Monday, September 27, 2010

Scarlet L

“I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry”

- Berry, Buck, Mills, Stipe. “Southern Central Rain (I’m sorry)” R.E.M.

For those of you who have missed my substitute teaching escapades, I have one that’s so embarrassing, I shouldn’t even be sharing it. This is like what NOT to do if you want to be a sub. My debacle is your entertainment.

The school year began a few weeks ago… without me. The new sub system is now first come, first serve. So if I don’t click on “Available Jobs” at the right time, there’s nothing. I finally saw a pre-k job, and while I thought, Do I really want a pre-k job?, the opportunity disappeared. (Disclaimer: I was called for a 2-day job on the first day of school, but I had already taken myself off the list because I had a job interview. I didn’t get the job.)

Demoralized, I called Human Resources. This is what I found out:

Yes, the subs were having the same problem as me, pressing the button over and over.

Yes, the gatekeeper used to distribute the jobs fairly during lean times.

There have been only about 10 jobs per 50 subs per day, up to that point.

But I shouldn’t worry because cold weather is coming, so teachers will be sick soon.

Where’s Swine Flu when you need it?

Then a job popped up for NEXT WEEK. Even though it was a math tutor gig (read: suicide mission), I took it. At this point, I was desperate.

Wednesday morning, around 7:45 am, a job opened up to teach P.E. at the Montessori school the next day. Sigh of relief. Those of you who have followed by blog for a while know about those gym jobs.

I perked up. My husband perked up. Truthfully, I think he was ready to divorce me. I’ve been in a whirlwind of writing and have had a few tiny ego boosts. But that doesn’t pay the bills… yet.

Cheerily, I drove the children to school. Somewhere on Beacon Street, almost at the school, I wondered, Is today the 21st or the 22nd? The job was for the 22nd. But that was the next day, right? I asked my son to check his calendar on his iPod. He didn’t bring it. Believe me - that’s even crazier than me not knowing the date. (In my defense, we were told any new jobs that came in after 6:30 am would be calls rather than online.)

I pushed the pedal to the metal the rest of the way to school, and threw them out of the car.

“Why are you in a rush?” my daughter asked.

“I have a job, TODAY. And I’m supposed to be there NOW,” I cried.

Start time: 8:00. Actual time: 8:40.

Then I sped off as I fumbled for my phone. These were desperate times so I paid for information. (Gasp!) I said something like:

“I’m Theresa Milstein, and I’m supposed to sub gym today, but the job posted late, and I thought it was tomorrow. I’m sorry. I’ve never done this. I’ll be there in about 20 minutes.”

“No problem,” the secretary chirped other line.

Beacon Street on the way home is always a long line of cars making their way into Boston. Have I ever mentioned that I HATE being LATE? At this point, I was chanting in my head over and over, It’s okay to be late. It’s okay to be late.

Okay, maybe I was saying this aloud. Don’t judge me.

HOME. I threw breakfast and lunch into a bag, slipped on some gym shoes, and was about to leave. I knew this teacher worked at two schools, so I decided to make sure she was at the one school first. In my frazzled state, it looked to me like she actually started at the other school.

AACK! I called the secretary at the other school and said (see my quote above). And she responded (see my quote above).

I sped to the other school, knots in my stomach. But then I remembered this school doesn’t start until 9:00 am, so I’d only be fifteen minutes late. Not too bad. Maybe I’d luck out and first period would be free.

Parking was too easy. I ran to the gym. The other P.E. teacher seemed surprised to see me. Then he told me she was at the OTHER school ALL DAY.

At this point, I was beginning to wonder why anyone would even consider hiring me for a full-time job. Not only did I have the wrong date, but I’d also read her schedule for the wrong day.

Once back in the car, I called information again and told the secretary at the first school and told her what I’d done. Got to the school. Guess what. Go on, take a guess.

It was street cleaning. (Should I just give up and go home now?) Driving in reverse an entire block, I snagged a spot.

Time of arrival: 9:30 am.

