The Reluctant Sub

How did I get to this point?  Ah yes, I wanted to hike every day and see what the universe had in store. So I quit my very good teaching job and now I’m looking for work.

Turns out the universe has lots of amazing mountains and waterfalls in this part of the world and not so many jobs.

But I have my teaching certificate and many years of successful classroom experience. So I plunked down money for a background check and attended an all-day training which should have been a couple of hours, tops. Just like regular teacher inservice; half as long = twice as good.

I don’t think subbing is a great fit for me because I’m pretty no-nonsense and subbing requires a certain amount of flexibility. The look that says “Does your dad need a phone call?” won’t work anymore. Subbing is a like being a mall cop: I look like the real thing but they know darn well I’m not.

The first time I ever subbed, there were no lesson plans.  I went next door to ask another teacher. She could not find them either so she helped me come up with a plan and we all got through the day. After I got home, the absent teacher phoned to say I’d embarrassed her by asking her colleague for help.  She didn’t say what happened to her plans and I was too young and inexperienced to tell her how inappropriate this all was (heck, I’m not sure I could do it now!) but the bottom line seemed to be that her pride, not the students’ day, was what mattered most.

Another time the teacher left the game Around the World.  Two students go head-to-head trying to answer a flash card problem.  The winner goes on to compete with the next student and the loser sits down.  If both answer correctly, I am to judge who was first.  A couple of boys disagreed with my call.  They began chanting, “You suck!  You suck!” and got a few others to join in.  This was the moment I became fully aware that the control I have over students is an illusion – one I happen to like and have perfected since – but that was a bad, crazy day.

I remember my first day of a long-term assignment when I was to read the name of a raffle winner.  A child pulled the card out of my hand and said, “Jason, it’s you.”  I told this little fart he just lost his recess.  L.F. went home and told grandma I called the class “stupid idiots” and the next day I found myself seated across from the vice principal who asked if I had said this.  I felt like saying, “I have an excellent vocabulary.  If I want to insult someone, I can do much better than ‘stupid idiot’, believe me.”  But instead, I simply told the story of what had happened and assured her I had never called students names.  Her reply, delivered with a steely glare:  “Neither have I.  And I don’t plan to start.”  What that meant I was not sure but I called my husband and tearfully told him I wanted to quit.  He calmly reminded me of my goal – a job in that district – and so began the longest 6 weeks of my life. 

When I first started subbing – before I had my own classroom – calls would come from a frazzled school secretary begging me to work that day.  Years later, when I subbed trying to get into a particular district, everything was automated.  I got a computer-generated call, chose yes or no, and that was that.  Now, years later, things have changed again.  There is a company that runs the substitute teaching program and an assertive woman who feels free to text me.  This would be OK if it was just information about needing someone at a certain school. 

Lately, though, there’s been a bit of what I consider strong-arm tactics.  Here’s an example (these came one after the other on a recent morning):  “There are still 4 subs needed for today.  There are a lot of subs not meeting the 4 day monthly minimum.”  This was followed by:  “Please keep in mind this is a requirement to stay active and work if you are available.”  And then this:  “To be exact there are 25 out of 85 that have met the minimum for January.  No excuse for these to go unfilled today!” Ah, now I see.  I thought this was flexible work for me but it turns out my real job is to make her look good. 

So maybe it’s not a great fit and maybe I’m a little scared.  Maybe it’s not worth it except I’d like to earn back the $55 I spent getting fingerprinted for this gig.  And who knows? Maybe there’s another blog post in it. No promises but please wish me luck.