It has been almost seven years since I’ve been a classroom teacher. I became a stay-at-home mom when Annie was born in December of 2006, in part due to necessity and in part due to desire. I’ve loved being home and teaching piano for the past (almost-) seven years… with the exception of that second bout of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. And the biting phase Ella went through when she was four. And Annie’s liberal use of “fuggin‘” when she was not yet two (thanks, Nick). And every episode of My Little Pony.
But truly, I’ve loved the opportunity to be here when the girls get home from school, to take them to morning dance classes, to volunteer for field trips and be a room rep, to actually have time in the day to organize cupboards and see friends for lunch. But I miss teaching. I miss the classroom. I miss the kids.
I knew, even with ten years’ experience and a shiny Master’s Degree from an awesome university, that it wouldn’t exactly be an easy waltz back into the classroom, and I would likely have to rely on subbing. I know that some – many? – people regard subs as not “real” teachers, but I’ve never taken on the stigma. My teaching career includes four years in my own classroom, two years subbing while I got my Master’s, and four more years back in my own (different) classroom, and I can say without question that being a sub provided me with some of my most challenging and informative experiences. I’m totally down with subbing.
Anyway, I assumed – again with the experience and the degree – that I’d apply, get hired, and land some subbing gigs pretty quickly.
When no music positions presented themselves last spring (as I’d thought), I applied online – which is how every single teaching application is done these days – to substitute teach in at least ten districts (none of which is the girls’ district, because apparently they’re not hiring new subs right now. At all). When my applications didn’t receive so much as a nibble, I attempted to bring hard copies to various human resources offices, only to be told, “You can give those to us, but they’ll just go in the trash. We do everything online now.”
Short of enabling my online applications to set off fireworks whenever a potential employer clicked on them (which might not have turned out so well anyway), I could do nothing but wait and hope. For nearly six months, I heard from exactly zero schools about subbing, and assumed it was just a bust.
Then, in early September – right when I’d nearly given up hope – I heard from a district that they were interested! Two weeks after I signed up with them, I was called in by another district – to simply be put on their sub list – and was asked during the paperwork-signing meeting if I’d be able to sub the very next day.
All righty. Let’s do this!
It was just what I’d wanted it to be, and I was genuinely ecstatic to be back at it again, even without my “own” classroom. But, yeah. Some things have changed since I was last “officially” a teacher.
Let’s start with the cute little ID badge (seen in classy bathroom selfie, above). Back when I subbed, there weren’t no such thang. You just said hello at the main office and slunk off to your classroom, hoping no one would put a “Kick Me” sign on your back. Now, it’s all official. I WORK here. Boo-yah!
Substitute teachers are now given the school safety plans, which include not only procedures for medical emergencies, fire drills, and school bus accidents, but also bomb threats, explosions, hazardous material spills, shelter-in-place due to a chemical or biological danger, person threatening others, and suspicious powder/mail. Y’all, I am no spring chicken. I taught in Colorado when Columbine happened, and was teaching only thirty miles from Manhattan in the aftermath of September 11th. Lockdown drills are just part of the scenery. But, man. I didn’t know schools were so freakin’ dangerous!
Those 5 a.m. wake-up calls? Yep. They still exist. But now the sub callers prefer to contact you as far in advance as possible… by email. In fact, they request that you email them to tell them your availability for next week. How cool is that?! And if they still need someone at 5 a.m., they’ll send out a group text to see who can do it. People. This changes everything. Back when, short of turning off the ringer (which, hello, dangerous), there was no way to avoid hearing that pre-dawn phone call, even if I wasn’t able to sub that day. Now, if I really want or need that job, I’ll hear the text message come in. If I don’t, I’ll sleep right through it. And so will everyone else. Genius!
One word: Smartboards.
Or is that two words? See, I don’t even know. That’s what I’m saying.
What hasn’t changed are the kids. When they come into the room and see a sub waiting for them, they still react with that same combination of suspicion, dread, and mischievous glee. They pull out all the stops and put on a fabulous show.
Good thing that what also hasn’t changed is me. You put on a show, I’ll be there to watch. I love me a good performance. Be sure to use proper inflection. And then I’ll tell you to march your butt right back into your seat (and, yes, I do know which seat is yours; don’t ask how, I just do) and sit down and no, you may not use the bathroom right now even if Mr. So-and-So lets you do it all the time, because we have learning to do. See these? These are lesson plans. And I know that you thought you’d just have a freebie when you came in here, but I’m gonna follow these plans. Because that’s what I’d want if I were your teacher. And if I were your mom.
Except I use humor and speak Sarcasm and smile a ton and they can see that I really, really want to be there. So it all works out in the end and there have been no “Kick Me” signs. Yet.
Tomorrow, I’m subbing again. I’m a little anxious, because it’ll be the first time in forever that Ella and Annie have started off to school without me (I need to leave the house at 6:30 – must. go. to. bed), but I’m also more than a little excited. I’ve got my School Safety Plan Quick Reference Guide in my bag. I’ll get my ID badge and be on my way.
So long as no Smartboards (Smart Boards?) are involved, I should be good.