The secretary had me sign in without a trace of judgment on her face. I apologized again.

Then I made it to the gym as the 2nd class ended. Thank goodness there are two teachers assigned to most of the gym classes. The P.E. teacher was nice about it. He wouldn’t even let me give him an extra prep to run a group myself. I worked my butt off the rest of the day to shine up my tarnished reputation.

I’m the teacher with the Scarlet L.

It was good to see the kids, who’d grown over the summer. But one four-year-old stepped on top of child. The other teacher told her to, “Say sorry.” She sobbed instead. She had to sit on the sidelines. She sobbed some more. We gave her about seven opportunities to apologize and join the class. She refused. And sobbed.

This girl put everything in perspective. At least I didn’t trample anyone, but had only been tardy. And I apologized (many, many times). I didn’t even sob.


  1. Just don't forget this: You're a teacher in the 21st century, it's one of the hardest jobs on the planet. You should be made a superhero.

    Substitute Wonder Woman or something.


  2. Oh you poor thing. I have had nightmares like this. You need a smartphone. It has changed my whole life in terms of organization.

  3. Aw, Theresa, I shouldnt have laughed but I did.
    'It's ok to be late' out loud, you sound like me.
    Great post and I think the little girl channelled your anxiety and did your share of sobbing for the day.

  4. Oh my goodness! I hate HATE being late! I mean, I really can't stand it. My husband has a theory that if you are supposed to BE somewhere at ..say.. 4pm .. then THAT'S when you actually leave the house ... regardless of how far away your destination is ... Anyway, I digress (and totally hijack your blog with my woes) ...

    You did so well. I think I would've ended up back at home, head under the quilt and sobbing ... and then I would have to move and look for another career altogether!!

    I am sure tomorrow will be better :)

  5. Oh Theresa Milstein!! You take off that Scarlet Letter asap!! LOL!!

    You are allowed to be late every so often you know! It's not like you didn't try either and you kept in touch which is important - so yay for you!!! And you kept it all together and didn;t crumble like that child who sobbed but still refused to apologise (what's that about?!?!)!!

    So I think you should wear the letter A+++++ for supreme effort and super-womanliness! :-)

    Take care

  6. It sounds like everyone was accommodating to your lateness, which helps the situation. I don't like being late too, b/c then it puts me in that "rushing" state when just about everything seems disorganized.

  7. I'm always late. Always have just one more thing to do before I leave.

  8. @ Clarissa, thanks! Look at the top-right of my blog. I'm Substituteteacherwoman!

    @ Anne I have an iTouch, so I can get wireless internet, if it's not blocked. But I can't use it while driving.

    @ Brigid, it's okay to laugh out loud. If we can't laugh at ourselves then we're like that sobbing girl!

    @ Clutterbug, my husband thinks we should always be at least 15 minutes late. And I thought he was bad!

    The only thing that kept me from being a sobbing mess was it would be worse if I didn't show up!

    @ Old Kitty, the gym teacher's theory is this girl never has to apologize at home, so she just couldn't do it.

    Thanks for my grade! I like the A over the L.

    @ Joanne, as you can see, I'm the same way. If I'm on time, then I'm organized. If not... then this post.

    @ Sheila, just one more thing - I can relate! But still, it takes everything for me not to be early.

  9. Oh man, sounds like one of my mornings. I have those occasionally. My nerves get totally jangled and it just makes a rough start to my day. You made it though! :)
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

  10. Awww, sorry to hear you had such a frantic morning. I know exactly how you feel about being late...just reading this put knots in my stomach.

    Glad to hear that you hung in there and made it through the day!

  11. I have a knot in my stomach just from reading about your day - I can't imagine how stressful it was to go through it! Those days are the worst! I HATE being late and am a freelancer, so I can relate:)

  12. You deserve a medal for following through. Many years ago I too was a sub. OMG talk about challenging, dangerous jobs. A school would be lucky to hire you.

