Supervision Signup

On my first day of student teaching, the day before school started, my “cooperating teacher” was taking me down to get a door key. We walked past a line of at least 20 people.

Jake saw my look. “That’s the supervisory duty signup line.”


“Teachers sign up for 5 rounds of supervisor duty. No one wants to get stuck with something awful, so they line up early.”

“What’s something awful?”

“Everyone has their own idea, thank god.”

Teachers are contractually obligated to perform supervision duty. At least high school teachers are.

Administrators tread veeeery carefully about signup procedures for supervisory duty, because teachers don’t like getting stuck with “something awful”.

Some allow first come first serve. At one of my schools, Jack, the math department head, literally came to school at 6:30 am every year and parked his lawn chair by the admin door where we did signups and just wait there until 8:00. He’d done this for ten years or more. Alas, Jack’s little ritual really annoyed a new principal, who declared that no lines could form for signup until 7:50. I know for a fact that 20 teachers deliberately ran like crazy people to hit the line before Jack. I don’t think they cared about supervisory activities that badly; they just wanted to ruin it for Jack. Hey. We’re petty.

My first school was small, and the administrators simply assigned supervisory hours for us, thus allowing me to confirm that my own personal “something awful” was the Winter Dance. The AVP said, “Just make sure the kids don’t dance too close. They have to be dancing. If they’re just grinding, separate them.”

“Um. What?”

“Or you can watch the bathrooms.”

“I’ll do that.”

“Just circulate. Remember, there’s five of them.”


“Something awful” for me: screamingly loud dance mix music in a dark hot gym with seizure-inducing lights flashing. Learning what the AVP meant by “grinding”. Wanting desperately to go home.

Since then, I’ve mostly signed up for sports.

My current school assigns teachers to one of four groups: Purple, Gold, Black, White. Then the colors rotate order fourth, third, second, first, and round again. The teachers in the first group get a half hour to sign up for activities, then the next group. And so on.

I’m in Purple. Last year, we were second. This year, first! Next year, last. So I’ll have a better idea what’s at the bottom of the barrel next year. Please god, not dances.

Since I live about 20 miles from my school, and the wrong way for traffic, I prioritize activities right after school. Then I try to get all my supervisory duty early—since I was first this year, I will have done my 15 hours by November. I’m assuming that next year I’ll be stuck traveling more and staying later.

Supervising sports mostly means watching the game. You check in with the coach. Every so often it involves sitting with the kids selling tickets.

No one ever talks about this which is slightly odd. I mean yeah, it’s boring to think about, but important enough that administrators put a fair degree of energy into making things come out fairly. We teachers are willing to be stuck with it but by god we’d better believe that everyone has an equal chance of getting stuck.

Where did this idea of using teachers for oddball supervisory come from? I actually tried googling to see where the tradition began. No luck so far.

But remember this, the next time your kids go to a dance. Somewhere on the outskirts of that melee of writhing adolescent just-short-of-bacchanalia, a teacher or two is suffering.


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