• Sam Rasoul

Journey As Substitute Teacher

Updated: Apr 3, 2019

OPENING: Today I begin my journey learning more about our Roanoke City Public Schools. Our Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni, has challenged legislators to substitute in schools. My goal is to substitute in every (24) public elementary, middle, and high school in the 2018-2019 school year.

I won't be posting any pictures (unless the school shares) or naming any names of students. Just reporting what I have learned at each stop as to how we can help our schools further thrive.

Today's first stop is at RAMS Elementary School!

Day 1:


Roanoke Academy For Math & Science (1st school of 24 Roanoke City Schools)

Substituting took me into pre-k special education. Funny, my first gig is where my mom has done most of her substituting. My three year old class was awesome!

The lead teacher, Ms. Jamison, knew everything about these children. It helps she was involved in the initial evaluation for many of their placements. Clearly, there was a big disparity in the children's development, which can be difficult for teachers to plan for.

My main duty was to assist the lead teacher. As I watched her interact with the children, I was amazed to see how she knew exactly what each child needed in every moment. Happy to see this kind of work happening in our Star City!

Day 2:

THOUGHTS FROM THE CLASSROOM 🍎: Lincoln Terrace Elementary (2nd of 24 Roanoke City Schools)

"Make it a great day, it's your choice." -young female student closing morning announcements

I was very intimidated going into Ms. Shelor's Fifth Grade Classroom. I was not a great 5th grader, so I felt karma was coming back around. My saving grace: Ms. Shelor left me VERY well prepared and a neighboring teacher, Ms. Thorpe, who has been teaching for 39 years, offered excellent guidance and support. Ms. Shelor also wrote in the lesson plan that we could discuss government. They wrote a journal entry on a bill they want to introduce and the class then voted on the idea. Much like the real world, classmates kept track of who voted for whose bill 😉

The lesson plan was extensive and written completely to the SOLs. I had three class rotations, and I did not complete the plan in any class. When the kids took to something, we spent a few more minutes on it which took away from something else.

This was a tougher assignment as much of the time I was working on classroom management. The fact that I was a sub, coupled with that age, made me appreciate further the struggle teachers go through trying to balance a firm hand and a compassionate mind.

I would like to formally apologize to my 5th Grade Teacher Ms. Lori Anne Hall for all I put you through 🙏

Day 3:

THOUGHTS FROM THE CLASSROOM 🍎: Fairview Elementary (3rd of 24 Roanoke City Schools)

Friday's adventure took me to Ms. Sweet's Third Grade Class. Across the street is Greenvale School where I went as a child. Life coming full circle in a way. I have volunteer taught Junior Achievement here in the past, but the student body has changed a good bit in recent years with many refugees and immigrants living near by. Several students who fled war-torn regions and some ELL students were in this class. I imagine this makes it hard on teachers trying to plan lessons for students who read on very different levels.

They all love Ms. Sweet and were sad to see her go. A great group of kids and well-behaved. The class does not have a discipline corner or seat, rather she has them go back to their seat and reflect.

We had a mild surprise with a lock-down drill. We had to lock the door, turn off the lights and huddle in a corner. I kept thinking it only takes one upset child to give away that we are in the classroom. During the drill, someone comes around and shakes the door to ensure it is locked, and I know would be tough to keep 19 third graders calm during a real incident.

I am so thankful for: -So many teachers and staff who really have a "village" approach at Fairview Elementary. -Having water fountains in the classroom! (It's the little things when when your are trying to make sure 1 of the 19 has not escaped.) -Healthy weekend snacks which are given out on Fridays.

Day 4:

THOUGHTS FROM THE CLASSROOM 🍎: Patrick Henry High School (#4 of 24 Roanoke City Schools)

My latest visit took me to subbing ninth grade English. Upon checking-in, I was told to go up one flight of stairs, take a deep breath, then go up one more. Without saying the words, people were preparing me for a fun ride.

Patrick Henry is a good school with very nice facilities, and the layout has administrative offices on each floor. This helps spread out administrators around the school which is vital for a school with around 1900 students!

It was clear that the teacher I was substituting for has a good relationship with the students and has earned their respect. He is finding a balance by providing certain concessions so long as the students are good. For example, he provides a large cell phone charging station for students but they are not allowed to become distracted by playing games.

