“Iʼm a substitute for another guy” (or gal in this case)

Corny, but available

Itʼs easy to sub on a short day of school, as I did on Friday for my first paid work since leaving the Census (which ironically reared its presence in my life both Thursday and Friday). Itʼs hard to go home when itʼs hot, even early, as I did on Friday as well. Probably the best part of the substitute teaching I did was getting an air-conditioned room for the hours between 8:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. I would not have had that experience at home. And the teaching went pretty well, too. The kids were fine — with a minor exception toward the end of the day, but I canʼt expect every seventh grader not to behave like a spoiled seven-year-old with intellectual-developmental challenges. Can I? And the kid did complete the work they had — how well is an entirely different question, as is how much s/he kept other students from completing their work further/better. (I probably should have been more aggressive against the kid, but instead s/he has likely earned rural-retard immortality among the minor characters in “Mantorville,” since I found the childʼs name to be almost irresistible for some insignificant villain among the delusional and wicked in Quetzal County.)

It was actually a shock to receive a call to become a substitute teacher for the second day of school (although apparently they needed one for the very first day as well). I guess from having to avoid such work last year until November, I wasnʼt expecting to get my chance so soon (and I took the opportunity to post my schedule of conflicts, for at least the next couple of weeks, in the overly optimistic sense that another call could be forthcoming at any time).

So far in my limited experience as a sub, I have only repeated in science and art. Otherwise, I have taught social studies, third grade, and now business courses. I believe the business was the easiest experience to date. All the fulltime teachers I have briefly replaced had good lesson plans to follow (that usually filled the available time, ever an important issue for a sub: keep those kids busy while Iʼm here!) and pretty well behaved students. I found art to be pretty pleasant, too, and I would guess for the same reason as I did Friday — small classes.

Probably the most taxing work is with elementary kids, who demand and need constant attention. Furthermore, just dealing with them is novel for me. When I got to work with third grade once last spring, not only was everyone of adult age amused (even the high school students), but I had no idea how to handle the most basic daily activities (lunch orders, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, recess dismissal, supervising lunch — about which I have already written). Even in art, supervising the kindergartners was pretty intense (but I think successful). Fortunately at both my levels of teaching with little kids, they themselves kept me to their idea of the straight and narrow, by pointing out what I did wrong — such as not dismissing the class in groups, by, say, rows, instead of as an unruly mass.

I had always felt while actually teaching that I was not cut out for middle school/junior high. My exposure to that age group as a sub has reinforced my preliminary judgment. Theyʼre just too wild and childish for me to instruct validly. Notice it was the seventh graders, still in just their second day “upstairs” as we say in Andrew, and therefore one would presume still terrified and uncertain, who gave me the most issues. (I still havenʼt decided if sustained repetition of “Hershey-squirts” — think about it if the term is new to you, as it was to me, and remember that youʼre maybe thirteen and showing off — is worth sending a constantly giggling/talking whippersnapper to the office. Probably. But it isnʼt my style.) Fortunately, working at Andrew as a sub I can only face middle schoolers for some (possibly most) of a day. Third graders were far better.

Periods on Friday were only a half-hour in length, so the stress level was pretty low. And I got to write, just as I had last school year. Working on Søren and Judah almost side-by-side through what should/may be the climax to “Mistakes by Moonlight,” I scrawled down about a thousand words (five pages more or less, as well as the first two sentences for this post), and thatʼs more than I have done sweltering in the office in the muggy sultriness of these dog days 2010. (I really do miss last summerʼs temperate aridity, no matter how much neighbors, not the ones on our block, and newscasters whined and complained about the coolness a year ago.)

All in all, I felt that my short day of substitute teaching was a better heat-avoidance technique (thanks to my actual teacherʼs air-conditioned room) than a trip to the mall or somewhere equally commercial.

So the start of the school year did mean something important to me. Of course, now I do have to be ready for that phone call at 6:30 (or 7:00) in the morning, just as I have returned from the daily “run”/not-even-a-jog, giving me the opportunity (proper word choice there?) to work that day instead of idling at home as I would otherwise have done.

Oh. For the youthfully illiterate (in rock lyrics), we can thank The Who (meaning Pete Townshend), for the title. Gotta love the greatest rock band of them all: “The song is over / It’s all behind me…” “Rock is dead, they say.”

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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