Thursday, April 7, 2011

Unforeseen Circumstances

“Hello, hello

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”.

This Wednesday.

“I am not going to be in because of unforeseen circumstances.”


“You say why and I say I don’t know

Oh no”*

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.


  1. Oh my gosh! No clean breaks, huh.....maybe this is leading somewhere positive. I really hope so because I can't imagine what you're going through.

    Hang in there.

    I bet the students were happy, though :)

  2. Very entertaining read. :)

    The teaching life is always full of surprises.

  3. WTF!!!

    What's up with that teacher? I'm sure she has her problems, and maybe she needs the money. But really?

    You did great. Sorry for your yo-yo world.

    ...for a reason!

  4. The good thing is you are needed there, and teachers and students alike know how valuable you are!

  5. That must be hard to always have to adjust your schedule to the whim of someone else.

  6. You have a way of making it sound fun ... Enjoy :)

  7. It is so hard to have a full-time teaching position and then have to go back to subbing. I know what it is like, I have been there. This post hit me because I lately, I am truly feeling what you have always expressed about subbing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  8. At least you know you are wanted. Lol I understand your pain.

  9. Oh they are stringing you along!! In a sort of good way!!! I say it's cos they (the school!!) know that they've so got an amazing teacher and will be silly to let you go completely!!!

    I hope you are ok though in the midst of all this flux! Take care

  10. I think you are meant to be there, Theresa. And I think fate agrees with me! :-)

  11. Sounds like a rollercoaster of emotion!

  12. I guess they missed you so much, they just had to have you back for one more day.

  13. That teacher should have given you more notice when she asked you to sub for her; it sounds like she might have been overwhelmed by all the work that was waiting for her when she got back. Maybe she took an extra day off just so she could catch up, but she still should have told you sooner.

  14. It must be hard being a sub for middle graders. But that's great you've got more work and hopefully it'll lead to a full time job.

  15. There's nothing worse than saying goodbye, getting your head and heart around the fact that it's the last day and then after all that build up and closure... to he hoisted back. (Is it just me reading between the lines, or does that teacher have mixed feelings about returning to work?) Your song choice was perfect, by the way :) Here's hoping you get a bit of stability in your working situation, and get a rest too, I felt so lazy reading about your 6am's...Take care, they're lucky to have you.

  16. I meant "be" hoisted back, by the way! Wish there was a spellcheck on comments!

  17. wow, that's a bit of a roller coaster! Have fun with it!

  18. Lord, that truly was "When one door closes, another opens," and right down the hall. Wish you the best :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  19. SIX MONTHS! jeez, Theresa! You're practically their regular teacher, just without the official title. gah.

    But you love them so much, and they know it. And you're such a great teacher, and it shows. Whatever capacity you're in, you're making an impact. What a great thing! :o) <3

  20. It must be hard to think you've said goodbye and then keep coming back. I guess maybe there's no such thing as "goodbye" in this case.

  21. Oh, that had to be painful! I give you my class...I take it away...I'll watch you with my class...You'll watch you with my class...I give you my class. OMGoodness, what an emotional week Theresa! I will keep you in my prayers. I really hope you get a class of your own next year. (((HUG)))

  22. I'm exhausted for you; and I promise to sleep in more than just half an hour . . on Saturday.

    Just for you. No charge.


  23. That's very cool that you teach them about ahimsa. You sound like such a wonderful teacher.

  24. Yikes, Theresa. How confusing! Just when you thought you'd said goodbye...

  25. This sounds like one of my life sagas! How bizarre! Hello! Hello!

    Writing time on the horizon?

  26. You need a class of your own all the time, year after year.

    I can't imagine what a great teach you gotta be.

    Tiring though.

    Oh, and the Beatles? My fav band in the entire world, so thanks for the 'Hello Goodbye." <3

  27. Interesting times... How do you think you'll remember them in ten years?

  28. That sounds like a difficult situation! And confusing besides.

  29. wow! an epic saga, this is turning out to be (yes i am channeling yoda). I hope this is the start of something better and more permanent for you. :P

  30. @ The Words Crafter, I hope this leads somewhere positive. The experience has been invaluable. And the middle school teachers at this school have kept me busy with sub requests.

