Friday, September 10, 2010

Promises and Splashes

“A lot of good arguments are spoiled by some fool who knows what he is talking about.”

- Miguel de Unamuno

I was spoiled.


I’d forgotten the exact feeling of being a daily sub. The new system is, by far, more civilized. Since the phone won’t ring until after 6:30 am, I can sleep in. Because the system is online, most times I’ll have my jobs the day before. I can be requested. The sub life is good.

As good as it gets.

Even though it won’t ring, I dream of phones ringing and sub calls. I take my shower, wondering if I’ll have to race out, naked and wet to answer the call. As I blow dry my hair, I glance at the phone, waiting for it to light up. After my shower, I take the phone into the kitchen to prepare my children’s breakfasts and lunch.

I miss summer.

The chances of me working this week were slim. School began Tuesday and Thursday we had off for Rosh Hashana. How many teachers can’t manage to work the first three days?

So I wait.

Last year, I’d promised myself I’d write about EVERY sub job. Near the end of the year, I skipped four jobs. To give you a glimpse back into my sub life, I've decided to share those four gigs:

In May, I worked at the Spanish school for first-grade. My experience in kindergarten had been less than stellar, so I took the job with trepidation. But I figured at least I’d be working with someone else. How bad could it be? Foreboding….

Before the students came in, the teacher asked about ME. And she asked what I wanted to be called. When the students came in, she introduced me to each one. When we sat at the rug, she gave me time to share. Sniff.

This teacher was GOOD. Those kids listened to her, wanted to please her, behaved for her. And I could see why. She didn’t yell or talk down to them. She had expectations that she repeated throughout the day. And she had hand signals to remind kids when they were doing the wrong thing, which limited interruptions. There was even a hand signal for children to use when they needed to use the bathroom to keep the teacher from having to stop what she was doing. Easy peasy.

A little later, the teacher mentioned she had afternoon interviews of prospective teachers, so I’d only have to handle snack and a read aloud with the students before clean up and dismissal. At lunchtime she received a call that she had to go to the first interview NOW, earlier than planned. I could see this job was going from easy to difficult.

In the end, the students were pretty good, but not the angels they were for her. Since my disposition isn’t all sunshine and lollipops, I’m really working my heart out when I work with little children.

One child was obsessed with astronauts. As a result, the teacher was doing an extensive space unit. My read aloud was a book about… you guessed it… space. The space-happy kid scooted extra close while I read and showed the pictures.

At one point he raised his hand. When I called on him, he said, “Astronauts are in space for 90 years.”

“It’s not 90 years, honey. If it were, you’d leave as a baby, you’d come back as an old man.”

“It’s 90 years,” he stated emphatically. “My parents told me.”

“Maybe you misheard them.”


I decided to be diplomatic. “Let’s agree to disagree.”

“Nope. 90 years.”

The afternoon dragged on from there.

Several days before school ended, I had a job in a third-grade classroom at the Inclusion School. That’s always a treat because the room normally has three teachers. It’s funny because I’ve worked in this room before, and one teacher ignores me. I mean like I’m not there. No hello, nod, or even eye contact. Rude.

But the class wound up doing morning work, then Math, and then spent the rest of the day watching Mary Poppins. I was actually able to take out my laptop. Dream job.

Two days before school ended, I subbed at the school that loves assemblies for gym again. But instead of subbing for the woman and working with my former coworker, I subbed for my coworker and worked with the woman. She spent the day urging me to become a gym teacher so I wouldn’t have to take work home. I politely smiled and nodded, but inside I was thinking:

Look at me. I am about as unsporty as you get. Is unsporty even a word? It should be. I did horribly in gym, so much so I had to take extra gym to graduated high school. Would I have to do fitness-type things to become certified? Gym in a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

I also taught a first-grade class and forgot it was a half day at my kids' school because of eighth-grade graduation and my children had to walk from the bus to the school to pick up the key and I was lucky I wound up working two blocks from home and I turned a hangman game into a lesson about respect while the class was late to be picked up. Exhale.

Now I’ve kept my promise, and written about EVERY SINGLE sub job from last year.



TALLI ROLAND will have her book The Hating Game available as an ebook on December 1st on AMAZON .

This is before the launch of the hardcopy in 2011. Here’s a quote from her post:

“Here's where you come in. It's amazing how few copies it takes to rocket your sales rank on Amazon. Wouldn't it be incredible if people bought copies of The Hating Game ebook -- all on Dec 1 --- and brought it up the charts? If for one brief moment in time (or maybe more), The Hating Game was an Amazon Kindle bestseller?”

Please join Talli’s BlogSplash!


  1. It's impressive how routine habits get ingrained, isn't it?
    But then I imagine that as habits go, loosing the phone fixation wont be too difficult or unpleasant. : j

    Glad to hear that it's gotten a bit more comfortable!

