of the subjects to which I have dedicated surprisingly little time is what my classroom, my students need most from me. It’s pretty obvious to see what I need from them – respect, cooperation, positive attitude, and willingness to learn. What they need from me is a bit more subtle.
Because I am a substitute teacher (I prefer the title of guest teacher), I am always cognizant of the fact that they want to remain connected to their normal routine. It’s very rare not to have one or two or more students advise what the class always does at this time or what Mr. or Ms. Usual Teacher asks them do do.
They also require me to have enough intelligence to answer any and all questions or frustrations. Maybe because I’m always in K through 5, ample smarts have not yet been a problem.
Beyond that, I’m thinking that whatever else I bring into my class is either a surprise or bonus or both. It’s a given that my magic substitute bag, filled with stickers, candy, crayons, and markers, is a plus. Most of the time, I give students an opportunity to earn a sticker or piece of candy.
But they get more than tangible treats. Breaking the mold of staunch and stoic substitutes, I make them laugh, get to know them a little, do what I can to call them by name, and come up with some type of activity after lessons are completed.
Is there something else that I do or can give? I’m thinking that one way or another, I need to find ways to communicate that I care about them, whether they are bright, challenged, well-disciplined, or unruly. This is not intuitively obvious because most likely, I will only be with them one or two days at the most.
That never seems to matter. Kids want my attention, time, concern, affection, and acceptance. This may or may not be the consequence of their individual home lives and it’s rare that I get a glimpse into what those lives might be. It really doesn’t matter. At least once a day, I will let a student know that he or she is special and that I am grateful to have met him or her. Maybe that is ultimately the one commodity that they need most and one that I am privileged to provide. Shalom.