Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ups and Downs

“I wanna turn the whole thing upside down

I'll find the things they say just can't be found

I'll share this love I find with everyone

We'll sing and dance to Mother Nature's song”*

Remember my post where I vented on Tuesday? The downside was that it wound up being boring and I had no Internet. The upside is that it was easy and I worked on my manuscript.

The downside of that night, I received a call AFTER 8:00 pm for a job, not the next day, but the day after that. The substitute gatekeeper wanted to plan ahead since so many teachers would be out on Thursday. The upside was at that moment she had no job for me for Wednesday.

The upside was that Wednesday morning, I hadn't received a call by the time I went in the shower. By the time I got out, I was pretty confident I wasn’t working. The downside was at 7:30 am the phone RANG. Weep. I picked up with trepidation. No good could come of a job called in that late in the morning.

“I know you’re not down to teach self-contained, but I have a 5/6 job and there are no subs left from the office of Special Ed. Can you do it?”

Remember my Many Hats post about all the jobs I’ve had? I have a HUGE work ethic. It’s my father’s fault. I hate quitting jobs, so I usually stay well past the point I should and feel ENORMOUS guilt when I quit. Except for the clothing job, I’ve held each job for a LONG time. Turning down a job, even when I have the right to, is downright PAINFUL.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t because I’m not comfortable with the job.”

Pause. “That’s okay. Thank you.”


After hanging up, I said, "I feel bad for not taking the job."

My husband replied, "I don't know why you answered the phone."

I wrote and edited for over two hours. I blogged for an hour. I spent the next hour applying for two jobs. I ran errands. I cooked. I ate. I went to bed. All upside.

The only downside, which I forgot to mention, that night I received a call to report to the same school on Friday as I was on Thursday, but for a different teacher. If I hadn’t turned down the Wednesday job, it would’ve been another full week.

Thursday morning, I showed up for my Spanish job down the street. Once last spring, I’d subbed for this woman and I recalled her schedule being strange because she was part-time. I was correct. She only had two afternoon classes, so it was like I’d be picking a Wild Card for the morning. Definitely downside.

Before I found out my fate, I reported to the Friday 3rd/4th teacher. She told me she’d only be gone a half-day, Friday would be a fun and easy day, and that I’d be working with two interns. Definite upside.

Then I spoke with the assistant principal. She wanted me to work in the 1st/2nd grade class until Spanish and planned to try to switch my job on Friday so I could be in that class again tomorrow. Possible downside.

The 1st/2nd-grade teacher prepped me for the next class, in case I got switched. She had two interns, but today would be their last. So the students who were used to having three teachers would have one sub tomorrow. Downside.

The class could’ve been easier. Another downside. I noticed that one intern was on the ball in dealing with discipline, but the other threatened to tell the actual teacher as her bargaining chip with students. Not wise. It’s the educational equivalent of, “Wait until your father gets home.” She had a showdown with a girl who didn’t want to put back on her sneakers, and then put her jacket over her head. I decided to model:

“What’s your name? You don’t seem to be having a good afternoon. May I ask why you don’t want to wear your shoes?” After I received the answer, I leaned in. “Let me tell you a secret. I hate wearing shoes too. Guess what the first thing I do is when I get home? That’s right, I take off my shoes. But school is like work for kids. Grownups have to wear shoes when they’re at work. Do you know how to tie your shoes? I thought you did. Now let me just do it for you so you can quickly get back to reading. And let me move your jacket over here.”

She was good for the rest of class. Upside.

While in the classroom, my cell phone rang. It was my children’s school. Expecting to hear from the nurse, it wound up being the secretary. The Spanish teacher was going to be out for most of the rest of the year. They were offering me an Extended Term Sub position at a school I love. That was the only upside. The downside is that I don’t speak Spanish. This is the THIRD time this school year that I’ve been offered a Spanish ETS. Notice how nobody is throwing History jobs at me.

The two Spanish middle school groups were pretty good. (You forgot that I was there for middle school Spanish, didn’t you?). There was a little boy-girl-ridiculous-can-hardly-tell-unless-you-know-what-to-look-for-flirting. Few kids wanted to work very hard so I half-heartedly coaxed them to focus.

When I got home, I found my #12 First Kiss entry* on Miss Snark’s First Victim had mostly positive reviews: (upside). Aubrie, don’t check the link. By the way, the only reason I was able to enter the contest at noon was because I was sent home early from the second chance school (upside).

Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

“Who's to say

I can't do everything

Well I can try

And as I roll along I begin to find

Things aren't always just what they seem”

- Jack Johnson, Song “Upside Down”


  1. Your latest post: Upside! Your optimism and professionalism remain intact even after much battering!!

  2. My week has been dreadful -- way more downsides than up. Glad to hear your upsides are about balancing out your downs! Hope the week's end swings to the upside for both of us!


  3. I'm glad you are seeing the ups while treading through the downs. You schedule is always so crazy!

    I am surprised they have offered you a Spanish position that many times even though you're not certified in Spanish. Where I work, an interim has to be certified in that field to be there longer than 40 days.

    May a history position come soon!

    What about the other school makes you feel uncomfortable?

  4. Lots of ups and downs here! I know it can get dizzying, but at least there are ups! I'm glad things are relatively okay -- at least it's not all downs. Good luck with the rest of the week!

  5. You've got a pretty good balance going on here. Upside, downside. My family likes to rate things here, movies, food, events, you name it. I can see this upside, downside starting to play a role in our ratings.