  13. Wow. I got tired just reading about this experience. I taught for 15 years but was never a sub. Way to stick with it. And I'm glad you didn't get in an accident that day:-)

  14. Being late sucks. And isn't it worse when everyone is so nice about it?

    If the job posted so late, then you can't worry too much about being late. It was probably a last minute thing, and the school was happy that someone took the job rather than having it go without coverage. (At least, that's what I tell myself when I get a late call and I'm running late.)

  15. @ Lisa, it does make for a rough start to the day when your'e late. I survived!

    @ Shannon, you shared my knots!

    @ Kathleen freelancing must give the same discombobulated feeling as subbing.

    @ Cleemckenzie, thanks. I wish a school would feel lucky and hire me!

    @ Paulgreci, thanks for the comment. If I got into an accident, I would've had to call the school again.

    @ Liz, YES, because then I'm late, leaving nice people stranded.

    With the phone system, when I got called, she would say she'd call and say I'd be late because the call was late. Then I never worried.

  16. I HATE being late too. I also have to repeat mantras to calm myself down. I envy people who are so casual about running late.

  17. Aww I feel your pain! I hate being late too. I was once 3 minutes late for a sub job, and the lady in the office gave me a hard time. Sheesh!

    I'm glad everything turned out okay, though. It always does, somehow.

  18. Not to laugh, but this is why I stopped subbing.

  19. But look, you showed up and you got through it! Give yourself a pat on the back. My mother-in-law was a teacher for 30 years and for a few of those years she was a sub. She always said subbing was hard, hard work. They were lucky to get you... even if you were late. :)

  20. Oh Theresa! What a stressful day! I'm so sorry! I know how you feel - I absolutely hate being late as well, but it happens... don't worry too much.

  21. @ Missed Periods, I wonder if anyone saw me while I was repeating my mantra.

    @ Shelley, the secretary at the school I wound up in is always nice. But the other one is usually brash, but she wound up being nice. Of course, I wasn't supposed to be there anyway.

    @ Piedmont Writer, I'd like to stop subbing.

    @ Jennifer Hillier, thanks for the pep talk!

    @ Writing Nut, I've worked three days since then - and arrived early each time. I'm back on track!

  22. I shouldn't have laughed but I did. How stressful! You are amazing! I love your stories, I'm glad we're back to the substitute escapades!

  23. I hate being late, so I feel for you. It just throws the whole day off. But at least you got through it!

    My sub system works the same way, so I know how frustrating it can be to linger over a job for five seconds and then it be gone. It's like people are swarming to get those jobs! I know our system ever tried out an aleter-type app so it alerts you when there is a job open. It was probably great for people who used it (or bought it), but it hindered those of us who didn't.

    Anyway, back to subbing! Here's to a better day next time.

  24. My goodness, I was tired just reading about this! I can't imagine how stressed you must have been.

    It was a great story though.

  25. I'm always late for everything, but I do get really freaked out when I'm trying to make a good impression (I can never seem to pull it off!).

  26. @ Jen, my escapades make for fun reading, so there's something good out of it.

    @ Tiffany, I didn't expect the swarming. I thought there'd be a list to choose from (naive, I know). Maybe that will come during busier times.

    @ Kelly, I was about as stressed as I get. I should chill because it often works out. I have to tell myself being late is not the end of the world. Probably.

    @ Lisa, you're not alone. But getting stressed over making a good impression isn't going to help us make a good impression, right?

    @ Prenatutors, thanks.

  27. I know that stress. I start freaking out if I'm not 5 mins early! And then OF COURSE every traffic snafu that can be thrown in your way, is. ARGH

  28. probably do NOT want to sub in a pre-K class. me on this one!

    B...GROAN about being late...what a pain! Glad it went off without a hitch, though!

  29. @ Vicki, I'd rather be early too.

    @ Christina, it was stressful!

    @ Ant, I've done it and hated it. But when there's not work, I may have to suck it up.

  30. What a story!!
    I'm glad everything worked out okay, er, eventually :-)))
    Wonder why the child wouln't apologise?

  31. @ Deniz, the other gym teacher's theory is the girl never has to apologize at home. He's probably right.