In chess the endgame is supposed to be the quick back-and-forth of rapidly reasoned moves and countermoves each side desperately has calculated to persevere in combat piece by piece to the bitter end. Or else the game has been so well crafted by one of the opponents that the endgame becomes the inexorable closing of the potential victor’s pieces on the losing side until the weaker player ultimately yields, often many moves before the unavoidable checkmate.*
In my case, the “endgame” indicates the conclusion of my near-month of substitute teaching today, on March 28. Actually, the real teacher has returned to duty. However, Monday was also the All-State Festival to honor the 2011 Outstanding Speakers from the Iowa High School Speech Association’s state individual events contest (as I had noted back toward the beginning of my extended sub service, Andrew did quite well at state, perfectly as a matter of fact, and six of the fourteen entries earned All-State — a remarkable and perhaps unique percentage**). Naturally, the real coach went along to the all-day celebration, so my last day turned out to be today, as I have hurried home to note for semi-publication here.
During the month, in addition to classroom and evaluative duties, I had helped keep the speech team on focus and practicing over their last week before state, organized and supervised the local Speech Night of state performances, and directed rehearsals for the final Andrew play (Shoestring Theatre, with strange appropriateness). I also tried to help the senior, who has been supervising and producing the weekly radio program, get his staff to record. The regular classroom part wasn’t too challenging, as that is what subs are hired to do — keep class going on, as directed by the missing instructor’s plans, in the actual teacher’s absence. With the real English, speech and drama teacherʼs extended leave, I had to do a bit more, including actual grading of papers.
I hadn’t had to grade anything since retiring (except a couple of things here and there, like fourth grade spelling quizzes) and definitely not anything that would go directly into the official grade program for each child. However, after some initial hesitation, I did review and score perhaps a hundred different papers for various assignments, trying to get third quarter officially closed (we didn’t quite succeed at that, lacking all the assignments) and fourth quarter records begun. Whether the real teacher chooses to use my several assignments is, of course, her choice. But they’re accomplished and also recorded to keep or delete.
Speech practice went pretty well (although not all the performers elected to schedule a practice during that week), and my old friend Clayton Pederson from across the hall, who served as the official speech coach my final year teaching and who has driven to the contests and helped coach previously for decades, served as assistant coach and bus driver for the contest day.*** Several of the days that first full week were long (up to nearly fifteen hours on the day of Speech Night), but I survived, and the kids seemed to remain flourishing. After all, I had coached speech for three decades and more (even the final four years as a mere unpaid assistant).
Play rehearsals were more of a challenge, simply because I sought to block both acts to help out the real teacher (blocking can be a difficult issue for novice directors) and even thrust the actors toward memorizing their first act lines during my brief substitute tenure. But I fell back in the rhythm of the thing**** (including even 6:30 AM rehearsals and practice on days without school), and I hope the cast has made some strides toward full preparation for their April 29 performance.
The Andrew Comment effort was even simpler, as the student producer really had everything in line. The reporters procrastinated even more extensively than when I had the responsibility, but there was a broadcast all three weekends. It’s rather sad to think that the radio program is reaching its end along with the high school. I guess that both climaxes indicate a different sort of endgame with which I was, finally, pleased to be involved in the early moves thereof.
On the other hand, I start a whole new game, a novel challenge altogether, as I set out to undertake my new job in just a few weeks. I hope this underexercised and aging body can stand up to the effort of placing those many, many traps for emerald ash borers repeatedly this summer…
* Other alternatives do exist, as you can verify by reading the linked Wikipedia article.
** 42+%, as a matter of actually calculated fact. I bet even the big-city big school with 14 Outstanding Performers at All-State canʼt touch that percentage. Way to go, Hawks! Go, Coach Kocer!!
*** And the “speechers” certainly rose to the mark and beyond at state! (The Lovely One and I had several preceding obligations that weekend, some pleasant.)
**** And my experience directing is a good reminder of what’s ahead when Janet and I undertake a show for the Grand Opera House from August into October. That’s another new undertaking that lies ahead now that this little game as temporary teacher ends.