The Start of a New Immersion Program as a Substitute Teacher

This isn’t my first rodeo. I have been the first teacher of a dual immersion program before. However, with time, I think I forget how hard it actually is: The various resources that I had and started to take for granted, the systems that have been put in place, and the network of parents who knows my best interest is in the kids.

It’s funny how the universe works though. I knew of this program starting and did not apply. I was not ready to dedicate 16 hours a day, 7 days a week to my class while trying to make a bigger change in the immersion world. Well, as it turned out, the teacher who was hired is still in France (yay visa processes!) and I could not bear to see the start of a French program without a French-speaking teacher. So I hunted down transcripts, references, and test scores to apply to be a substitute teacher for LAUSD. (That process is worthy of a blog on its own.) All this for the love and support of a new French dual-immersion program.

I greeted 15 adorable first graders on Tuesday. They were excited and nervous. I only spoke to them in French in the morning. It’s a 50/50 program. Some of them caught on right away. We played a game of “Comment t’appelles-tu?” then drew a picture of ourselves with the sentence “Bonjour! Je m’appelle __.” Their self portraits are now hanging on the wall near the door and the students walk by it with pride. They point to it and read it as they enter or exit the class. I am lucky that I have the experience (and the resources) to pull together lessons while addressing the standards. I also know how to combine the necessary work that is done in Reader’s Workshop and Writer’s Workshop that is required by the district. I think I would be really lost if this were my first year teaching. But honestly, this is still a really hard journey despite just recently creating a Curriculum Map for K-6 teachers.

Here’s what’s hard:

  • Things I need:

    • High frequency word list for first graders

    • Read aloud books that follow the themes of the school year as guided by Benchmark

    • Sentence frames that are linguistically and content appropriate

    • Dictations/spelling words that are linguistically and content appropriate that match the themes

    • All the Benchmark items organized. Everything is everywhere.

  • Administrative things:

    • WHY am I giving a DIBELS assessment in English in 10 days and in French (when the French version arrives). This is also a personal frustration with testing students.

    • I cannot activate my LAUSD account and I’m still being bounced back and forth between HR and IT Help Desk.

    • Planning time with my colleagues so that our classrooms look aligned. All 3 of us are new to 1st grade, so no one knows anything. Ha!

  • Personal issues as a substitute:

    • This is a long commute. I am tired and I’m not getting enough sleep.

    • Do I decorate and modify the classroom set up to how I want it to be?

    • Do I instill a routine with these students that the teacher is going to change? I’m not in touch with the teacher because she hasn’t reached out to me.

    • Do I get in touch with the parents? I used to call all the parents during the first week of school to welcome them to class. (Oh, ha! I don’t have access of any of this info because I still can’t sign in!)

    • Do I start a newsletter/website to let the parents know what we’re learning? What if the teacher doesn’t continue that?

    • Do I do all the techy stuff I love with these kiddos even if it’s not going be continued?

    • Should I put together the e-books with student videos and work? But that’s a WHOLE chunk of time and I don’t know if the parents will have access.

Honestly, the majority of all of these issues boils down to time. I want the program to succeed, but as a substitute teacher, it’s hard. I spend 2.5 hours commuting every day. I’ve put aside reading research and writing proposals. In practice, I arrive 2 hours before school starts to prepare everything for class and stay about an hour after the kiddos are gone. And yes, I have already spent 6 hours of my weekend time creating a digital calendar routine. It’s gorgeous and I can’t wait to show the kiddos tomorrow.

Dual-immersion teachers need material support and TIME support to create/organize their class. Somethings can be done by another person (someone organize my Benchmark set, please!), but the majority of it needs to be created and/or reviewed by the teacher him/herself. Hence, the goal of EmpowerED Consulting. I hope to create, research, and provide items that only needs to be reviewed for the already diligent teachers providing everything they can.

Hit me up, if you would like something tailored for your program.