Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sorry About That

My tripped out bike.

“They call me the apologist

And now that I'm at peak

You know at first it really hurt

We joke about these things

I've skirted all my differences

But now I'm facing up

I wanted to apologize for

Everything I was. So

I'm sorry, so sorry”*

When I began subbing last spring, I had few jobs until the end of May. For two months, I worked on an average of two days a week. And I didn’t get a gig at the high school until June. The whole point of switching my job was to get known in the district and show that I could teach upper grades. I failed on both counts.

So my winter depression because I had to leave my job led to despair I liken to being on suicide watch.

I wrote through it and the powerful emotions I had made its way into the Aura manuscripts. But the guilt I felt for writing when I was supposed to be “working” tore at me so I felt like less than a person.

Now, I’d give anything to be back in that place.

Okay, not the near-suicidal feelings, but the time to write. Last week, I worked all five days at five different jobs. Friday, I became a high school Math teacher. Those of you who have followed me for more than a month are now cringing, fearing for those poor students’ education. I assure you, it went better than the last couple of times.

I arrived at the office. As I signed in, the SPANISH teacher I’d subbed for on Wednesday came waltzing in. And it’s not a metaphor – the man was buoyant. Clearly the epitome of rest and health, he gave some story about having bronchitis and a virus. Which one, dude? Everyone knows that bronchitis is a bacterial infection. Then he waxed poetic about his trip to Central America and promised the secretary he’d bring in pictures. I did my best not to glower as he fingered his useless sub folder in his mailbox.

Then the secretary turned her attention to me. She handed me the schedule and attendance, and then informed me that the Math teacher was in his classroom. After a week of fractured plans, this was a hopeful development.

He was in his room, as promised. The teacher explained that his son had a fever, so his wife was home while he taught A.P. Calculus (he hated to have them get behind so close to MCAS). He told me to come back for homeroom and he’d discuss the day, but I’d be proctoring a test for blocks three and four. I could live with that.

The only speck came when the teacher told me, “Don’t hesitate to press the safety button if any students gives you any trouble.” Was this a likely scenario?

My “work” during that time was to bring papers to the photocopy room to be copied and pick up the copied papers. They have their own photocopy room? He told me where to go. It was a big room with large machines and lots of shelves, run by a woman and a young man with Down syndrome. I found out that he’d just graded last year. The copies were ready, and the man quickly took care of the new order.

Then I had a nice chunk of time off. Of course, I went to Starbucks across the street. When I stepped outside, I heard those pipes they used to play during Revolutionary War times in front of the library. Think Boston and Cambridge are obsessed much?

Because I had off second period, I decided to ride my bike home and try to get something done in my crumpling house. Laundry piled. Dust accumulated. Clutter abounded.

Third period was fine. One student introduced himself as LeBron James and I laughed and shook his hand. During the test someone made birdlike noises that magically ceased when I sat next to LeBron.

During the test, next door was awfully loud. I tried to ignore it, but when a student said, "Can you tell them to keep it down?" I had to interfere. I opened the adjoining door a crack. The classroom was chaos. While the teacher helped a student at the white board, the rest of the class was rambunctious and unfocused. I called him, but my voice drowned in noise. When one girl saw me, she called the teacher twice. He couldn't hear her. She got up and tugged on his sleeve, pointing to me. "I'm sorry, but the students are taking a test next door." He nodded.

I heard the teacher tell the students to quiet down because of the test. It lasted all of thirty-seconds. After that, I'd hear periodic threats to send misbehaving students to the office. My students chuckled at these outbursts, but kept working.

At lunchtime, I passed the Spanish teacher in the hallway.

“I subbed your class the other day,” I blurted.

He stopped. “Which day did you sub?”


He nodded. “I’m sorry about that.”

“They said they finished their packets, so they watched a DVD.”

“Not all of them did the packet. I checked.”

I shrugged. “Sorry about that. I took their word for it since they'd already handed them in to another sub.”

Fourth period was even easier. (No birds.) For both classes, I stayed extra for students who needed more time for the tests. It was the least I could do since I’d had off first period.

When the day ended, I was dead tired. Even though these two periods hadn’t been taxing, it had been a long week. And I knew the weekend would be filled with cleaning, laundering, and ironing to get back on track. I’d just have to hope for a little downtime next week. And some much needed writing time.

“Did you understand me right?

The people here are good

They tell me what I should have done

And offer what I could

I'm good, all is good

All's well, no complaints

When I fell regret,

I get down on my knees and pray

I'm sorry (so sorry), so sorry (so sorry)”

- *Buck, Mills, Stipe. Song “The Apologist” REM


  1. Aww, I hope for both downtime and writing time for you in the coming week. You work hard! The Lebron James thing made me laugh, though. And the bird noises.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  2. I'm glad you're feeling better about how things are going, but I understand wanting that emotional intensity back too.

    I really enjoy reading about your substitute teacher work. It's interesting and always makes me smile. I know I couldn't do it. I'd strangle some of those kids. ;-)

  3. I love visiting your blog and reading about your adventures in subsituting!! They're always so great.

    Good luck writing this week!! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  4. Shelley, there's often a clown. As soon as I figure out who it is, I spend a lot of time near him to keep things calm.

    Mary, ha strangling! More often than not, the kids make me laugh. It's the circumstances that bother me more.

    Jen, I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. You enjoy the rest of your weekend too.

  5. Maybe this week will bring you at least one day off.

    Or at least five days of adequate plans.

    You can't have both!

