Every spring, those of us who live in the world of education are prompted to renew our contracts for the coming school year (hopefully). So you read through the new contract. You note that the number of days in your contract is still the same (and less than you actually work). And down towards the bottom, your job description still contains “other duties as assigned”.
Whether you’ve just survived year one, or you’re on the home stretch to retirement, you know what those “other duties as assigned” consist of. And you know that some of them should have had an entire class dedicated to them in your course of studies.
So for all you first timers out there, consider this a mini study guide and prepare yourself for other duties as assigned. And for those of you who’ve been in the schools for a while, read through these and reflect on the good times. If you have a good story about other duties as assigned, share it in the comments below!
1. Morning hallway supervision
Your day starts out by playing Mom to every student who walks through the door. It goes a little like this, “take off your hat”, “your shoe is untied”, “are you feeling okay”, “did you eat breakfast this morning”, and “you need to go to the office, that shirt is inappropriate”.
If you’re fresh out of college, you’re still trying to make sure you’re ready for the day. Getting yourself up and making sure you’re presentable takes a lot of mental effort. Now you get to do the same for 500 students too.
Take your coffee with you, but make sure it has a lid.
2. Recess duty
What could be more calming than watching 100 students run around on a playground or throwing things at each other (e.g., basketballs, footballs, rocks…)? It actually is all fun and games until someone gets hurt.
Use these 20 minutes to go to your happy place, but keep your eyes peeled. You never know what you’re going to witness at recess. Use your imagination, but know that they’ll never cease to surprise you.
If four-square is your thing, jump in on a game, you’ll be instantly famous among the students. The more visible you are, the less likely strange shenanigans are to take place.
3. Teenage conflict resolution
Eventually, two 8th grade girls will approach you, in tears, because their best friend sent a snap to someone’s ex-boyfriend and now the whole school thinks they’re horrible people. Does that even make sense? No. Will they be able to repeat the story? Probably not.
Kids react to and fight over the silliest things. And you never know what you’re going to hear. Just remember, to them it’s a BIG deal. Roll your eyes on the inside.
4. Maintaining student safety
If you work with minors you will see things that will make you question your faith in humanity. Nothing can prepare you for that first phone call to DHS (or the 5th, 12th, or 21st).
You will be a cheerleader, a listening ear, and a defender for your students. It’s not easy, but don’t internalize what you’re seeing. Remember that you can only do so much, we can’t take them all home with us at the end of the day. By just being there, you are making a difference in their lives.
5. Lunch duty
Cafeteria supervision is where you realize you’re basically a zookeeper. Think about it, each kid is their own species. There’s food all over the place, everyone is up and running around when they shouldn’t be, and it all happens in this big box.
If you try to give directions, like “quiet down” or “everyone needs to be in a seat”, for example, no one listens. Then if consequences are enforced, you’re the bad guy.
6. Being the authority
Lunch duty isn’t the only place where you’ll have to play the “bad cop”. Each time you walk down the hallway you’re going to encounter strange behaviors. There’s always the awkward confrontation with the couple making out in the hallway–no, you cannot do that here.
Sometimes saying “no” just sucks. So does not being able to laugh at the joke you overheard during group work time.
7. Locker clean-out supervision
Students’ lockers are nasty. And there’s always at least one “do I need to keep this?” student. Every single thing they pull out of their locker is either a treasure or homework that should’ve been turned in 4 months ago.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear each student’s locker had been graced with an undetectable extension charm. The piles of junk never end. How did you even fit that lacrosse stick in your locker with your backpack, textbooks, gym shoes, parka, bowling ball, 5 months worth of papers, 19 pairs of dirty socks, 2 lunch boxes (still full), and your trombone?!
This is your time to work on your game face. Don’t breathe through your nose, and control your eyebrows of surprise.
8. Field-trip chaperone
The only way to prepare for a field trip is with Tylenol. Who came up with the idea to cram 60-90 students on a school bus and take a day trip to the local art museum anyway?
Chaperoning a field trip is like recess duty for hours with no break. It’s exhausting stuff. But let’s be real, even if there was a Surviving Field-Trips 101 class, you’d still encounter something bizarre that the professor didn’t cover.
9. Being the expert…of everything
Students will treat you like you’re their own personal Google. You’re a teacher, which means you know the answer to anything and everything. And anything and everything is exactly what they will ask.
Brace yourself for strange sexual questions. There’s only a brief window when students are shy about asking things, and some never actually go through it.
- Why does water stick to a penny?
- Why do some farts stink and others don’t?
- Who was the first person to drink milk?
- Why did Paris give us the Statue of Liberty and not like a giant bottle of fancy perfume or something?
- Why can’t I take AP Biology in 7th grade?
- What’s in a Wonderball?
10. Being a chaperone for a school dance
Speaking of strange sexual questions, school dances are basically a big teenage hormone cesspool. If you don’t believe students would do x, y, or z at a school dance, you’re wrong.
Take a minute to think about what your middle school dances were like. What about your senior prom? You were probably a bit crazy once too.
When dealing with unexpected student behaviors, remember these steps:
- Be appalled
- Approach students
- Correct behavior
- Continue observing
You chose to be a teacher to make a difference in students’ lives. And you are. You might be spending a lot of time grading assignments, attempting to make lesson plans, and giving directions but your students are learning.
If they’re asking you crazy questions it means they trust you to give them an answer. Among all these other duties as assigned remember to laugh. Yes, you can fight them. But you can also use them as learning experiences for the kids. Be creative, and have fun.