Thursday, April 8, 2010

Assorted Angles

There's no greeting or signing - it's the entire letter.

"Buck up little camper, we'll beat the slope together."

- Charles De Mar to Lane Myer in film “Better Off Dead” (One of my favorite movies.)

For the first time in awhile, I received a call the night before the sub job. It meant I could sleep for another thirty-minutes, which is a gift. I’d be reporting to a failing school, which was trying to improve test scores (It’s all about the test) by implementing an eight-hour day. But I’d only be working a normal school day for PE.

I forgot that from April to December we have street cleaning. On my computer, I have a map to show me which neighborhoods are affected on certain days, so I don’t drive around for many-minutes looking for a spot. Of course, it was street cleaning in the school’s neighborhood. Just to make it interesting, one street was closed for repaving (meaning, less spots) and, even better, the “good side” had less spots because there’s no parking in front of the school.

Driving for over ten-minutes, I tried not to become overwrought since I’d arrived at the school fifteen minutes before my reporting time. Finally finding a spot three blocks away, I hoped that later I wouldn’t get lost finding my way back to the car (A strong possibility). Reaching the school just in time, I reported to both offices because this building also houses the bilingual school. Remember that post*? (No, I did NOT have that kindergarten class for PE.)

Nothing is ever easy. I signed in at the Spanish school, went upstairs and signed in at the main school. They gave me the schedule for the absent teacher, but it was the wrong teacher for the other gym. Then I went back downstairs while a copy of the correct teacher’s schedule was made, except the copier ran out of toner. I eyed the clock with dread. Sensing my concern, the secretary said, “He doesn’t have a class first period.” Then the equipment closet was locked and the janitor INSISTED that he didn’t have the KEY.

The secretary was certain that there was a key, so the janitor tried many, many keys on his basketball-sized ring. Lo and behold, one of them worked. As you can see above, plans were adequate, but not ideal. When are they allowed to use the bathroom? Drink water? Did he forget to mention that the kids use mats during warm up? How about dismissal for the last class? My favorite part of the plans came at the end:

If you are comfortable with something different Do it. Good luck (Foreboding?)

As you can tell, my attitude is poor. I can feel it. This is the second job in one week when I just want to turn around and go home. Although subbing has never been my favorite job, I’ve rarely felt this… done.

I want stability. This job has no stability.

I want control. This job has no control.

I want familiarity. This job is the opposite of familiarity.

I want camaraderie. This job provides little camaraderie.

But I know it could be worse, so I need to buck up. Instead of dwelling on the negative aspects that I’ve reiterated too many times, I’m going to focus on the perks:

Bad group? They’re only mine for the day or the period (Or the next time I’m called there)

Days off = writing time (And I don’t even feel guilty anymore)

There’s no work to take home (BIG perk)

When I tell people I’m a substitute teacher, they’re impressed (I made that up)

I have flexibility to take days off (Without pay, but still)

I’ve taught nearly every student in the district and many know where I live (Okay, that’s just scary)

It gives me something to blog about (When I’m no longer a sub, what will I write about?)

The first-graders came, and about ten minutes into class, my jaded heart brightened because (when they’re not horrid) little kids are cute. Even their clinging to routines is cute. “But we always…” And don’t say run – it’s jog.

One girl kept coming over to me to tell me trivia and halfway through class, she gave me a hug, while one boy cried over everything – and I mean everything. “Buck up little camper,” I said.

The biggest issue is that even though every kid had the same yellow ball, with the same black writing, and the same amount of air, I got a lot of, “S/he took my ball!” My new rule for the rest of the day was, before anyone got a ball, they had to repeat after me:

All of the balls are the same.

I will not fight over the balls.

Or I will take a break.

Junior-K was the next group, and it was time to use the balls, this is what I heard for twenty-minutes:

“Ms. M, look at me.”

“I can bounce the ball with my head.”

“Look at what I can do.”

“Can you do this?”

Before one class, a first-grade girl warned me about a particular student. “He’s special. Sometimes he’s difficult, so you have to keep an eye on him.” I thanked her for the warning.

Some students improvised, sticking the ball under their shirts. I would’ve feared for future teen pregnancies if the boys hadn’t been doing it too.

The only downside of the day is that I had to do everything SIX TIMES. The ball demonstration and rules were repeated six times. I stretched six times, so by the end my nose nearly reached the dirty gym floor during the sitting straddle (Really, my nose was still a yard away). I did 600 crunches - watch out, Britney!

For each job, I anticipate slipping and sliding up a steep slope. Some jobs are more like sliding down a slope (I shouldn’t use a skiing analogy because I’m a terrible skier). Beginnings are never easy.

Why am I so sore?

Update: Then I left school and got a call from my son, who missed the bus, but my daughter took the bus, so they would be two places at once, so I called a friend to see if her kids were taking the bus, but they were in after school, so I called my husband, who said he’d get my daughter, and I raced to pick up my son, who stayed in his classroom on the third floor instead of waiting in the office; and when we got home, my husband and daughter were there, but my daughter was frazzled because the bus waited at the stop for two-minutes before my husband arrived, and then my husband left for work, so I talked to the kids, who cried because for awhile there, we had all been scared, and then I filled the dishwasher, and we piled in the car to stop at the recycling center to drop off compost, and now we’re all at Taekwondo.

* My adventures in a bilingual Kindergarten classroom:


  1. Theresa, I feel your pain. It's hard to get up and go on when it feels like your job is sucking the life out of you. I've been on break this week and I dread going back. And I honestly at this point know what's worse, being the regular teacher or being the sub. Both of us are getting killed.