  6. You handled that no-shoes-wearing first grader with such aplomb! I mean, seriously, go you - I'm definitely going to learn a lot from you. :) ~Charlotte

  7. This post made me smile! So cute! I love your blog.

  8. I'm exhausted reading about your week!!!! Nice job with the teeter/tottering, though..Not everyone has the energy you do to pull it off!

  9. Bossy Betty, I'm glad you think my post is an upside!

    Nicole, I hope whatever is happening in your inner circle improves. Yes, let's both have an upswing.

    Tiffany, I can't comment on the problem this school right now. Once I'm safely in another job I'll write a post about it.

    At least for this Spanish offer, it was contingent on me speaking Spanish. For ETS, they try to get someone with the proper certification or background, but sometimes just a BA will do.

    Shelley, today wasn't bad. One more day to go!

  10. Joanne, I like the idea of your family saying, "The upside of eating here would be..."

    Charlotte, I'm glad you found the story useful. For most kids, who act out like that, a little one-on-one discussion diffuses the situation. It seems like it takes longer, but it's so much better in the long run.

    KarenG, that's so sweet. Thanks!

    Michaele, I'm exhausted living my week. Should I feel guilty that I tire everyone else from my stories?

  11. I know the feeling when you don't accept a job and then you feel . quilty. That happens to me sometimes. You didn't exhaust me, I can totally relate.
    Good luck in finding a permanent job.
    Take care.

  12. I'm glad to hear that there were indeed some upsides to your week and not all downsides. I hate when that happens though, guilt can eat me alive, especially with an awesome work ethic, much like yourself it sounds!

  13. Maybe it's just us and our New England dad's, but turning down a job for me is painful as well! I have trouble saying no to anything, and take every opportunity to make extra money.

  14. I feel like I just stepped off the roller coaster! :)

    I don't understand why some subs hand over all of their authority like that - "I'll tell the teacher on you" never, ever works!!

  15. Choices, since I normally can't say no to jobs, I should've reveled in it. Thanks for the nice wishes.

    Jen, I spend way too much time feeling guilty. I need to get over it.

    Aubrie, the funny thing is my dad grew up in Queens, NY. Maybe that's why he moved to Maine when he retired!

    Jemi, I feel like I live a roller coaster, but I can't make the title of each blog "Roller Coaster". I used it up long ago!

    This was a student teacher on her last day and she was still deferring authority to the teacher. She's going to be in big trouble when she gets her own classroom.

  16. Have you tried talking to some of these Principals lately....about how great you are with kids, how dependable you are, how creative you are when his teachers don't leave lesson plans????? grrrrrrrr

  17. Excellent. I like the way you accept the often 'Upside Down' world and manage to keep the rhythm and harmony going.

  18. Theresa Milstein!

    Yay you got lots more editing in - yes why did you answer that phone?? :-)

    And great work with that child who didn't want to use her shoes. You see - you were BORN to teach and be a writer!!

    And none of this guilt. I mean feeling guilt shows you are a good and decent person but put that aside now and do other things that you like! :-)

    There were 2 more upsides than down and yes I counted the ones in both quotes - so there!! LOL!

    Why all these Spanish lessons? I remember at uni I thought it would be fun to study Spanish at a beginner's level just for a fun thing to do.

    Unfortunately it was the late 80's, students were pretty radical then (Thatcher was in power, apartheid was still around etc) and the class was spoiled by this student arguing with our teacher as to why she considered herself an American when she hailed from Mexico etc etc. It was all pretty hairy and that ended my lesson!

    I did learn how to say "Ola Que tal?" and "Mi yamo (?) Jennifer".


    I am now off to peruse Ms Snark!

    Well done you!
    Take care

  19. VKT, they don't care. I appreciate your outrage on my behalf.

    Christopher, very poetic. Thanks!

    Old Kitty, you counted? I didn't even count. Now I know where I stand, which sounds about right. I'd better not tally for every sub job day.

    I kick myself for not taking Spanish. Since I'm half Italian, I thought it would be nice to learn. Learning Gaelic wasn't an option. If I'd taken Spanish, I couldn't taken the necessary steps to know enough to teach it. As an assistant, I sat through an entire seventh-grade year of Spanish and there's enough similarity between Spanish and Italian that I can often decipher sentences. But that's where it ends.


  20. I was getting motion sickness! :) But at least you ended on an upside. That's life I guess - there are peaks and dips, and we just roll with it.

  21. Talli, you're right. Life is like subbing or subbing is like life. Something like that.

  22. I'm going to be thinking upside/downside to myself all day now. ;) Upside I hope there's a lot. DOwnside, I have to drag my self out to the four corners of the earth today.

  23. T. Anne, I almost put the "Upside Down" song by Diana Ross, so that's been in my head since yesterday!

    Good luck dragging yourself to the four corners of the Earth.

  24. I've had some of both, but my week has been mostly ups. I have an award for you today - hopefully that will add to your "up" list. :-)

  25. Shannon, glad you've had mostly ups. I'm on my way to your blog. Thanks!

  26. I wasn't sure after reading the post - did you take the extended sub Spanish position? That seems like it would be a huge upside - no waiting for the phone to ring or wondering what your schedule's going to be.

    And don't feel guilty for taking a day to write - that's work, too.

  27. Susan, I didn't take the job since I don't know much Spanish.

    I only felt guilty for saying no to the job. I'm finally at a point where I love to be home and write with hardly any guilt.

  28. I understand why you wouldn't want to take the Spanish job. But if it was me, I'd still jump on it. But where I'm subbing the teachers are still supposed to make lesson plans (not that they always do, but that's another story) and we get paid better.

  29. Chris, for the one where they offered knowing I didn't have the background, I was tempted. But it would be a disservice to the kids.