  2. Thank you so much, Theresa, for the shout-out! I'm all the way up to 150 bloggers thanks to you and everyone spreading the word!

    I hope you get work soon. I know how annoying is can be to sit around and wait for it... even if new systems are making things a bit more bearable.

  3. I love how you are wanting to write about every sub job - when I get to that point, I hope to do the same!

    Have you written any posts about advice for subs? I would love to read them, if you have!

  4. So funny about the gym teacher! I am the same way, as "unsporty" as it gets.

    Thanks for sharing your subs!

    Hope the kids are kind to you this year.

  5. That sounds promising, Theresa, with the new online system.
    Good on you keeping all your promises.

    -Since my disposition isn’t all sunshine and lollipops, I’m really working my heart out when I work with little children.-

    Loved that line and the 90 year old astronauts.

  6. 90 years, huh? WOw, there are going to be a lot of dead astronauts in space.


  7. 'Gym is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.' My sentiments exactly. Also space for 90 years? Now there's commitment for you! Great post, Theresa.

  8. Thanks for the update on Talli's book! I'm going to order it.

    Don't worry, teachers are bound to call in sick soon! MY husband always gets a cold in that first month.

  9. Can my husband request you as a sub or do you live too far away? (Probably too far, but I thought I'd ask)

  10. @ Alesa, losing the phone will not be too difficult! I did just fine this summer. Hearing the phone ringing in my sleep will also not missed.

    @ Talli, 150 - wow. By December, I bet you'll be a top seller.

    @ Oh, Snapp, I have written a few advice posts. I have a few book recommendations and one about how to dress. I'll skim through the archives and get back to you.

    @ Tere, every PE teacher in the district could toss me across the gym. I couldn't even do a pull up in 6th-grade. Sad.

    @ Brigid, the boy was so sure, it was hard not to laugh. I'm really not meant to teach kids so small, even though they're too cute. Mostly.

    @ Clarissa, do you know how hard it was to say, "Most people don't live until age 90,"? But I didn't want to scare the little boy.

    @ Roxy, I'd rather teach gym than spend 90 years in space. Although I'd weigh less in space, but so would everyone else with me so it would be a wash.

    @ Aubrie, I'm glad you're ordering Talli's book.

    How far are you from Cambridge? If you're in NH, I'm probably too far. The NH border is an hour from here.

  11. This new system sounds positive!! It seems to give you some control at least!! GOOD LUCK!!

    Yay - you kept your promise to write about every sub job!! Well done you. I'm now wistfully recalling your gym class experiences for this year since I started following your blog! LOL! Oh my goodness, doesn't time fly!

    I really hope that a job will turn up soon - take care

  12. The new system sounds great Theresa, much better than the old one. It is still a bit hit and miss, but I guess it has to be. We would call you a 'supply' teacher in Australia. I did it for a couple of days only until I got a contract, then a permanent job. I hated arriving at a strange school, finding my way around, all strangers, blah blah. One thing about it, the pay for a 'supply' is amazing, hope yours is too. I admire you for doing it on a long-term basis.

    Great shout out for Talli. I'm sure everyone in blogland will buy her book, myself included. Amazon will crash on Dec 1 - I'll be there first while you're all sleeping!

  13. I bow to your dedication. You've made me realize jus' how much the teachers' job is under-appreciated.

    In my opinion, there is no job more important than that of a teacher. However, I'm afraid that I have previously given less than the fair amount of thought to substitute teachers. Thanks for reminding me how vital the job of a substitute teacher is.

    I found you whilst reading Sharon's comments about Lenny's World an' I'm really glad I did. I haven't found the post that you mentioned in her comments, but I will. P'rhaps it's on your other blog? I'm your newest follower.

    ~ Yaya

  14. I'm jealous. I wish my district would modernize and get a computerized system. Sigh.

    On the bright side, at least I'm getting called. But this was our second week of school. I didn't bother with the first.

    The jobs will start soon. Sooner than you expect.

  15. I don't think I care too much for the rude teacher. I would feel crushed. I so completely admire you. To walk into any room and teach? Wow.

    I'm still hoping and believing for your dream job to happen...till you get published. Then, you can write your own ticket!

  16. I always walk away from these blogs with a new appreciation for subs like you!

  17. @ Old Kitty, now that I'll have some choice about what I'm teaching, I hope to fill my days with Social Studies, Language Arts, and PE. Yes, you will have your fill of gym days soon.

    @ Yaya, thanks for the comment and for following. You're my 300th follower - Woo hoo!

    @ Liz, I never thought they'd do it. But it was a cost cutting measure - I guess the online system is cheaper than having a full-time gatekeeper employed.

    The post that mentions Lenny is two down - Whining and Winning.

