Thursday, June 24, 2010

Last Days

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

- Dr. Seuss

On Monday afternoon I received a call to sub the last two days of school. The job was for PE at the “rally” school. I’d subbed at the school (especially the middle school grades) pretty often, but not too much lately. I thought for sure I’d be off the last day of school. Who takes off the last day? But I thought the same thing last spring and worked at the same school.

Last year, the morning of the last day of school I received a call to sub Spanish. When I arrived at the office, I couldn’t find the absent teacher’s mailbox. Because it was early (and there was a teacher/staff party in the library), the office was empty. When a teacher or two trickled in, I gave the name of the absent teacher. They had no idea whom I was talking about. The school’s Spanish teacher had a different name. (Great.)

I clutched my paper with the unknown teacher’s name. The custodian entered the office, so I decided to ask him. He actually wanted to help, leading me to the soiree and introducing me to the Spanish teacher. Turns out she worked with another Spanish teacher on that day, but most of the staff don’t know her since she hardly came in. This Spanish teacher asked me if I was looking for a job, introduced me to the principal, and made sure I had coffee and a danish.

When we went up to her classroom, the students showered her with end-of-the-year gifts. That’s when I got melancholy. For the last bunch of years, I’d been with my students for the last day of school. I imagined the students I’d left three moths ago at that moment. Normally, I bought each child a book (Scholastic has these specials like 8 for $20). I’d give each student a card with a personalized note. I called the teacher I’d worked with and left a message for her to tell the students I wished them a good summer.

It wound up being a rainy day. The teachers hadn’t planned what to do with the students if it rained. All the activities had been for outside. So they scrambled with movies and games, and I floated from room to room to help out.

Because my job was for PE this time, rain or shine, I knew the students would be sent to gym on the last day of school. Of course the teachers would want a break to clean, do cumulative reports, or just take a break.

First-graders came just before some flag lowering ceremony, so the other sub and I had to usher over forty kids we didn’t know outside by the flagpole.

Question: How do you keep track of that many children when you don’t know which ones you’re in charge of?

Answer: Not well.

It didn’t help that the other sub could care less about watching children or stopping misbehavior. On a ninety-degree day, you’d think six-year-olds might be lethargic. But these boys were able to pull up chunks of grass to hurl at one another, spin, and play tag. My job became TIME OUT MASTER. Soon enough, it became clear to the children it was easier to listen to my rules than to sit off on the side and not be able to see anything. Bonus for me, my time out spot was under a shady tree.

After the ceremony, we had second-graders. While the rest of the school was bathed in air-conditioned glory, the gym was not. It was actually hotter in the gym than outside. So 40+ children ran and sweated in the sweltering room. I actually had to use a paper towel to blot my head and neck. Lovely.

The two second-grade teachers thought it was perfectly fine to show up over ten minutes late to pick up their charges because they were setting up to take them outside for sprinkler and popsicle fun.

After a prep and lunch (I fled to the air conditioned teacher’s room), we had eighth-graders. These kids graduated last week. And the day before, only about eight of them showed up. On the last day, nearly ALL of them showed up. The room became hotter and sweatier. Plus I had to make sure they didn’t sneak out the back doors to look for friends on the playground or slip out into the hallway. This would’ve been easier if the other sub cared about helping in these endeavors. He didn’t.

He did, however, confiscate a small (softball size), Styrofoam ball. “No dodge ball,” he told a nice group of girls, who were not using it as a dodge ball. Even if they were, what damage could it do? The room was filled with basketballs, plastic bead jump ropes, and hula-hoops, plus a few folding chairs. If the students wanted to inflict damage on one another, the squishy soft-balled sized dodge ball wouldn’t be the weapon of choice.

The other sub got whacked in the eye with a basketball. After five minutes, he decided to go to the nurse. (Baby.) He returned with ice and a popsicle. Where did he get a popsicle? Did he even think of me? Sniff.

Sixth-graders came next. They were calmer. Ten minutes before class ended, we had to take them to the auditorium for an assembly. (How often do they have assemblies at this school, anyway? This is my FIFTH ONE.) It wound up being a really good band of parents. The students and teachers bopped along to the rock-n-roll music.

When the assembly ended, there was still twenty-minutes left of school. The other gym teacher had disappeared. We were supposed to have the seventh-graders. I spoke with some of the middle school teachers, and we decided to take them outside.

I never saw the other gym teacher again.

It’s funny to watch students and teachers say goodbye, but be outside of their circles. Children and teenagers went out of their way to say “Hi” and “Goodbye” and “Have a good summer” to me in the hallways, but it’s not my school. They’re not my people. This year was easier than the last because my heart had no other place to be.

Now I just have to hope that next June I don’t have another last day of school post that isn’t reporting about my classroom.

