The Substitute Chronicles: Part I

I needed a job. But not a job job. I graduated from college in May, and I’ll be moving to England for a paid internship in late December. I needed something to fill in the gap, to make some extra cash, and to avoid consuming all my time.

My mother works for the school district in my hometown, and after hearing that I would need some extra cash, she recommended substitute teaching. I pondered and thought it would be a sweet gig. It would basically be babysitting. I’d show up, hand out some worksheets, and show a video or two. Cake. I could also essentially choose my schedule and not be bound to an everyday job. So, I signed up.

Since I studied English in college, I’ve been accustomed to sharing my major with people and hearing them automatically ask, “Oh, so you’re going to teach?” just as I’ve been accustomed to replying, “Oh, no. I’m going into journalism.” I knew for a fact that I do not have the patience to teach for the rest of my life. If you’re thinking that I had a revolutionary subbing experience and this post is going to be a story of how my life took a turn and how I heartwarmingly discovered that teaching is my passion… don’t.

It is quite a story though, one of which requires four blog posts to tell.

It just so happens that a teacher in the school district needed surgery, and she needed someone to cover her medical leave for over a month. The district couldn’t find a long-term sub, that is, until it offered me the position.

I was hesitant at first. Since it wasn’t just a single-day substitute experience, I would actually have to teach. But I weighed the positives. I would gain good life experience, I would be guaranteed a job for a while, I wouldn’t have to work as much after the weeks were over, and I could get a pay increase for subbing consecutively. So, the school district gave me a temporary “emergency teaching certificate,” and I went for it.

What I really didn’t think about were the circumstances of the class.

The real teacher was scheduled for surgery before the school year even started. So, the students had no ground work for expectations or lessons when I got there.

The subject was math. In case you weren’t paying attention, I’m a language arts person.

And last but not least, the grade level was… seventh grade. Seventh graders are the no-man’s land of primary education. They’re too little to be big and too big to be little. They’re 12, but they have the attention spans of five-year-olds, yet they think they’re 21.

Alas, I like a challenge.

SO, my first day as a sub—ever—was on the first day of the school year… teaching math… to seventh graders.

What on God’s green earth was I thinking?

I somehow made it through. This week is my last week of teaching the little… angels. I might have taught them a few things, but they’ve taught me a few things as well. For example, I learned that I made the right decision of not going into teaching. I learned that teachers, regardless of where they are or what they teach, are not paid enough. I learned that it genuinely takes a special person to be a teacher, and you could not pay me enough to do it for a living.

With only a few days left, I’ve decided to share a four-part saga about my seventh grade teaching experience. Stay tuned this week. “The Substitute Chronicles” are just getting started.

5 thoughts on “The Substitute Chronicles: Part I

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