    I'm sure I'll work some next week. And when I'm not, I'll write. I have a million ideas competing to be written on virtual paper.

    @ The Words Crafter, I could never do what you do. Taking care of small children is no easy feat.

    The teacher is the Special Ed one in the room, so I guess he doesn't feel obligated to explain the day. And since he's always going to training, I only see him in the beginning and end of the day. But to pretend I'm not there is NOT cool.

    @ Bossy Betty, when I have my own classroom I will appreciate what the subs have to do too.

  18. Hi Theresa .. I do hope some work comes up next week .. I guess this is your opportunity to put something together ..

    how about a potential booklet on kid's sayings eg the 90 year old astronauts ..

    Or one for each school .. positive thought .. or a sort of newsletter for them - including other things that happen in their area, or on those particular days & years gone by .. the library would have extra cuttings & info?

    Something you could build and monetise in due course ..

    Hope all's well otherwise .. Have a good weekend .. Hilary

  19. So your back in the game, huh? Isn't it interesting how some teachers are great with people of all ages and others aren't.
    Subs really deal with so much, "a God send" to some and "the competition" to others. You really gotta be able to shift gears quite a bit.
    I think that skill is not really recognized but I for one appreciate you for it.

  20. You could be a gym teacher for third graders. Seems to me. Do you have to have a special certification?

  21. "Gym in a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there." I agree!

    I hope you get called for jobs. An automated system is nice; both school systems I subbed for had that. Though I did sometimes get called personally by a secretary, and I dreaded that (only because I always sound like an idiot on the phone. Really.)

    Hope you've had a good weekend so far!

  22. I hope you don't have to wait much longer for the phone - I'm intrigued about how you turned a game of hangman into a lesson about respect! I'm not a sub teacher but I always find these posts interesting - have you ever thought of writing a novel about the adventures of a substitute teacher, I know you are a ya writer but....

  23. And I thought know-it-all students were more likely to be the older ones, because I thought younger students were more willing to accept what their teachers said. It's one thing if the students have their own opinion about things, but I don't like it when they interrupt me or act like they know more even if they're proven wrong.
    I don't think I'd like being a gym teacher either. I'd probably just let them watch TV or something.

  24. I usually do not leave a comment, but the ideas really rocks, also I have a few questions like to ask, what's your contact details?


  25. @ HIlary, thanks for the suggestion. I think my blog puts together all of the stories of zaniness when I sub. That's plenty for me!

    @ Barbra, I agree - subbing is all about shifting gears. I'll have to get back in that mode. Thanks for appreciating me!

    @ Shelley, I'm not thrilled about getting calls either, but only because I'll be talking to teachers directly. If I know it's going to be a less-than-ideal job. I'll have to keep dread from my tone.

    @ Words A Day, the kids weren't being nice to one another and we had 15 minutes with nothing to do so we played hangman. Since I was in charge of the words, I picked "respect" and "kindness". Then we had discussions about what they meant and how to be respectful and kind (and the reverse).

    I've thought about writing a book. Just waiting for "The End" of this job.

    @ Neurotic Workaholic, the student is the same beast regardless of age. There are differences, of course, but it's kind of amazing how some of this stuff sticks with them.

  26. hi miss theresa! i liked reading about your sub jobs. wow its gotta be really hard to go where you never went and just start teaching. i could hear that in your words. now im just gonna say hooray for subs that keep the learning going for the kids and a special big HOORAY for you!
    ...smiles and hugs from lenny

  27. Your school systems are so different from what we have here. I've never heard of so many team teaching type situations.

    I hope your year goes well! Good luck with it all :)

  28. @ Hi, Lenny. Thanks for the hooray. I don't thinking having a sub is always easy for the students either.

    @ Jemi, we try to keep a low student to teacher ratio. That's why Cambridge pays the most per student out of any district in the country. Amazing, isn't it?

  29. Theresa--I always felt bad for my sustitutes...I seemed to get groups of kids that needed lots of love. :) That was okay...I was good at it, until year 17 and then I was tired and I swore I wouldn't be a paycheck teacher...So I "retired." I think I've told you before that I had to sub my way into almost every district I worked in...One of my personal goals in every building was to make that grouchy teacher or secretary be friendly to me...I really found it made a difference in how I felt about that person and in the end how they treated me. :)

    You're going to have a great year...I know you are!

  30. @ Sharon, my aunt quit teaching after getting burned out for a number of years too. She had a special ed class, and the more she accomplished, the more they heaped on her. Now she helps her husband run an AC business.

    You are SO right about grouchy secretaries. At once school in particular, the woman is a misery!

  31. I'm looking forward to reading this. I'm also looking forward to reading more of your blog.

    Anyways, I'm a new follower! Hiya!

    Brad Jaeger