Day One – February 23, 2005 It is my very first day of subbing ever. I am awakened at 10 to 6 and told to go to C_____ High School. I am relieved to learn that it is right by school – so I can just head to class afterwards – but not so relieved to learn that it is right by school – not the best neighborhood in the world. I expected this, but I’m still very nervous. Discipline is my main weakness and I think I might need it more than ever today.
I am right. I get to the school twenty minutes before I was told to – and, as it turns out, twenty minutes before the home room bell rings. They ask what I specialize in. I don’t specialize in anything; it’s my first day. But I say English, because, well, duh. “Okay, we’ll give you Mr. Whoever,” says one of the secretaries.
“No, don’t give her Mr. Whoever. I’m saving Mr. Whoever for the end.”
“Well, who should I give her?”
“I don’t know. Do you mind having a seat?”
I sit for twenty-five minutes. The first bell rings. They are still sorting things. Finally they give me Ms. Davis and tell me to go to room 205. This is evidently all the instruction they plan on giving me. I flip open the book they hand me. I have Geometry, Algebra and Reading? Huh? I also have unclear lesson plans for the latter two and no lesson plans for the first one. I tell them this. “Oh, they have books. Just have them flip open their books.”
“But – “
“You have a free periods 2 and 3. You can come back down then and ask more questions.”
Geometry is my first period. “But-“
“Honey, you’ve got to go! Homeroom started five minutes ago!”
So I go. They do not have books. The books are locked in the cabinet. I don’t have the combination. My first period, my first day of subbing, and I have a geometry class with no lesson plans and no textbooks.
The day does not get better. I keep trying to get more questions answered – why do students keep wandering in and out of my classroom and then claim that they don’t belong in my class? How am I expected to take attendance? Where is the bathroom? What kind of teacher teaches math and reading? – but none are forthcoming. I keep going down to the office during my free periods, but they keep sending me to some other teacher’s class for more subbing duties. This other teacher is in school; she just has a meeting. Why she has a meeting during her class times, I don’t know. I do know that two students almost get into a fistfight in one of her classes while I am there. My presence does not stop them at all. I try to get them to read. One of them may or may not be illiterate. The others are at about a second-grade reading level. They’re freshmen in high school.
One kid threatens to hit me. He later tries to turn over a desk/chair thing while another student is sitting in it. Even once I know you’re supposed to check IDs, students wander in and out of my classroom as if I am not standing there. I finally get the question about why I teach such varied subjects. It’s because these are Special Needs kids. In this school, that does not mean lower IQs or learning disabilities. That means eSpecially Needs a kick in the behind.
When I get to my own class (the one in which I am a student) that evening, my friend asks me what’s wrong. “First day of subbing,” I reply. She understands completely. She’s had first days of subbing before. Well, at least one. She says I look like hell.
I figure, though, that it’s a good thing my first day was so rough. Now, what can they possibly give me to top this?
Day Two – March 2, 2005 O____ School, an elementary/middle school, calls me. I had given them my name a couple of weeks ago and said I lived in the area. I am a little nervous that I’ll get really little kids, but I’m so grateful I’m not going to Collins that it’s fine. I don’t; I get eighth graders, and apparently, the “good” eighth graders. I appear to be teaching reading and organizational skills. Or something. I am given explicit lesson plans. Mostly, I am to administer tests and oversee Quiet Reading Time. The eighth-grade kids think they are bad-asses. One in particular, whose worst crime is talking when I tell him not to, wants to know if he’s in trouble. If I write him up, he tells me, he’ll be suspended. I tell him that if he doesn’t want to get suspended, he should stop doing things that would get him written up, but inside I laugh. Kid, I think, you have no idea. I also have seventh graders who think they are bad-asses. They are slightly worse than the eighth-graders. One student keeps farting, causing laughing riots and much movement among other kids. One kid, who clearly fancies himself a Jack Black-style class clown, tells me his name is Seymour Butts. “First of all,” I tell him, “it doesn’t hurt me if you get marked absent. Second of all, if you want to be class clown, you need better material. That joke was old when my grandfather was your age.” All in all, a much better day. I tell the sub coordinator that I would be delighted to return.
Day 3 – March 4, 2005 And return, I do. This time, to sub – get this – gym! It is to laugh! But it’s kind of a fun day. I have all ages this time. Most are really pumped to participate. We play Line Soccer, the kind where you divide the class in two teams, have them stand against opposite walls and assign them coresponding numbers, and then call out those numbers so only a few kids play at a time. I scream a lot, I lose my voice, and I discover that third and fourth graders love to tattle-tale. I also discover that most of these kids could whoop my ass. They do multiple push-ups, sit-ups, running – and they do it enthusiastically! By the end of the day, I have completely lost my voice, making it hard to chear for my sister-in-law when we see her in The Vagina Monologues that night.
Day 4 – March 11, 2005 O_____ hasn’t call me so I go back to C_____ the next day. I get excited when I see that the students have a half-day, and I don’t have kids in my last two periods. I think this means I can leave early. It does not. I have to stay for the Staff Development meeting, which is boring. But then, so is most of my day. I am subbing for the Culinary Arts teacher, who is on maternity leave, but I’m not allowed to actually cook with them. I’m basically allowed to babysit them. I get them to talk about the food they like, a little, but that’s about it.
Day 5 – March 28, 2005 I haven’t worked in a couple of weeks, because I had a lot of work to do before I went to the Bahamas, and then both I and the students in the CPS district had spring break. I wasn’t even going to work today, but O_____ called at 8:40 to tell me to come over right now. So I do. They’re using me as a teacher’s aid to two Special Needs kindergarteners – one in the morning session, one in the afternoon session. (Kindergarteners here only go to school for half a day.) The one in the morning session has apparently made subs run out of the school crying after half an hour. It’s why the sub coordinator is so reluctant to tell me what I’m actually doing. But I think the kid is okay. His parents won’t have him diagnosed, and refuse to admit there is a problem at all, but, based on my limited knowledge of the one autistic kid my m-i-l tutors, I think this kid has a slightly lesser degree of autism than that kid, and possibly some attention and hyperactivity disorders as well. The main thing he does is yell, but he doesn’t seem to yell maliciously. He just seems to yell when he’s really excited. Although it’s clear that there is no point to him being in this classroom. He cannot interact with the other kids; he cannot get anything out of the actual education going on. But he certainly does not make me want to run out of the building crying.
The next kid has Ausberger’s and is clearly very smart. He’s just not great at interacting with the class, and he gets distracted easily. He’s obsessed with coinage, which is funny, and routine, which makes it difficult to be his sub. This is true in general, and especially of younger kids, but with kids with mental problems already there’s a definite mistrust of me and why I’m there. But he’s not overtly bad for me. He just isn’t as good for me as he would be for his regular aid. All in all, an interesting day.
Day 6 – April 1, 2005 I accept the job at O____ before I realize that it is April Fool’s Day. But nothing bad happens. I get third-graders, who haven’t moved beyond “Made you look!” as a form of practical joking. They are the same third-graders I had for gym. Some of them remember me. They all seem to like me. They are a little rowdy but nothing too bad. They are also tattle-tales. One of them reminds me of my sister. Aw.