Monday, September 21, 2009


"Each contact with a human being is so rare, so precious, one should preserve it." Anais Nin

I’m noticing that the more I work, the more people I’m connected to in surprising ways. Students I’ve subbed will recognize me at my children’s Taekwondo class or I’ll see former students in another school or I’ll teach children in different classes at the same school or I’ll run into teachers I’ve worked with previously. Cambridge is a small city and the teaching community is even smaller.

Running into faculty and staff from previous schools is a nice perk. I had been an Extended Term Substitute for a fifth-grade teacher on maternity leave at my old school about three years ago. For a brief time, I had my own assistant who now works at the school I subbed at today (And where I’ll be all week). A gym and an elementary teacher from my former school are also employed there now. And a teacher I worked with who is still at my old school, teaches at this school’s after school program, so I may see her this week as well. It's nice to reminisce and catch up.

There are even more connections for me here. This school has an Intensive Studies Program, which takes middle-school students from all over the district. So I had a student from last year’s fifth-grade class in my room. I also taught two students from my children’s school in the same classroom. One of them had been in my son’s kindergarten class! Tomorrow, I'll have an acquaintance's child. Seeing familiar faces is comforting when Substitute teaching.

The strangest connection of all is that the teacher I’m substituting for has a child with learning disabilities whom I was a shadow substitute for at another school last year. Being a shadow meant I followed him for most of the day to help with anything he needed. The boy is very sweet and I often think of him and the day we spent together. His regular shadow had also been an assistant at my previous school, and took over as lead teacher for the day that I subbed. I realized that the teacher I’m filling in for is this boy’s father when I spied the boy’s photograph on his desk.

I don’t know what his son’s condition is called, but he has a unique face, and he's behind his peers cognitively and behaviorally. The boy didn’t do well with transitions, so he had a rough morning. I tried everything I could to make him feel better, but anything new for him is hard (I was told that he was working on "being flexible"). I was touched about how caring the other students in the inclusion class were to him, demonstrating an empathy I wish I saw in more children and even adults. He was given a stuffed animal to soothe him by one of the girls and a few of the kids made sure to speak to him kindly or pat his back. As the day went on, this boy became more comfortable with me, telling me, "New friends are cool," and by the end, he gave me a hug goodbye.

I was happy that a few weeks later, this boy’s regular shadow brought him to visit me when I was subbing gym at his school. He was much happier to see me when I wasn’t his shadow! And I was even happier to see him stress-free, telling me how excited he was to go to the next grade in the fall.

When I leave my note for this teacher about how the week went, I’ll be sure to tell him what a special son he has. Working with his child was probably the most rewarding subbing day I’ve ever had. I'll always feel a special connection to him.

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