Tuesday, March 2, 2010


“And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon

Little boy blue and the man in the moon”

- Song “Cats in the Cradle” Harry Chapin

Last night at 5:30pm, I received a call to sub a Pre-Kindergarten class. Although Pre-K jobs are usually exhausting, I wasn’t too worried because I’d be working with another teacher and I knew the kids because I’d recently subbed them in gym* (two days last week) and Music**.

I almost called and turned down the job since part of our roof blew off in the storm last Thursday night. The last few days were spent talking to the other two condo owners (who don’t live here) and making appointments with an insurance adjuster and contractor to assess and fix the damage. Both were supposed to come today, so I felt bad to work. Since the third-floor tenant was going to stay home, I decided to sub.

Truthfully, if I didn’t sub today, I don’t know what I would’ve done with myself. I’m mentally in a bad place now, so doing any productive writing or editing is out of the question. And I needed to feel useful. (This is all for another post.)

When I arrived at work and gave the secretary my name and whom I was subbing for, she said, “We already got a sub for ---.” I was told that she was supposed to have jury duty, but she’d been dismissed, so she was coming after all. Now I could join the substitute teacher who was filling in for the assistant, but they’d have to figure out what to do with two subs when only one would be needed. Fabulous.

I met the other sub, and it turned out that she'd been in there the previous day, so I knew that I’d be the one to be moved. After all, it would make sense for the students to have consistency. We ran the class choice time and morning meeting. During meeting, the other sub and I were assaulted with constant corrections over what we did out of order. Several boys needed a constant reminding about how to behave:

“Don’t call out.”

“Don’t kick your friend.”

“Don’t cut in line.”

“Don’t squeeze his hand too hard.”

The teacher still hadn’t arrived, so we took the wee ones out for recess. While there, a boy bumped his head, so I took him to the nurse. It was funny watching her try to go through the routine to make sure he didn’t have a concussion, but he was shy and little, so he had a hard time answering her questions (What’s your last name?) and following her directions (Walk in a straight line).

After the teacher arrived, I went to the office to determine my fate. I was assigned secretarial work: filing and photocopying, and then answering phones and buzzing in visitors while the secretary took a break. Afterwards, I was assigned to fill in for a six-hour aide who was absent in a first/second-grade class.

I entered the classroom just as the teacher read a book called, There’s No Place Like Space, which is part of this whole nonfiction set of Dr. Seuss-type books narrated by The Cat in the Hat (Would the Dr. approve of this?). Because it is also Dr. Seuss’s birthday, the teacher wore her own Cat in the Hat hat, which the students found hysterical. One student asked, “Can we change your name to Catina?” (They go by first names at this school.)

After the book, reading workshop stations began, and I had assists kids who were creating an alphabet book about space. This entailed helping them choose a letter and word to write about, checking spelling and what they wrote about, guiding them with their illustrations, and making sure all the directions were followed for the “book”. Sounds easy, right? Let me tell you, it’s challenging to keep track of five students doing this at once. There wound up being A LOT of erasing and rewriting.

When I asked a boy which letter he wanted to choose, he replied, “P for poopie.” Lovely.

“You have to pick a space word,” I said.

He chose, “Planet.”

Then it was time for my lunch break. By 11:15, I already felt like I’d had a full day. You’ll be happy to know that I didn’t steal/borrow any books and paid for my coffee, except that there were no cups left so no coffee, and I took back my change. Did this mean I had to bring my own travel mug? At that point, I was feeling sorry for myself. I could make it two-and-half more hours without coffee, right?

When I returned, the students were working on posters about planets. They had a sheet of facts they’d researched and had to take turns adding a sentence on the poster to tell about their planet. I was given a group of five unfocused boys and two posters.

Then it was time for math. I was in charge of helping students find addition combinations that equaled twelve. The teacher gave me the most challenging group (thanks), so I spent A LOT of time trying to keep the students focused AGAIN.

Lastly, library. The librarian read two Dr. Seuss books while we watched the students for signs of distraction. Did I mention that they were allowed to bring stuffed animals this particular day? The result was a lot of nagging for students to refrain from playing with the animals they were holding. Yes, you read that right. Whatever subject they were learning that day, they had their fuzzy animals by their sides or on their laps or over their heads or interacting with their friends’ fluffy creatures. Some were Beanie Baby size, while a couple of ‘em were half the size of the students. When children were reprimanded for getting distracted more than twice, the animals had to go to a “take a break” chair, which I think was unjust punishment for the poor stuffed things.