    @ LR, I'm glad you were entertained. I amaze myself how I can spin the hardest times in my life into entertaining blog posts.

    @ Tara, she seemed like she had a good reason for being out once she returned. She's been there the last two days and seem settled right back in.

    @ Kelly, I did feel needed and valued. Too bad I'm out of the job anyway.

    @ Angela, I got used to it when I used to do it last year. It's hard to return to after this experience.

    @ Joanne, I try to see the lighter side of the insanity. It helps me deal with the downs.

    @ Choices, you always used to be so upbeat about subbing. I'm sorry you're enjoying it as much.

    @ JL Jackson, wanted, but not wanted enough. Wish I could stay. Thanks for feeling my pain.

    @ Old Kitty, the staff has been keeping me busy requesting me. It's not the same as when I had my own classes but it beats subbing any group, anywhere.

    @ Shannon, I hope fate agrees with you.

  31. That was a bit tough for you, Theresa. The teacher sounds like she doesn't want to be back, but needs the salary, we have all been there, it is tough with a new baby.

    I hope it all settles for you soon, you deserve a class of your own.

  32. Life really isn't ever easy, is it? :( I hope everything works out in the end. It sure is tough when things seem so confusing and haphazard. You will be fine! I think you must be a wonderful, encouraging teacher. I would have loved to be taught by you in school!

  33. @Julie: I totally second that thought... But we get to learn from her as adults, which is pretty awesome too!

  34. @ Margo, roller coaster is the right word. Have I mentioned that I hate roller coasters?

    @ JEFritz, I wound up being there all week and may wind up being there Monday and Tuesday as of now. It's definitely not the same but it's nice to still be there.

    @ Neurotic Workaholic, that's what I thought too. But I overheard the teacher say her step daughter twisted her ankle.

    @ Natalie, I would rather teach high school, but now that I've done middle school, I could see myself doing it in the long run.

    @ Words A Day, I think this teacher fits in well with the staff and is good at coordinating the larger overnight field trips. But as far as teaching, I don't think she puts a lot into it. It's read from the textbook and answer questions almost exclusively. I wish I had her presence though. The kids fear her and her voice carries like a guy's.

    @ TerryLynnJohnson, I have to learn to enjoy roller coasters more.

    @ Liz, yeah, the joys!

    @ Jules, until The Beatles sang in my head, I was going to use a similar door closing and another one opening quote from Bud, Not Buddy. I'm waiting for that other day.

    Actually, a door opened today, but I think it's a doggy door.

    @ LTM, it was a shame not to be able to finish out the rest of the year since it was such a long gig. Oh well.

    I hope I made a positive impact.

    @ Susan, it is hard to come back. At least the middle school teachers are requesting me, so they think it's good for the students.

  35. @ Sharon, I love the way you put it. Yes, that's what it was like! Thanks for the hugs.

    @ Donna, thanks. Hope you squeezed in that extra half hour of sleep.

    @ Missed Periods, thank you. I strive to be a better teacher.

    @ Talli, yep, it has been crazy.

    @ Ann, even though I've taken a pay cut, I've been at the school everyday since my last ETS day on Monday. So no writing time yet. Soon, I hope.

    @ Robyn, yes, I'd like a class of my own year after year.

    I've quoted The Beatles a few times. I'll try to do it more often for you.

    @ Alesa, I have no idea how I'll remember them in 10 years. Right now, I always feel like I'm always swallowing the humiliation of explaining why I'm not working full-time or why I'm not published. I hope to be on the other side, knowing this was growth on the way to achieving something better.

    @ Nutschell, I hope it's the start of something better too. Thanks.

    @ Brigid, she's acting like the teacher I remember, so she doesn't seem conflicted on the outside. I wonder.

    @ Julie, nothing is ever easy. I remind myself to realize the good things I have instead of wallowing in self pity.

  36. @ The Golden Eagle, you've got it right. I've been asked to teach there a lot, so at least I'm appreciated even if there isn't a full-time job for me.

  37. @ Alesa, I'm amazed anyone learns anything from me. Thank you.