Or maybe I'll be talking about my upcoming book release. That would be awesome too.


  1. Here's hoping that next year delivers your own classroom and a book release!

  2. Oh! Happy Day! Summer is here! I hope next year brings to you all that you dream of- A book release and a classroom of your own.
    I wish you all good things.
    Enjoy your summer vacation. You deserve it!
    Take care.

  3. Oh my goodness!! You're a legend. Poo to the other sub ... where's YOUR popsicle???

    Happy Summer Holiday to you (bbbrrr middle of winter here ...)


  4. Congrats on finishing another year! It's always kind of sad at the end of the year, but like Dr. Suess said, it's a good thing as well. I love his quote.

  5. What a wise quote from Dr Seuss!!!

    It's funny that instead of winding down your classes seemed to be winding up - gym classes, teachers getting whacked, misbehaving kids...!

    Who indeed knows this time next year?? :-) I hope to see you in your classroom about to swan off to your book launch!

    Take care

  6. School's out school's out, teacher let the monkeys out!

  7. I'm really hoping you have a better year in your own classroom next year and your book published. You deserve it. Welcome to summer vacation. :)

  8. When you get your first book published (and I say when, not if, because I know that you will), I'll be first in line to buy it.
    And that other sub sounds like he's just lazy. He shouldn't have just let you do all of the work.

  9. @ Jaydee, thanks!

    @ Choices, I wish you a great summer too.

    @ Clutterbug, keep coming back to my blog. I'm sure I'll make the heat come alive for you all summer long.

    When I got home, I had a banana popsicle.

    Stay warm!

  10. @ Aubrie, I love looking for quotes. This one popped up right away. Perfect for the post.

    @ Old Kitty, for the last two months I've hardly had any days off. I never wanted subbing to be my full-time job. Who wants to be thrown in different situations five days a week? Daily teaching is unstable enough as a career.

    "Swan off to your book launch" sounds lovely.

    @ KarenG, no more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks - another favorite.

  11. @ Sarahjayne, thank you. It started feeling like the year would never end. If I have to do this next year, my posts will be so depressing I'll lose all followers.

    @ Neurotic Workaholic, that's sweet of you.

    The sub had been a tax lawyer, but it was "boring" so he's looking for a job in mediation. He's the stereotypical sub, giving the rest of us a bad name.

  12. Happy holidays, Theresa, our kids have a few more days left.
    I hope you get to sign your book for your students in your own classroom next year, just before you fly off for 2 months with your family to an exotic location with a fabulous nanny and a p.a. for you.
    Actually, can I have that dream back?

  13. Enjoy your summer- fingers crossed that this time next year you'll have your own class to wish fairwell!

  14. "The other sub got whacked in the eye with a basketball. After five minutes, he decided to go to the nurse. (Baby.) He returned with ice and a popsicle. Where did he get a popsicle?"

    This is hilarious! And the fact that he got whacked with a b-ball after confiscating a soft styrofoam ball? Poetic justice. Maybe the popsical gave him diarreah and that's why you never saw him again.....

  15. This post makes me soooo glad I don't sub anymore. (And I don't think I ever had a day like this!) If I didn't feel so bad for you, I would have been laughing.

    Straight From Hel

  16. @ Brigid, let's split your dream. I'll take the teaching job. You take the nanny. You get a one month holiday, while I get the other month. And we'll both have to be published!

    @ Creepy Query Girl, thank you!

    @ Empty Refrigerator, I couldn't help but think about him confiscating the soft ball after he got whacked in the eye!

    Maybe you're right about the popsicle!

    @ Helen Ginger, please laugh. That's why I write these posts!

  17. You should definitely use these school situations as a setting in your writing! omg, too much, I don't know how you do it! Here's to wishing you a book release AND your own classroom next June :)

  18. Ha, and to think that some people pay to sweat in saunas. They should all go hang out in highschool gyms for a real workout, dodging killer nerf balls and plastic bead jump ropes. ; j

    So school is out... You have any lovely plans ahead?

  19. Sometimes people are hostile and unhelpful towards substitute teachers. I try to be helpful. They have a tough job taking care of students whom they don't know.

    Cheers to the idea of your own classroom and a book release.

    And I have a blog award for you.

  20. Just reading this makes me tire. I only teach Saturday school, with kids I get to know over the course of an entire year, and I already have trouble keeping them in line. I can't imagine doing what you did.

  21. Here's to it being your classroom. And your book!

  22. aw, love. i really hope next year holds many better things for you. you deserve it.


  23. I always wonder why the teachers who are out are out on the last day of school. Usually, I find out that they had a good reason, such as they were let go and they got a summer school teaching gig that already started, their kid is graduating and they want to go, etc. One teacher here who was absent the last day was grading AP tests in Colorado.

