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