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Sunday, Feb. 25
The Indiana Daily Student

In ‘gap year,’ columnist finds joy in substitute teaching

Unexpected job leads to memorable moments; receiving apology note from a first-grader

Since enrolling at IU, I had my sights set on being accepted to the IU School of Law after graduation.

I did everything possible to ensure I would get into the school, but I received a letter the day before graduation last May letting me know I was put on the wait list.

After a summer of waiting (and kicking myself for applying in February), I found out in August I would not be accepted. Now I was charged with finding employment in one of the toughest job markets in recent years.

Trying to land a job in Bloomington was difficult, but my mom came up with a great idea: becoming a substitute teacher at the Monroe County Community Schools Corporation.

It was at my mom’s suggestion that I substituted at Lebanon Middle School in Lebanon, Ind., during breaks in college to make a little spending money.

I always enjoyed being with students, so I figured it was worth a shot this year.

Though I was disheartened by not getting into law school, taking a year off has been a rewarding experience that will make me a better law student and person.

But substitute teaching is not as easy as one would think – rarely have the classes sat and watched videos all day, especially the elementary kids, with whom I spend the most time.

Elementary school teachers expect their substitutes to continue with the daily schedule, so each day I have to think of ways to teach math, reading and other subjects to students who are many times not interested in learning. The teachers almost always leave great lesson plans, but they can’t predict in advance if kids are going to struggle with something.

The non-teaching aspects of the job can be the most challenging, especially in the lower grades. The children are trying to learn social skills as much as academic subjects, so it is not uncommon for me to break up arguments or deal with hurt feelings.

Some days I look forward to the final bell more than the students do, but typically I enjoy spending time with the students. In just a few hours, I find that I can connect with the kids, having fun while still completing the lessons of the day.

Substitute teaching also has its fair share of memorable moments. I will always remember when a first-grade boy was escorted back to class by the hall monitor, who caught the boy trying to escape school by climbing out the bathroom window. To apologize, the boy colored a picture for me that still hangs in my bedroom.

Substituting has been a good experience before heading back to school, and it has given me ample free time to catch up on the things I missed out while being a student. I’ve slept more this year than any time in my life, made some ground up on my never-ending reading list and have become the best Mario Kart Wii player in Bloomington.

After 16 consecutive years of school, I was burned out the second semester of my senior year. When I start school next fall, my batteries will be fully charged for the three-year journey of law school. This break has also allowed me to look at other schools I didn’t think about applying to the first time around, although I still hope to call Bloomington home in case anyone from the admissions office is reading.

Now that I am doing it, I would advocate taking a year off before heading to graduate school. You will become rested and won’t take for granted how fun and rewarding school really is.

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