    Hey, at least you got paid that day.

  24. @ Joanne, subbing has helped me with the teenage dialogue and action in my manuscripts. The rest is my recollection of teenage angst.

    @ Alesa, I would pay NO ONE to sweat in saunas and I'd never sign up for a hot yoga class. I don't like to sweat.

    @ Medeia, it's nice to know your helpful. I've been lucky because most teachers have been helpful. This middle school in particular goes out of there way to help.

    @ Sandy, I think you build up stamina. First you're dead tired. If I subbed just one day, I'd be a mess on that day.

  25. @ Hampshireflyer, thanks!

    @ Tahereh, that's sweet. I appreciate it.

    @ Liz, I know some school districts end earlier, so those teachers have kids at home. I just figure with the number who actually take off, odds would be in my favor to be off.

    You're right, it's good to get the money because I won't get paid again until September.

  26. @ Hampshireflyer, thanks!

    @ Tahereh, that's sweet. I appreciate it.

    @ Liz, I know some school districts end earlier, so those teachers have kids at home. I just figure with the number who actually take off, odds would be in my favor to be off.

    You're right, it's good to get the money because I won't get paid again until September.

  27. Your days never fail to amaze me!! I agree--next year--your own classroom, your own book. Yahoo!!!

  28. Summer vacation down in Georgia lasts from June to August, and since summer doesn't officially start until June 21, it's more like half-summer vacation.

    Here's hoping next year has great things in store for you!

  29. I love that quote. :)

    Have a well earned rest to end the school year. Here's to your own classroom next year. :)

  30. Definitely would be awesome to talk about your upcoming book release.

    Congrats on finishing your last days off strong. Cheers to great things happening next year! Your own book, your own classroom, good things!

  31. I agree-poo on the other 'teacher.' At least you had the best revenge-a banana popsicle! I, too, say WHEN you get published, I'm going to be right there to buy my own copy! I really hope that next year, in addition to being published, you'll have your choice of classrooms to call your own!

  32. @ Bossy Betty, my days never fail to amaze me either. That's why I blog about it. This one is a bonus because I also wrote about a gig from last year before I blogged.

    @ Amanda, your harvest time is earlier so you get an earlier break. I don't know how you deal with the heat down south. But I can't deal with the cold either!

    @ Lindsay, thanks for the quote and the nice words.

  33. @ Jen, let's hope you and all the other well-wishers are right!

    @ The Words Crafter, thank you. Based on this post, I have TWO sales. Line up, agents. I have it in writing!

    @ aLmYbNeNr, my guess would be fifty. Teaching was not his chosen profession. Tax lawyer turning mediator.

  34. Yes, let's hope it's the book tour for you next June!

  35. @ Julie, a book coming out may be a lot to ask in one year, but I'll take a contract and a publishing date by then!

  36. Nice job of handling all the obstacles that are handed to a sub. I like your approach in being the time out master until kids understand. As a parent I tend to be in our little ones business more than not--they have figured out what behaviors are acceptable.

  37. I can't believe they had two subsitute teachers for gym on the last day of school! We had a rule that no classroom teacher could miss the first or last day of school without a wonderful excuse. I just can't believe both gym teachers were out!!! I hope you have your own class and a book deal on the last day of class next year. :)

  38. That's a wise quote. And congrats on teaching for an entire year. My brother hated the last day of school. I loved it... (Seriously!) But the break always ended pretty soon.

    Have a good day...:)

  39. @ Slamdunk, teaching is like parenting. But if you have 20+ students walking all over you, it's chaos.

    @ Sharon, I guess in Cambridge they know the last day doesn't involve much work, so if the cumes are completed and they still have days, teachers take off.

    They double gym teachers when it's more than one classroom. Before I saw the other teacher, I had thought I was working alone.

    @ Mr. Stupid, the breaks never lasted long enough, did they?

    Both of my children get cases of the sads when school ends. My son's was on Wednesday afternoon and my daughter had hers yesterday.

  40. Wow, you are a saint, Theresa. BUT the part where the students said hi and goodbye to you cracked me up!

    Great post!

  41. I've lived in the south all my life, so I'm used to it. It's the cold I can't stand!

  42. @ Clara, I guess they've seen me enough to bother.

    @ Amanda, if it weren't for earthquakes, San Francisco has the perfect weather for me!

  43. I agree with Old Kitty - great Dr. Seuss quote!

    When you are published, hopefully you'll be able to look back at all of this and laugh...but also see how all of this substitute teaching has made you stronger, braver, more resilient and determined.

    I hope that a year from now, a group of privileged students get to thank you for a year of extraordinary teaching :)

  44. @ Kathleen, I like the quote too.

    Substitute teaching has certainly been a trip.