The bell rang and immediately, I found myself standing in the same exact position I stood almost 45 years ago. It was instinctual. Head and back erect, hand over heart, and eyes focused as I recited the Pledge of Allegiance. A fond memory and moment of patriotic pride.
Yet, as I stood there, I was quaking in my boots because I was about to teach my first class of students. Ever.
As you know I moved to rural Virginia almost 3 years ago after retiring from a sales and marketing career. My husband is still working so I’ve been keeping myself busy with things around the house.
I have a few farm animals, a garden and a big house to clean; however, once I finish my chores each day, I find myself staring begrudgingly at my husband over the kitchen island as he concalls. I even wrote a book to burn time (yes, this is a plug – get yours on Amazon!).
The Breaking Point
After I completed counting the square on the toilet paper rolls in each of my bathrooms, I realized I needed to get something else going in my life. In chatting with my bff she mentioned that the board of ed was looking for substitute teachers. We glossed over the topic and moved onto more important subjects like whether we prefer kale over spinach, but something about it stuck with me.
A few hours later I found myself on their website and sure enough, ‘subs wanted’ was plastered front and center. I completed the on-line forms and waited to see if I’d receive a call back.
Brring…..it was the school. Before I knew it I had my finger prints taken (yes, this is a normal background check), being interviewed by the director, and told I would need to attend a class on ‘subbing’ where the most important message was DON’T LET THEM OUT OF YOUR SIGHT. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE. Next, I was handed an ID badge and received the official sub blessing “go get ’em”.
Needless to say, I’d never taught a lesson in my life. I did do a stint as a trainer back in the 80s and conducted a lot of meetings and presentations over the years, but teaching school I was sure would be a totally different animal. And I wasn’t wrong!
Please Sit Down
The instruction went well. The class I was to conduct was basic 9th grade health. What could be hard about that? When I arrived, I reviewed the lesson plan and found it to be very robust. This health teacher left plenty of material to complete by the end of each 90 minute period. I was teaching 3 classes that day. It was centered around eating disorders and teen depression. Bonus. I was familiar with both.
With the onset of each period, the kids came into the classroom with their backpacks and other sundry items. Quite frankly, they all reminded me of some type of pack mule. Why were they all carrying so much stuff around?
As soon as their butts touched their chairs, just about all of them asked to go somewhere – their locker, the bathroom and of course, the holy grail – the counselors office. Now, I graduated high school in the late 70’s and when we talked about guidance or counselor’s offices we were referring to the place where you went to talk about grades, teachers, and perhaps your college future. It was a great place to waste a period but today the counselors are needed for so much more as I learned later on. Apparently, I didn’t understand this and when one young man insisted he wasn’t staying and going to the counselor, I pressed back. REMEMBER – DON’T LET THEM OUT OF YOUR SIGHT.
He ended up leaving the room and then I found the little asterisked note on the bottom of the attendance roster. “*Joe Smith (not his real name) doesn’t stay for the class. He goes to the counselor’s office.” Okay then. Sub error #1.
I enjoyed every single moment of each class and came home feeling extremely successful with the day’s events. I found myself in control, relating well to the students, and feeling positive.
Conversely, after a few comments by the smart ass in the back (yes, they assign one per class), I realized that I had a target on my back and was totally exposed not only to these frightful youngsters but also their law-suit happy parents. I quit the job about 3 hours after I got home.
You see, it’s a different ballgame when you’re training than when you’re educating. When you’re training, you have a group of peers in the room. The filters can come off and you can freewheel when required or if you feel like it. However, when you’re educating, you’re looking at your little clients in their seats and in their eyes you see their ever-circling, ever-present parents. One quick slip of the tongue and the whisper of the wrong word is all you need to get a phone call. And you’ll never guess who got one?
My teaching career began and ended simultaneously. I did receive a few calls pleading for a return performance but after you’ve been around the block a few times, you know when to bow out gracefully. Dittfield out.
Teachers Are HEROES
At the end of the day, I sat at this teacher’s desk compiling the paperwork from the day and took a long hard look around the room. This was her wheelhouse, her sanctuary – her personal touch was on everything. From the way she had her supplies on her desk to each poster and pin up in the room, I knew she absolutely loved her work.
I also knew every item in the classroom came our of her personal pocketbook. I knew that she was trying her best to keep these kids happy and quiet while she provided them with information that they may or may not need in life. It was instinctual for her. I just knew at that moment teachers are incredible self-less people.
Every teacher is a prized possession and should be regarded as such. We’ve all heard the expression, ‘you couldn’t pay me enough to do that job.’ Well, after my experience, I’m positive, this is the one they are referring to.