  2. What a day! Hang in there - things will get better. And little kids are pretty darn cute, aren't they? The older my kids get, the cuter I think little kids are (I guess I'm forgetting how hard they can be to take care of!)

  3. oooh your poor tummy muscles. ow!

  4. Sarahjayne, I agree. This is the point in the year when all teachers want the year to end! Enjoy the rest of your break.

    Susan, they younger they are, the more eager they are to bond with their teachers - even just for the day. But if I have a nice high school class, I think they're sweet too.

    Niki, tomorrow they'll be worse, I'm sure!

  5. Woo boy. Another gym day. Hope you get some time to relax.

    I completely understand about the ups and downs of subbing. There are some days where I've thought about getting a more regular, predictable job. (But I just finished working retail from October to December while the new school system processed my paperwork, and I hated it. Retail and me don't go together.)

    Anyway, I think whatever you choose to do will be good for you. You know yourself best. And don't worry about not having anything to blog about if you're not working. There's always writing, or a new job, or just life in general. We'll still be here to read every word. :)

  6. I feel for you! Subbing can be very difficult. Somedays are good and somedays are unbearable. But, as you said it has some positive and it does.
    Take care and hang in there.

  7. With the bad stuff, I'd say STOP and just write! But you must love it if you blog about it. I don't wanna rag on something you love!

  8. 30 minutes more to sleep in! That is a big chunk! But that letter? The last line is so wierd.

    Days off for writing are the best :)

  9. Shelley, I was off yesterday, so I got a good chunk of writing time.

    I hear you about retail - I'd rather sub.

    Thanks for reading every word!

    Choices, we subs (and former subs) understand how erratic the job can be.

    M. Gray, my mother-in-law said something similar. I tried to explain that the good writing came from the insanity of it. I'm squeezing in fiction writing on my off days.

  10. You survived another day with flying colours and possibly tighter abs. Even the scary bit passed. Well done.

  11. Aubrie, I think he was trying to let me change up the plans, it if it made my life easier, but I could've done without, "Good luck". At least he didn't add, "You'll need it."

    Ann, my abs feel worse than when I wrote this post! I also started my morning with "The 100". What was I thinking?!

  12. Theresa,

    I would strongly encourage you to make an appointment with your county office. Take a collection of your "lesson plans" from different teachers. Then, tell them why you will be a great asset to the system. There is bound to be some sort of opening this summer. I would go in and visit with every one of the principals you have subbed for and tell them why they need to consider you for a job. Go in there and sell yourself. You have a lot to offer!!!

  13. I sadly admit now that I flunked gym in high school. A couple of times. Dumb, I know, but we did a lot of running, which I tried to avoid at all costs. To this day, my kids tease me about gym. Teaching said class would give me hives. Sorry you're having a tough time, but I admire you so much. You're my hero.

  14. Man, you are brave! PE in elementary school can kill a person. Trust me, I know. :)

  15. Hey Britney!! You know Kate Winslet always claims that her recent weight loss and toned up figure isn't due to going to the gym but due to running after and keeping up with her kids!



    I can't believe that mangy scrawl are the plans left for you by the teacher. Dear oh dear.

    And those locked doors again!! And most unhelpful janitor - of course he's got the keys, he's the janitor!

    I do like your lists of the positives and negatives. I think they're a great help to clarifying more and more what you want and hopefully help you formulate A PLAN. :-) It's so easier said than done but at least you're not resigned or given up!!!!

    At least the kiddies were quite fun this time!

    I'm so glad you and your kids got together eventually though - what trauma!!! Taekwando is good, it's very very good!

    Big hugs all round

    Take care

  16. What a day Theresa, they come along some times to test us all, you still stay so positive, very impressive.

  17. VKT, it's tempting to, but I don't want to call out other teachers in the system. I'll walk over some resumes and will speak with principals this spring. Bad plans and no plans are par for the course. We subs are supposed to fix this on the fly.

    Roxy - you're so funny. I had an incomplete for one semester in my senior year, so I had to attend early morning gym before graduation. That's where I met my husband.

    Elana, sometimes running little kids is a nightmare and sometimes they're fine. You're right - the nightmare days drain the life out of me.

  18. Old Kitty - I'm laughing. Kate Winslet is a better woman than me. I hate to run!

    As far as a locked door, I EXPECT it. But when it's a padlock, it's a little trickier. Some schools don't have a key to those - only the gym teachers do. ????

    It was funny because I'd written the rough draft of this post at the school, during breaks. And then all that mess happened with my kids. Ups and downs - that's life!

    I'm working on more planning - less hiding.

    Brigid, it's Friday, so I'm feeling positive. Then one more week until spring break (but no pay).

  19. I understand what you mean. Subbing has its good days and bad days. I think one week, I just declined every call that came through because I was at the point you're at: done. The flexibility is great and it IS money. But when you long for your own room, it can be like hanging food in front of a starving person; torture. Not long til break for you--you can energize yourself. You deserve it!

    I'd say you could be the next gym teacher--you sub it so much!

  20. This is one of the posts that I always think should be a magazine article. I could feel the emotion and anxiety and then the relief. When you write about everyday I always want to know what happens next.

  21. What a day! A least it's over, you have a firm tummy and you can chill with your family.

  22. Tiffany, I'm doubling over with laughter as I'm reading this. Become a full-time gym teacher? You just inspired the next post.

    I wish I had the flexibility to turn down jobs. If I'm on the list and they call, if I turn down more than four jobs during the year, I'm fired.

    Sheila, thanks for saying these are magazine-worthy. I have to look into doing this. Where to start?

    Talli, my stomach muscles are taut underneath my soft belly skin.