The School Thing

Last fall, I submitted paperwork to be a substitute teacher, but never followed through with the last piece of it. Except for my occasional writer-residencies, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do the school thing anymore.

Yesterday I got a phone call to see if I would sub for a second grade classroom at a nearby elementary school. I wasn’t expecting the call, at all. I didn’t even know my name was on the list.

I said yes.

Oh my, it was just like old times: Ms. Jackson can I show the class this stone I found? (It looked like a pinto bean.) Mrs. Jacobs? (It’s Jackson, sweetie. Ms. Jackson.) Ms. Jackson, Ryan is using two pieces of paper and we’re only allowed to use one and… (What the hell, kid, live a little! Use three!) Ms. Jackson, can I go to the nurse? My elbow hurts and…(Buck up, Billy.) Can I sit by you, Ms. Jackson? Sure.

Looking back on my years as a second grade classroom teacher I can’t help but think of Little House on the Prairie. My students and I would sit in circle time, dreaming up names to give our paper white bulbs that were coming into bloom; Bear claw, Mike, Three Flowers. We’d measure how many inches they’d grown, get out our crayons, make a bar graph, then hit the playground for a half hour. Not anymore.

Okay, patriotic moment: God Bless Teachers. These days, their schedules are so jammed tight, I’m pretty sure circle time has been banned. There’s very little breathing room to do all the creative stuff they want to do. An average day at an elementary school is more like basic training; Come on, people, let’s move it move it MOVE IT! Does that strike anyone else as odd? I mean, to be pacing your day like that? Especially when you’re seven years old? And our recess was like, eight minutes.

It’s nuts.

But it still felt good to be back, even for a day, hanging with people under the age of ten. And all the people at the school were very friendly and helpful. Before I left at 3:30, they asked me if I’d come back tomorrow. Seems that Mrs. P is still under the weather so…

I said yes.

3 thoughts on “The School Thing

  1. Dear Ms. Jackson,

    My son, Billy, asked to go to the nurse and you said NO. I will have you know that he is a very sensitive boy and your comment hurt his morale as much as his elbow.

    I would hope that if any student needed to use the nurse in the future you will think twice and about the pain they are in. Just being a substitute I am sure you did not know the rules of the school you were at. I was assured by the principal that you will allow Billy to go to the nurse when he needs to.

    Billy's Mother

    THAT is what teachers have to deal with.

  2. dear flyte44,
    in my early days of teaching, a veteran teacher made me a sign with a capital P inside a circle with a line through it. she said i had too much of an open door policy with my students' parents. i scoffed at her, but over the years grew to understand after having some very weird experiences with over-zealous parents. so…talking to teachers these days, things have gotten, well, stranger. i get it. thanks for writing.

  3. Next year will be my 20th year as a teacher. Luckily, I can think back to a time when the profession was very different from what it has become now. Some of these new(er) teachers never got to experience teaching as it once was. Maybe that's a good thing, to not know what you're missing. I greatly miss the days though when we could spend an hour or two painting dinosaur shirts and turning the classroom into a "Jurrasic Park", and eating "homemade Dino crunch" snacks with the kids while journaling about our experiences as a flesh eating dinosaur! My former students, and their parents, STILL reminisce about that. All we can do is continue to do what we know is best for kids, to press on in the face of change, and hope that in spite of all the challenges, we can make a difference and make real, human connections with children!

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