    Seriously, though, I hope this week goes well for you. :)

  6. I know that struggle. When I was supplying, I'd often pray for the telephone NOT to ring so I wouldn't have to work. But when it didn't ring I'd stress about not working! It's so hard to find a balance.

    Hope you're enjoying some down-time now.

  7. Theresa - you have an amazing ability to always find the perfect quotes for your blog! I've actually written a bunch of them down to read on days I need them.

    I hope that you have an easier week and more time to write:)

  8. I'm thinking that maybe having a really busy week like this one is easier to take knowing that in the next few weeks, you might have a slower week? Hope you get some weekend writing in!

  9. I can't believe those kids lied about not finishing their packets!

    It must be weird to see the teachers after they call in sick. They should be bowing down to you in thanks!

    Anyways, I hope you get some writing time in. :) I just finished the edits and LOVED what you wrote!

  10. Aww, hope that you find time and solace in writing!!!

  11. Tiffany, I want BOTH. I hope you have a better week too.

    Talli, that's exactly what I went through last spring. I had a love-hate relationship with my phone.

    Kathleen, thanks. You'll have to thank REM for this quote.

  12. Joanne, I'd love a slower week. There's so much going on from now until the end of school that I seem to be falling farther behind.

    Aubrie, I can believe they lied. I asked them to show me the packets, but they said that they handed them in to the other sub already.

    Saumya, thanks for the comment. I want to find some time and solace and writing too. It makes me so much happier when I have a day off. Without it, I'm incomplete.

    Brigid, thank you. I'm glad the week is over. It's much easier to have the same job for five days than five different jobs for five days.

  13. When you sub, it must be nice to take your bike and go home for awhile. Do regular teachers do the same at the schools that you sub in? That is a new to me.
    Hope you are enjoying your day.

  14. Oh Theresa Milstein!!

    I have everything crossed that you do get some much needed downtime for writing. I can't even begin to compare with your hectic schedule but I do, I really do understand when all you want to do is give your passion the time you think and know it deserves but can't because of external and necessary circumstances that need dealing with.

    So I really really really have my fingers crossed that next week will be less fraught! But I think it's great that you're eager and biting at the bit to get on with your writing! That's a really positive sign!

    Good luck again!!!

    I mentally smacked that teacher who came waltzing in from his hols with a virus AND a bacterial infection story. Silly man.


    Take care

  15. Choices, technically I'm not supposed to go home, but when the block is 1:20, it's a lot of time to just hang out. Besides, I need to drop off my bike and bring my car for the end of the day if I'm going to pick up my kids from school instead of having them take the bus. Most of the time I stay at the school.

    Old Kitty, I hope I get my four hours of writing time in too. I know that almost everyone else has a job and they have to squeeze in their writing. I'm not alone.

    Yes, that Spanish teacher's excuse was as flimsy as his sub plans.

  16. Hi Theresa. Great blog! I'm reading this on a day when I'm applying for a job at a secondary school (I'm English.) Not as a teacher, a learning support leader. Like one down from a stuff for me as I've been a builder all my life haha!!

    Thanks for visiting my blog, by the way :)


  17. Emailman, thanks. Good luck with your job application. I wish you luck in your career change.

  18. Whew - what a day. I'm glad you're getting regular jobs, even if it interferes with writing time. Much better than suicide watch!

  19. I love your bike! :o)))))

  20. Susan, it's good to work, and now that it's close to summer, I'm reminding myself that I'll have a bunch of weeks off soon.

    Niki, thanks! I love it too.

  21. Isn't it great when the teacher is there? Those are always the days when I actually have a question about the lesson plans.

  22. Chris, I love being able to ask questions too. Teachers often forget little things like bathroom rules (if they care) and whether or not to hand in homework.

  23. Its nice to know you survive all that chaos on a daily basis. I can't believe those kids lied. Only if you could go back in time! :)
    Hope you get some time writing. I liked your bike. Its cute.

    Have a good day!

  24. Mr. Stupid, the other sub collected the papers, so she should've checked whether or not they were completed. I don't even know where the packets were placed. Trust me, I don't want to go back in time to that day!


  25. wow theresa, i don't know how you do it. subbing is tough work, but i applaud you for stepping in and doing it. kids are confused, disruptive, and undisciplined half the time, but they need people like you if they're ever going to mature. we all need a teacher, don't we?

    hang in there love!

    and in any case, at least you have a super awesome bike!! *SO JEALOUS!*



  26. Sounds crazy! I am going to tell my kids to be nice to their subs. Hope you get your writing time.

  27. ooo...I want a safety button for my life!!!

    They need to make a show like "The Office" but all about substitute teachers. That Spanish teacher sounds like a champ.

    soo funny.

  28. Tahereh, as a teacher, I firmly believe we all need teachers. Everyone can use a mentor.

    The bicycle was an awesome gift from last year. I love it!

    Angie, I did get in some writing time today.

    MBW aka Olleymae, that's an interesting idea! I wonder if only subs would want to watch it.

  29. I am behind on all that house stuff too. I hope you had a good and productive weekend and have time to write this week. Have a great Monday!

  30. Ann, thank you. You have a great Monday too!

  31. LOL! I know how much you hate math teaching...

    but hopefully this week you can catch up on the house? Last week while I was away from my blog, I think my house was cleaner than it has been since the new baby was born!

    Have a great week, friend!

  32. Jackee, we made a dent in the house this weekend and I got a little more done today. Computer time does suck up a lot of housework time. I'd rather be on the computer!

  33. I have to say I love the retro bike!

  34. Thanks, Paul C. If you click on it, I think you can see the flowery details.