Friday, January 8, 2010

Not Just Yet

“Some people play very, very well just so they won't get embarrassed.”

– Lynn Swann, American Football Player, Sports Commentator

This morning I was called to sub at my children’s school. Because of their reliance on teaching assistants and the number of interns they have from Lesley University (the campus surrounds the building), the school doesn’t require as many substitute teachers as some of the other schools in the district. I was glad that Friday is the only day my kids don’t have Physical Education, so I wouldn’t be their sub. Last year, my son was proud when I subbed his music class, but this year he once mentioned that he didn’t know if he liked the idea of me subbing his class. I knew this time would come.

My son let me borrow a real whistle when I taught gym many days last spring, but I haven’t been able to locate it since this school year began. This is only my third time subbing gym since September, so I haven’t missed it. Besides, I’ve been lent an alternative, an olive plastic whistle that must’ve come with an army set my son received when he was four-years-old. It’s okay, but it’s not loud enough to make all the students stop in their tracks.

When I got to the school, the secretary gave me the plans. It would be “open gym”, which means that the teacher sets up stations, in this case:

jump ropes

hula-hoops and hoppers (A bouncing ball with a handle)

Nerf footballs


Unfortunately, the office and equipment doors were locked, and by the time the custodian opened them, the first class had already arrived fifteen minutes earlier than expected. This made the class run less like a well-oiled machine because they filed in before I gave them the instructions.

Below is my shpiel that I gave late, but was able to say to the other five classes before we began:

“Hi. My name is Ms. Milstein, but you can call me Ms. M. Mr. (Blank) couldn’t be here because his son is sick. You may recognize me because my two children go to this school. We will start with three minutes of running, then we will do stretches, and after that we will get to the four stations. Do not touch any of the equipment at the stations until I give you permission. If you need to use the bathroom or get a drink of water, ask me before leaving the room because it’s my job to know where you are at all times.”

Then I gave instructions for running. After stretching, I gave instructions for stations. When any of these steps are skipped, chaos ensues. No teacher wants to bark out commands for forty-five minutes because twenty kids are doing things that you won’t allow (Running the wrong way, sliding, slamming into one another, using the bouncers as weapons, tying jump ropes to bouncers and hula hoops, sneaking into the equipment closet, and sneaking out of the room). These are all rules that the regular PE teacher has gone over, but they will “forget” when they have a sub.

A kindergartener asked, “Your name is Mizzum?”

My cursed New Yorker mumbling. “No, Ms. M.”


“Miss (big space) M.”


All day, children let me know that they knew my kids or me, and how they knew my kids or me. The six classes were third, kindergarten, and first-grades, so they were young, and tended towards silly and inappropriate comments:

“Do you dye your hair?”

I actually answered this. “No I have grays sticking out.”

“I have two wiggly teeth.”

Don’t lose ‘em and bleed during class.

“Thank you for being our teacher today.”

That’s a first.

“Are you the gym teacher’s mother?”

Yes, that’s EXACTLY how the system works, and YES, I look that old.

And I got A LOT of:

“Watch me.”

“Look what I can do!”

“Will you play with me?”

The three groups after lunch ranged in age from four to six, but I wouldn’t know it from the comments:

“My knee hurts.”

“My foot hurts.”

“I’m too tired to run.”

“Are we in a nursing home?” I responded each time. Then I’d add, “If you can’t run in the beginning of class, you’ll have to sit out when we get to stations.” Their maladies were quickly forgotten.

Often, I’d find a gaggle of girls, gabbing instead of gyming, so I’d say, “It’s not called conversational education, it’s physical education.”

When I’d catch students misusing the gear, I’d say, “Use the gym equipment for good, not for evil.”

Each class gravitated towards different stations, which caused different issues, like who was encroaching on whose territory and who was hogging which pieces, but all in all, the day went well. I even had children who had reputations for being difficult (I’d seen a few in action over the years), but they were dreams for me. Especially with young kids, it didn’t get much easier than this day.

I saw my son’s teacher near the end of the day. She said that she was taking off on Monday, and that my son told her to request me to sub. I doubt she will, and if she did, who knows if the Gate Keeper will assign me, but it was nice to know that my son isn’t embarrassed by me. That time hasn’t come just yet.


  1. Kindergartners...he-he. Sounds about right. Did you enjoy yourself?
    Looks to me like 'you' play well with others. Seems like they like you, Theresa. That's great!

  2. Good job Theresa! I have real whistle for you next time!

  3. The Honorable Mention, I did enjoy myself. I get this persona for the young ones that's different from the older students. If I act excited over something they say or do, it means a lot to them. When I went to my son's room at the end of the day, kids would say, "Hi Ms. M," or point to me while tell their parents I was their sub. They're cute.

    Kimberly, if I can't find my whistle, I'll let you know!

  4. That's so sweet that he would want you as his sub.

  5. Sheila, I was surprised. It would be weird if I did it all day instead of just for one period of music.

  6. Nice to meet you here and on my blog, Theresa,and I wish you lots of luck with your writing and patience with your pupils!

  7. “Are you the gym teacher’s mother?”

    I love the things kids come out with! I'm visiting from Nicola Morgan's blog, and it was a pleasure reading this.

  8. Thanks, Nicola and Fairyhedgehog. I've enjoyed your blogs as well.

  9. "Are you the gym teacher's mother".

    Oh that made me laugh, the cheeky little so and so!

    I enjoyed reading this, thank you, it's cheered me up.

    May I just ask what nerf footballs are?

    And I loved your Saga of a substitute teacher. Puts my current efforts at writing poetry to deep and great shame

    Great stuff


  10. Thank you, Old Kitty. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.
    Nerf is a brand of soft, foam balls, so it's harder for them to hurt one another. Not that they don't try.

  11. Hi, nice to meet you Theresa and thanks for visiting my blog. I had a son who was embarrassed by me being pregnant. He didn't want me to come to school when I was 8 months along because he was embarrassed. Course this is the kid who was embarrassed when I went to ask a clerk a question in the dept store, so really I don't think it was me. He ended up marrying a girl who is very proper--I think the big attraction was because he knew she would never do anything to embarrass him!

  12. Thanks for the comment, Karen.
    Some kids are like that. As early as second grade, I remember my son's classmates not wanting their mothers to hang around their classroom door, while my son was oblivious.

  13. What a fun experience being a sub! Both of my sisters are school teachers (middle & high school) and while it has it's challenges, they love it!

    I'm a Children's Librarian and have heard some pretty interesting things in my time, too. One of them was a three year old who refused to change out of his Batman Halloween costume. He wore it for months and whenever I saw him, he'd smile and say, "Hi, I'm Batman!"

  14. Oh, oh, oh - I just have to pass this on to a relieving (substitute) teacher I know here - it sounds just like her experience!
    I am prowling in from Nicola's blog-birthday party,

  15. Terresa, thanks for commenting. That Batman comment is too funny!

    Catdownunder, thanks for prowling.

  16. Oh, I love their quotes, and your responses. So funny!