The day finally ended. The hardest part of the class had been when I watched the teacher read, and I could feel my eyes tempted to close because of caffeine-deprivation. I helped clean up, said my goodbyes, and drove straight to Starbucks for a tall, toffee nut, nonfat latte.

“But it’s bad for my hat

and makes my eyebrows

get red hot.


reading with my eyes shut

I don’t do an awful lot.”

- Cat in the Hat in, I Can Read with My Eyes Shut! By Dr. Seuss

*Last week’s gym posts:




** Previous Music post:



  1. Awww Theresa Milstein

    I am so sorry about your roof! Oh dear!!! It must be so so so awful and worrying and then there's also all the paperwork involved! And I'm also sorry to hear that you're in a bad place at the moment. I hope that you do write/blog about all this because that really helps - or just going into third person mode and reading what happened/is happening back to yourself - that always brings clarity and a more focused response to things. Well I find anyway! And you mustn't keep things in!! Vent away! Let rip. I'm all for that too.


    And you got to play secretary today too. And thank goodness for Dr Seuss - about the only sane thing in the library of kids with their stuffed toys? Whose idea was that and how does that help the kids, let alone the stuffed toys?


    You deserve your tall latte with toffee nut coffee thing!!! and then some. Oh yes.

    take care and I hope the roof gets sorted soon. GOOD LUCK!!!

  2. I'm sorry to hear about your home! That's awful. I hope you all can get it worked out soon.

    Enjoy that coffee, hun! You deserve it.

  3. I'm sorry about your roof, and that you're in a bad place right now. I hope things look up soon! Toffee nut nonfat latte...yum!

  4. Old Kitty, thanks for sweet comments. I like your suggestion to write about it. I was going to write this God-awful maudlin post, but I decided to skip a day. Besides, it seems that EVERYONE wrote a post yesterday. Must be something about 03/01.

    As far as the stuffed animals, the teacher didn't want to participate in school-wide pajama day, so she did this instead. How this was better and pj's were worse, I have no idea. I've taught kids in pajamas and Halloween costumes, which has gone smoother.

    Tiffany, the adjuster rescheduled for Saturday. At least I don't have to lose a potential day of work.

    Susan, thanks for the comment. If Starbucks is going to be out of Caramel Brulee Latte, Toffee Nut ain't half bad.

  5. Good lord, you poor thing!

    Hope all will be sorted asap :)

  6. Theresa, good luck with the roof. I'm sorry for the damage. What an exhausting day for you!

  7. Theresa,

    I feel like I am getting to know you a little through reading your blog every day. I am so sorry about your roof and that you are in a bad place. I wish I could give you a hug!!!

    Little ones do demand a lot of physical energy don't they!

  8. Thanks, Wendy. Hopefully homeowners insurance pulls through.

    Edie, thanks for the comment. The storm caused a lot of damage to quite a few homes, which is why the adjuster isn't coming until Saturday.

    VKT, you're so sweet. I'd take that hug! Yes, little ones do demand a lot, which is why I'm impressed with teachers like you.

  9. You poor thing! :) I hope you are in bed right now getting some well-deserved zzzzzs.

    (And happy Dr. Suess day to you.)

  10. Think about the many things you do and do them well. You're so busy and productive. You should be so proud of yourself.

  11. You are one strong, enterprising person, Theresa. What a day. I hope you can rest up before you go to work again. I love the way you write. I find your capable, talented mind inspiring. :)

  12. Jackee, when you wrote you comment I was sound asleep. Thanks.

    Sheila, thanks for the comment. I'm busy and productive, but I think I spent too much time by myself and let negative thoughts creep in.

    Roxy, thank you for the compliment. I'm sitting here, waiting to see if the phone will ring.

  13. I felt tired just reading this. Who came up with the stuffed animal day anyway? It must have been a shock when the kids became distracted for some reason.

  14. Paul, your suggestion that I teach at a community college is tempting sometimes. I don't know why stuffed animals were thought to be better than pajamas.