South Carolina – April-May, 2016 While we’ve been hanging around SC I’ve been taking part in a new sort of adventure. I have been…GASP…working. And believe me, it has been an adventure!
When we hit the road Jim and I agreed that we didn’t want to even think about any kind of work for at least a year. However, after that we felt we should explore the possibilities.
If you read my blog on budgeting you know that we live on a very tight budget with little room for anything to go wrong or for extravagances. If we can pull in a few bucks now and then or workamp to save on camping fees then we could use that to offset unexpected expenses or save for a splurge.
When Jim said he would need 2 months to accomplish what he wanted at our South Carolina property, I suggested I explore part-time employment opportunities. My goal was to earn enough money to pay for the materials he needed to complete the patio and electric service, around $1000. Going to work actually sounded like more fun to me than spending several days a week cutting, raking, and burning on our property.
It took Jim a bit to wrap his mind around staying home while I got a job. But he came around. He worked really hard every day I was gone and enjoyed getting things accomplished. I wouldn’t have been much help to him anyway. I got a nasty rash from some poisonous plant both times I did spend a day working on the property. He asked me not to help anymore because he hated seeing me suffer.
The day we arrived in town I had my resume ready and I hit the road. Making money was secondary to exploring the possibilities. I made some cold calls to places I thought I’d enjoy working. I applied at some large retail stores. And I followed up on the few help wanted ads I could find for the area.
I almost took a job as a cashier in a pharmacy but when we discussed scheduling I felt the hours were unreasonable. They wanted me to work only 4-5 hours a day but 5 days a week. They couldn’t even promise me 2 days off in a row. I didn’t want to be that tied down. Five days for only 20-25 hours pay, no thank you.
Instead I chose to substitute teach. I have always wanted to try teaching and this was an opportunity to try out ever grade level K-12 and see what ages and subjects I preferred. I was hired by a temp agency that manages the substitute teaching staff for a large, local school system.
I was honest about my complete lack of classroom experience. The recruiter suggested I start out subbing for teacher’s assistant positions and as soon as I felt confident, jump right it. By the time I passed the background check it was their spring break. After that I only had 8 weeks to make some dough.
The temp agency has a computer based scheduling system that makes it easy to get work. You sign in to check for assignments and if you are the 1st to see and accept an assignment, it is yours. They have an automated phone system for last minute assignments that I believe simply calls the next person on the list, with no favoritism for who is most qualified for the assignment.
I assume that the district has trouble getting and keeping substitutes or they wouldn’t have resorted to this arrangement. It is possible to be more successful and therefore choosy with your assignments. If you make a good impression on the teachers and administrators they can contact you directly and assign openings to you.
You can’t beat the flexibility of this job. All the employer asked is that I work 6 days a month, 2 of which must be Monday or Friday assignments. If I did those things I could choose not to work any time I wanted, no questions asked. So when we went to Myrtle Beach and just didn’t feel like leaving on Sunday, all I had to do was log on and enter that I was unavailable the next day. And when the weather finally heated up and we saw a Monday through Thursday opening at Edisto Beach State Park, I nabbed it and took most of the week off with no problem.
This job especially appealed to me because I didn’t have to quit exactly. If I had gotten a traditional job I would have had to make an excuse about why I was leaving after little more than two months. If I told them the truth, that I never intended to stay longer, I couldn’t expect a good reference. I wanted to get a good current reference out of this deal so I would have had to say something unexpected necessitated our return to Missouri for the summer.
I am a very honest person so that part of the plan kind of stuck in my craw. This job ends at the end of the school year even though I am considered an active employee that could return to work in September. I don’t think the recruiter will hold it against me when I tell her in June that it just wasn’t for me and I won’t be subbing next school year. I don’t have to be dishonest at all, because if I had enjoyed the job I would have considered working another month or two in the fall.
As of this post I have just finished my last week of subbing and have accomplished what I set out to do; I made a little over $1000 and I learned a lot about myself and teaching. So what have I learned?
I learned that I genuinely enjoy teaching but that subbing offers far too few opportunities to actually teach. A substitute’s primary responsibility is to hold down the fort until the teacher returns. Most of the time the kids pushed me to my limits. If I gave my attention to one student who needed it, the other kids would take advantage of the distraction to create chaos. I had to be a real grouch most of the time or they would walk all over me. I didn’t like myself in that role.
If I subbed in the same classroom a second or third day it got better. I learned what methods of discipline and classroom management worked for those kids and what didn’t. And the kids calmed down because they had some idea what to expect and what they could, or hopefully couldn’t, get away with. But chances to return to the same classroom were few, so every day was a new challenge.
I would never teach a large class of kids younger than 2nd grade again. I liked 5th grade classes and above best. This was primarily because that’s the age where they start switching classes. So if you had really rough kids in one class you only had to put up with them an hour or so and then they would go on to the next subject. The high schoolers I met, which were kids at the votech school, were generally polite and respectful.
You might think that dealing with so many pint size delinquents would make me loathe kids in general. The opposite is true. This experience gave me some fresh insight into what kids go through in classrooms and therefore truly appreciate children individually. In fact, if I were to consider volunteering at some point, tutoring kids one on one would be something I would strongly consider.
I won’t say I would never substitute again but it wouldn’t be my first choice. It might be interesting to see if another school system was less challenging (especially if they managed their subs themselves and paid better). I really think the kids in the southern Missouri schools I’m familiar with are better behaved but maybe I’m just being naïve.
If this experiment were just about how to make the most money for a reasonable amount of effort then you could say it was a complete flop. The pay was dismal. I made $62 per day, less than $8 per hour. This rate of pay was based on the fact that I have a bachelor’s degree. If someone had a teaching certificate they could make more. And if they only had 60 hours of college credit, they would qualify for the job but only make $55 per day. I saw job posts by this company for subs in other states where they advertised the same rates of pay.
But thankfully it was about more than the money and I satisfied my curiosity. I really wanted some teaching experience because I’ve always thought teaching English as a second language (ESL) would be something I might do if we choose to live outside the US at some point. I think I would enjoy teaching ESL to adults or older kids that want to learn.
Jim and I also didn’t mind spending a little time apart. It was kind of nice to go our separate ways for a bit and have something new to talk to each other about at the end of the day. Doing something different reminded me how lucky I am to get to spend every day with the love of my life.