Thursday, October 15, 2009

Home Sick

"And you may ask yourself

Where does that highway go?

And you may ask yourself

Am I right? I wrong?"

David Byrne and Brian Eno, Song “Once in a Lifetime” Talking Heads

The day before yesterday, just after I’d accepted a sub job for the following day, my daughter said her stomach hurt, and then proceeded to prove it by throwing up. A high fever soon followed. I called back the sub line, saying I couldn’t do the job after all. Hopefully, it won’t count against me since it was the night before, but the sub line works in mysterious ways. My husband said I should ask, but when I’ve left a message with a question, I have not received a call back (Misuse of line?). When I answer a call in the morning, I don’t feel like asking questions, and it’s all very business like. It doesn’t seem like the time or place to find out the inner workings of the substitute system.

Questions I would like to ask:

When I call in sick after you’ve given me a job, does that

count against me?

I know that in the morning, you call from 5:30AM, but what’s

the latest you call at night?

Is the sub line a cell phone?

Do you get beeped when messages are left on the line or do

you call it periodically?

How do your hours work?

Do you try to evenly distribute the jobs or do specific subs get

more preference?

Are there ever days that you don’t call all needed subs

because of budget?

Are teachers allowed to request me or does it have to be the


Do you honor requests, when possible?

Do you try to match subs with their certifications?

Do you get feedback about my performance from schools?

What makes you offer specific subs lengthier assignments?

No wonder she keeps the calls curt – who would want to answer all of these questions? The biggest question of all, how do I get out of subbing? I know she can’t answer. I can’t even figure out how to answer it.

Being home yesterday was a bonus because I had a lot of work to do. My daughter planned to have a friend over today, so the house needed to be tidy. I also had a load of laundry and my husband had run out of ironed clothing. There were dishes to wash and a bathroom to clean too. Of course, I’d also spend time with my poor sick daughter.

While my daughter rested, I checked the Internet for teaching positions. The jobs have been few and far between and when I apply, I never hear from them again. A new job had potential - it was a Building Substitute position at one of the schools I’d just subbed at for a week. If you remember from my post “Connections”, there were students and teachers I knew from my old school. My posts “First Days” and “Goodbyes” also alluded to this job. While a Building Substitute position wasn’t ideal, it was higher up on my list than Daily Substitute, though lower than History Teacher and (paid) Children’s Book Writer.

After I applied through the school website, I also sent an e-mail to the principal, whom I’ve spoken with on several occasions. The job previously posted in the spring, before she knew me, and like other positions I’ve applied for, I didn’t even get called for an interview. This time, my e-mail not only mentioned all of the times I’ve subbed at her school, but also all the connections I had to her staff. By the time I hit the send key I really wanted the job.

All the work crafting my cover letter and e-mail mixed my love of writing with my passion for teaching. I began to think about the jobs I had on Friday and Monday – both for very young children. The train of thought went to the discipline problems, to an idea for a book to address classroom rules (in a fun way), to making it an alphabet book. I spent the next many minutes (with my daughter’s input) working on a rough draft.

When my husband came home from work, he could tell I wasn’t in the best mood, but I couldn’t articulate why. During the day, I went from being a parent, to housekeeper, to wannabe teacher, to wannabe writer, to housekeeper, to parent, to cook. I had done too much, yet also felt under-stimulated and isolated. Is this why so many stay-at-home mothers used to take Valium? And in the back of my mind, I was already wondering about what tomorrow would bring.

When I’m home, I like being home. If I could get paid to stay home and write, I’d be over the moon. It’s the guilt for not getting paid that weighs on me. When I used to teach, I loved teaching. But when I sub, I do not love subbing. While every submission I send to an agent or editor makes me picture the rejection letter, every job application seems to go out into the universe, never to return (With a job). I should’ve spent the day sending out something I’ve written, so I’d feel like I was working towards something. Writing a new piece felt like a waste of time and cleaning, believe it or not, is just not fulfilling. I know that sometime soon, I’ll be working full-time, outside the home. My off hours will be spent scrambling to clean, cook, and take classes to cement my permanent certification. I need to convince myself that I am to treasure this time at home.


  1. I like your writing style and reading your blog! Keep your spirits up and don't give up on your writing... you have talent.

  2. It's very interesting to see what has changed and what hasn't in roughly a year's time.
    I imagine this also lets you relativize your present as well as gauge your progress.
    I'm kinda sorry I can't do more than root for you. : j

  3. Alesa, I see this was one of my down days. We all have them, don't we? Sadly, this is from October and not much has changed on the job front. I hope that a year from now I'm in a different place.

    Thanks for rooting for me.

  4. Perhaps nothing much has changed overtly, but you seem to be significantly more at ease with the whole process; and you even seem to enjoy yourself subbing every now and then.

  5. Alesa, I do enjoy subbing now and then. But if I have to do it again in September; waking up at 5:30 and the uncertainty of each day...