I don’t know why you say goodbye
I say hello”*
Friday was supposed to be the last day teaching on my own. Students and teachers did and said a boatload of lovely things.
Monday was supposed to be the transition day. I dreaded it. Partly because of the limited communication I’d had with the teacher. What would she think of what I’d accomplished? How would it be running the classes with her observing me? But I worked hard on Monday; filling her in on the nearly six months she’d left.
It was really ending.
That morning, the assistant principal asked me to take care of report cards that were due the following week and do 2 hours of parent-teacher conferences. “You can leave two hours early.” Leaving 2 hours early would make up for the conferences, but not for the hours it would take me to tally the report card grades. Not to mention grades weren’t supposed to close for a few more days, so students hadn’t exactly rushed to hand in outstanding work.
The assistant principal also asked me to find out if the teacher needed a 2nd transition day. I told the teacher I could spend the 2nd day calculating the grades. She agreed. It took me nearly all day Tuesday, but I got them done, even writing down the comment codes. I handed them to her, reminding her that the grades couldn’t be posted on-line yet, and I wouldn’t be able to do it later in case she got more work back and had to adjust a few of the grades.
She actually looked a little crestfallen.
Throughout the day, it was hard to stop in and see her running the classes.
Tuesday night, I felt odd. I was full of anxiety as it hit me I had just taken a significant pay cut and was going to back to all the uncertainty being a daily sub entails. Although I was exhausted, I forced myself to stay up until 11pm, knowing I had the next day off before I put myself on the sub list.
And I was going to sleep in until 6:30 am so I’d have some coffee and get the kids off to school. An extra half-hour – imagine!
Wednesday morning, I began tossing and turning, thinking of the couple of assignments that hadn’t been handed in. I reminded myself it wasn’t my problem anymore.
That did nothing to cheer me up. Or put me back to sleep.
I checked the clock. 5:56 am. Great. Getting up normal time anyway.
Exhausted, I poured my coffee and ambled into the living room. After leisurely checking Yahoo, I switched to Gmail. The teacher sent me an e-mail thanking me and asking if I would sub on Wednesday. First I thought she meant the following Wednesday. But then I realized the subject line read, “Tomorrow”.
“I am not going to be in because of unforeseen circumstances.”
“You say why and I say I don’t know
I hadn’t picked out clothes.
I had just said goodbye to everyone.
When I arrived at the school, a parent and student were waiting. I went over grades. After that, I realized a meeting with a parent and a wayward student was taking place. I went to that.
Then I mostly hid in my office because it was too bizarre to explain to EVERYONE that I was a daily sub today, but not Monday, and they’d seen me Tuesday.
I received an e-mail from another teacher, telling me, “I miss you already.”
My reply? “I’m just down the hall.”
First class, I was in a slightly bitter mood. I’d made a packet so they’d mostly leave me alone while I called students over about grades and missing work.
Second class, I walked in and said:
“I am your sub. My name is Ms. Milstein, but in case that’s hard to remember, you can call me, ‘Ms. M.’” And I wrote my name on the board.
They asked if I knew their names. One student used to ask me that each time I subbed last year. I'd always remembered his name. I pretended to mix up their names this time.
I decided to do my favorite stock lesson about the principle of ahimsa and Gandhi, MLK, and Mandela. The one I try to squeeze into every class. It’s beyond time and place, so I can use it with virtually any grade. Since they’re about to learn about exploration and it has to do with the legacy of colonization and slavery, it was perfect timing. I had the students enraptured. It was amazing.
I wonder when I’ll get to experience that again.
The third class usually gets too chatty. I was having none of it. I even reminded them I’d be happy to stay after school if they didn’t want to get their work done. I may be a sub, but I’m still a teacher. Their teacher.
For the day.
Fourth class is usually pretty good for me, though they’re the most difficult of all. It hadn’t gone unnoticed by me how quiet they were for the teacher who returned. I told them I expected the same. And I gave them the same threat as the previous class.
It went pretty well.
Before I left, another middle school teacher came over to me, asking me to sub the next morning. She has a student teacher, so I won’t be bumbling along in my math-cluelessness alone.
Yeah, the students will have to see me today. And guess what? The Social Studies teacher will be teaching the subject I love nearby.
This saga is getting sagaier.
“You say yes
(I say yes)
I say no
(But I may mean no)
You say stop
(I can stay)
And I say go, go, go
(‘Til it’s time to go)”
* - McCartney, Paul; Lennon, John. Song, “Hello Goodbye”, The Beatles.