God Bless the Substitute Teacher
It's 5:35 am. The phone rings; without looking, you know who the caller is. It rings again, you pause, taking a nanosecond to assess your emotional state. It rings again, you answer.
The recorded voice on the other end begins as soon as you say, Hello,
"Hello, this is the subfinder system for the ______ school district. There is a job available. You will substitute for Betty Wellons. The job position is teacher, 2nd grade. The job is from 7:10am until 2:40pm on Wednesday Oct. 28. To accept the job please press 1, to decline the job please press 9, to hear the job again, please press 4."
Your thoughts race to scenes of the last 2nd grade class you subbed in; there were no lesson plans, no indications of how things are run in the class and no accommodating staff to assist you. You were on your own in the jungle of techno-kids.
You pause, not yet responding to the phone call, not pushing any buttons tossing between two mindsets. "Should I go today?" "I really need the money" "Do I have any other jobs this week?" "What do I do??!!" "O.K, O.K, I've got to make a decision. Pull it together. How awful could it be?" "Lord what do you think?" "Hmmmm....."
Your index finger hovers over the keypad on your phone. Screaming in you head is your own voice, "Press 1 to accept, press 9 to decline, 1 to accept, 9 to decline, 1 or 9, 1 OR 9, Oh God, please help me decide!"
It is all in the attitude...I think
From somewhere deep within comes bold courage.... your index finger decidedly depresses the number 1, you have accepted the job! That's it. The deal is sealed. The commitment has been made and.....there is no turning back!
You begin to adjust your attitude. You tell yourself that you can do this. You have done it many, many times before. It is true that you've had mixed results, but right now you are only going to focus on the good results and banish the bad results to the realm of "things I have experienced which will one day make me a better person."
You feel your courage rising and your confidence along with it. Yes, you can do this, and you will have a successful day!
Let's Get It Started in Here...
You are psyched up and ready to go. You fully intend to make a difference in the lives of 24 second grade students. You have had a free coffee and a danish, you are fresh and alert. You pull up to the school and everything seems normal. Your confidence balloons.
You walk into the attendance office full of vim and vigor and announce that you have come to sub for Mrs. Wellon's 2nd grade class. It may be your imagination, but the room suddenly seems to have grown more silent. A smile of welcome or a smirk of pity, (you can't tell which), crosses the face of the clerk who gladly hands you a map of the school and points you in the direction of Mrs. Wellon's classroom.
You take in your surroundings as you move through the building... things seem in order; perhaps this will be an easy day after-all.
8:05am......Reality sets in
Breakfast is over, the pledge has been said and the anthem has been sung. So far, so good. The lovely little smiling faces of these sweet little people has touched your heart, your defenses are lowering. All is well....
Then it happens. At about 8:35 the door opens and in come the twins, (aren't twins supposed to be in separate classrooms???). A charming little boy and a lovely little girl, Archibald and Hilda. They approach you with their tardy slips, slowly, deliberately. You smile as you reach for the slips, preparing to say good morning when Archibald boldly declares that he doesn't have to do what you say, because you are just a SUBSTITUTE!
Taken aback by this frontal attack, you sway, and, just before you can recover and process what was just said, little Hilda chimes in and says, "Ye-ah! We don't have to do what you say 'cause you're a SUBSTIPOOT!" You try to dodge the right jab of these words when she throws a left hook, "No, you're a STINKY-POOT! Down you go, dazed but alert enough to hear the squeals of laughter that are now flooding the classroom and spilling out into the hallway.
On Your Own...
So, now you know why the front office went silent when you announced who you were subbing for; now you understand that the clerk was pitying you and now, you instinctively recognize that there will be no administrative re-enforcements. No partner to tag, no help at all. This is a mixed martial arts cage fight, and the classroom is the cage!
The rest of the morning, as to be expected, becomes progressively more difficult. Archie lets the class hamster out of the cage. Hilda pours liquid soap into the fish tank. Paper airplanes fly around the class, crayons and poster paint wind up on the wall, the floor and you.
By lunch-time you have resorted to the role of a spectator whose team is down by 20 points. All seems lost. But, maybe not. You do have one secret weapon, recess! Who cares if recess is only scheduled for 20 minutes. Today is a special day... recess will last until 2:20pm!
As recess drags on, you dream of the day when substitute teachers will gain equal rights with full time teachers. That day when the sub can call home and have mom speak with the little demons that are their children.
You even consider starting a support group with a website and newsletter.(Why were those twins in the same class?) Maybe you could develop an alternative to substitute teaching... perhaps you could convince or even mandate that geneticists clone teachers when they are newly hired. We could robotize the clones... that just might work.
It's 2:41pm at last....
You walk out when the kids walk out. They tell you they like you and they hope you come again because they never get a long recess like the one they had today....
On the way to your car, you take personal inventory. Eyes, ears, hands, ... how many fingers, quick count! 1-2-3-4-..... OK, 5 on each hand, still there....Seems right. What about feet...still there, whew, all body parts are present and accounted for.
The only casualties are:
- the broken heel on your shoe,
- the blue finger paint in your hair and
- Mrs. Wellon's classroom.... you wanted to fix it, but your flight instinct was in high gear. You had to get away and get away quickly!
You are exhausted and you look the part. A most harrowing day!!! But, you made it.
See... your success was all about your attitude....and your ability to bob and weave.