Saturday, February 22, 2014

Teach, Retire, Teach Again? The Case for Guest Teaching

Post by Cindy Ferguson: Cindy retired from teaching at Bettendorf High School after more than 30 years of teaching. She continues to impact our school community in a positive way by serving as a guest teacher.

After teaching thirty plus years and having made the difficult decision to retire if someone had asked me if I wanted to substitute teach I would have responded; “Do you think I've lost my mind?” Fortunately I found I was very wrong and I thoroughly enjoy guest teaching. Thank you Bettendorf Community Schools for giving me the opportunity to continue my heart’s work.

Having retired  I enjoyed doing the things retirees do,  following my own schedule, doing the things I didn’t have time to do while working and sometimes doing nothing at all.   I soon found that I missed the students and their never ending ability to bring variety to each day.  I felt the draw of September, no mid, no make that early August to return to the halls of academia, to participate in the excitement of high school activities and to seeing friends and colleagues.   I began thinking maybe I should give substituting a try.   The prospect of those 5:00am   phone calls jangling me out a deep winter sleep, the uncertainty the night before of whether I would be called to work the next day made my carefree, do as you please schedule unsettled, and the guilt I truly felt when I couldn’t take a teaching assignment or when I was asked to take a position that I didn’t feel prepared to teach made me question whether, maybe I had indeed lost my mind.   However; having successfully filled out all of the required paperwork, completing the mandatory training sessions I found myself back on the payroll and ready to give it my best. 

Guest teaching opportunities have gotten even better with the implementation of the Aesop system.  It alleviates many of the uncertain aspects of receiving assignments and lets me have control over when I am available to teach and what subject matters I feel most proficient in.  It allows for the best of both worlds, retired yet working when I wish.  I can’t get that as a greeter at Walmart.

I chose to substitute exclusively at the high school and it was a great confidence booster when I got my first assignment.  I knew the physical layout of the building, where all the basics were, the teacher’s lounge, the cafeteria, the good faculty restrooms, and most important the shortest route to the Industrial Tech area.  I knew many of the teachers having had the opportunity to work in their classroom in my role as a special needs teacher and I was aware of their curriculum.  It was a huge benefit knowing school procedures, daily schedules and behavioral expectations.

The moment had arrived and I was back in the classroom.  This is when the real excitement begins, when the emphasis and appreciation moves to the fabulous teachers and students at Bettendorf High School.  I have immensely enjoyed every teaching assignment I was given.   I always find excellent well laid out plans and materials for each class. .  The beauty of coming into a class where the planning is already done is awesome! Teachers leave class rosters, seating charts, and names of helpful students. All of the teachers in the departments are extremely helpful and make me feel welcome.

           The students are well behaved and well prepared.  It’s fun to be with them.  I tell them a little about my teaching background and that I am a veteran of their school.  I assure them that I will do my best to make their day productive.   I recognize the student’s commitment to the class and their desire to be there.  I admit to them that I don’t know everything, especially some of the class subject matter but I will work hard to be a facilitator for their learning. Current teaching practices make it much easier for this to happen as students work cooperatively with each other, use technology more effectively and are becoming more independent learners.
I apologize that their teacher is not there, and sincerely mean it. There are few real substitutes for the quality staff at BHS.   I believe the students recognize I have some skills to bring to the table but also see me as a person to take mercy on and they are always helpful.  We form a partnership for the period that seems to be working.

Working in a variety of subjects allows me to interact with students with varying academic skills and interest areas. It allows me to stretch my brain a little and to remember lessons learned in my high school years.  What they don’t teach Latin anymore?  It’s fun to meet new students and see others I have substituted for previously.  I enjoy the chance to see students again and ask them about how they did on the test we prepared for or if they are doing well in their classes.  Each teaching assignment is different regarding the amount of instruction I participate in.  Some subjects I feel more confident in and I can contribute more while there.  These days are especially gratifying knowing that I had a chance to impart meaningful lessons and information possibly presented in a different way than their teacher may have.  The thought of making a difference or of having one student be a little more successful in that class is great.   The satisfaction is there.

The face of teaching and learning has changed dramatically since I began my professional career.  The changes intended to improve student performance and teacher accountability were often needed but are sometimes difficult to accept and time consuming to implement.  These factors along with the hard wired desire of teachers to maintain their love of teaching often leads to teachers having to walk a fine line on their paths to success and fulfillment.   The beauty of guest teaching is that I get all of the good with little of the difficulty.  I get to interact with the one factor that has not changed since the beginning, the students.  It’s like having grandchildren; you can enjoy them then return them at the end of the day.

           Guest teaching is a good thing and I am very glad I decided to spend part of my retirement years doing the thing I love to do, teach

1 comment:

  1. Lucky you, Lucky kids!! Like you Cindy, I've just retired and still want to do the thing I love - working with kids - on my own terms now. However in my local board of education, retirees are not allowed to become a supply teacher (the term used here) in order to give the work to young teacher graduates who must work their way up in a 5-10 year process just to get a full time teaching contract! It's absolutely essential for them, and I don't begrudge them the work. But where does that leave me? I actually need the extra money, facing a hefty $35,000 dental bill to solve a jaw problem. And no, our wonderful Canadian health care system doesn't cover dental costs!

    But far more importantly, I continue to have that teacher's passionate desire to teach and contribute to the education of kids. So my solution has been to volunteer my time in my friends' and colleagues' classrooms, and to offer to help them shift their classroom practice using technology and social media in new teaching and learning practices. I get my fix of student inspiration and energization -- and they get another voice and set of ears and eyes in their classrooms. I couldn't do without it!

    But after reading your post this morning, I'm wondering if I offered to be a "Guest Teacher" in exactly that form, if anyone would take me up on it. I think I'll try it! What a great idea. Thanks for the inspiration!!!