Unfortunately I had to change the lesson plan again. The first student who walked in asked "Are you a sub?" Then he went straight to the door and announced that to each person who walked in, as if to say "time for some fun!" So I came up with a deviation which kept their attention for the most part. They do love testing us...just as I did in school.

Teachers are having to spend so much time dealing with behavioral issues, it is clear why they struggle with so many standards to teach to. I believe Virginia should do the minimum we need to do to please the Feds for education funding, and the rest of our time needs to be focused on the holistic socio-emotional growth of a child. A renewed focus in this direction will help with mental health, self-confidence, team work, not to mention helping the teachers focus more on teaching!

Thankful for all of the teachers who work so hard to breakthrough in challenging environments!

Heroines and Heroes.

Day 5:

THOUGHTS FROM THE CLASSROOM 🍎: Westside Elementary (#5 of 24 Roanoke City Schools)

Today's adventure took me to Ms. Franklin's first grade classroom. After just getting back from the General Assembly session, I was ready to get back in the classroom.

Westside Elementary is the largest elementary school in Roanoke with over 725 students. With 18 students in this class, I was reminded why smaller class sizes is critical for this age group. 12-14 students seems to be optimal for first grade.

This class had laptops/tablets that were available for all of the students. Great for learning and for gaming a little

Today we had a great Spanish teacher for the students. I wish I was learning another language in first grade!

We also had an awesome science presentation from the Water Authority. She really made the science of water come alive and was thoroughly entertaining.

First time I had come across a "behavioral clip chart" seen below. It was a great way to bring in positive reinforcement without having to depend on just giving out candy.

A great school, Westside was full of positive spirit! Thanks for all you do for the children!

Day 6:

THOUGHTS FROM THE CLASSROOM 🍎: Virginia Heights Elementary (#6 of 24 Roanoke City Schools)

I had the pleasure to fill-in for this teacher ⬇️ today!

I can see why Caroline Eschenbach (Mrs. E) was recently recognized for her outstanding work. The students love her.

One of the warmest schools I have substituted in, I could feel the positive vibes as soon as I walked into Virginia Heights. The other third grade teacher was awesome to work with. Many teachers have been sick around the valley with this recent bug.

What is different now than when I was young is we have many more good teachers who focus on certain challenges some of the students have like reading specialists, English as a second language, and other special focus areas. We clearly need more resources in our schools for this specialized attention.

The students got to spend some time doing a short version of our "You Write The Bill" session at the encouragement of the civics teacher. These third graders wrote out what law they wanted to change and why. The ideas were presented as bills to the class, and then the class voted on them.

Bill ideas from students included: animal rights, violence prevention, smoking, cupcakes for lunch, and no school/work on Mondays. One of the students had read that Monday was the worst day of the week for mental health.

I love how the schools have so many healthy snacks which are available to all of the students!

Keep up the good work Virginia Heights!

You make us proud 👍🏽.

Day 7:

THOUGHTS FROM THE CLASSROOM 🍎: Woodrow Wilson Middle School(#7 of 24 Roanoke City Schools)

My first time subbing in a middle school. I had pushed it off as much as I could due to stories saying "middle schoolers will eat you alive." LoL

Luckily Mrs. Gomez's Spanish class went well and I survived. I was in the second half of the day for her as she had an appointment to get to. When I came in, she was busy speaking rapidly in Spanish...a Spanish 3 class in middle school, awesome!

She spent the last few minutes then talking about the tragedy in New Zealand and how we all have a duty to push back against hate. Mrs. Gomez is so proud that her class is a safe space for people from all walks of life. 👏🏽

She asked if I would do an interactive program with her afternoon classes on how government impacts them. They were loaded with thoughts on how schools need to improve: from school nutrition, to the physical plant of the schools, to wondering how they could get more funding to improve education.

Middle school can be rough for the students, teachers, and staff. What I can say is that there is a special love they had at Woodrow for that age of children.

One staff member said "it is a rough age, but it can be satisfying watching them grow so much."

Thanks for putting it all in perspective 💯.


A Note From Sam

My office exists in order to better help you, I serve so that I can assist you with advocating for the causes that matter most to you. I look forward to working with you to draft legislation, connect you to government agencies, speak at your events, write commending or memorial resolutions, or even send a happy birthday letter to your loved-ones. I am here to advocate for policies that uplift your life. It is the honor of my lifetime to be able to serve you. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if I can ever assist you.

My best,

How Can I Help You?


T: 540.904.6905


A: P.O. 13842, Roanoke, VA 24037

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