Retreated from the house after trying to referee the three way argument about who hogged most of the recent ice cream purchase and who wasn’t sharing the bananas and popcorn. I tried to stimulate the oldest daughter to rise above the intense and emotional approach of the little brother and sister, to stay calm and take responsibility. She says if they’re acting like little kids, what do I do, act thirteen? I say how about aiming for that. She’s hurt, ends up her smirking at my brittle attempts to be the authority figure, and turns her music up loud. My anger is out of proportion and it’s all I can do not to express in revenge the tearful fury rising up into my sinuses. I add a five dollar fine to her growing debt record on the wall (for hogging ice cream–had that coming), consider cutting off the deposits into her college fund, locking the freezer, somehow cutting off all her worldly pleasures. I manage to send her to her room, where she locks the door and blasts her playlist.
The second daughter does not acknowledge any responsibility in the argument over ice cream, only my many imperfections as a parent, and leaves the room. The youngest apologizes for over reacting about the bananas, tells me he loves me. Still too hot and bothered to respond appropriately, I pack up my laptop bag and tell him keep up the good work on being the big boy and apologizing. I’m still seething, feeling that disconnect between my hoped-for home comforts after a long day, and the reality of three teens who still need me to be at my best for them after their long days. Fourth too, when he gets home from his workout and hits the books again.
“How was your day?” asks the barista.
“Too much time with teens today, I sigh, and now no T.A., P.A., principal or SpEd support.” No janitor or cafeteria either. Tired, so tired when I got home I lay back on my bed, feet up, blankets over my legs, feeling the heat come back into my bones. Not drained, just tired, knowing a power rest should do it. The cat climbed up and lay down on the center of my torso, purring loudly, tentatively extending claws for a contended knead through my too thin layers of protection.
Last night when I’d finished my day of subbing, I saw a job come up for the same classroom. I asked myself (and my kids) if I should take it, or wait for something that didn’t take so much energy. Well, I know the students, I thought, and what they’re working on, and though there were “pressure passes” flying, I didn’t “dis” anyone as far as I know, so they should be okay with me coming back. At least it’s less change for them to have the same sub. So I clicked “Accept” and packed a few extra fillers and openers into my magic bag.
In the morning I bring my A-game attitude to do this job that takes all my energy, positive thinking, patience–bring it on, I think. Looking forward to the first period prep to get my thoughts in order and pull together a few excellent openings, engaging moments to take those kids for a great ride through area, volume of 3-D objects and drifting tectonic plates. But when I sign in I’m told I’m needed to fill in first period–they’re short of subs. So much for prep. I take my keys and head down for a few minutes setting up math and science, find out I have the wrong plan printout, lose more time fetching the right one, and a laptop to play a science video. Try to set up, to no avail, head up to fill in with struggling seventh and eighth grade readers, stumbling through my quick read of that plan, and BEEEEP there’s the bell, and here they come. Glad at moments like these I’m not in my first year, or would I ever get to the second?
“You the sub today?”
“Yes I am,” I smile, thinking, if I can’t do this, well then I can’t, but I think I can I think I can and the low expectations fire me up to the higher ones. I ask some questions about their usual procedure, and they muddle trough an explanation, wanting partly to have things looser and more to their liking, so why give it all away to the sub? But they can’t overcome their instinct to be helpful and hospitable and it comes out they’re group reading Bridge to Terebinthia, so we do, taking turns. A truly relaxing and enjoyable experience, including the short interludes of gaping out the window, bantering about siblings, telling them how the brain gets bored when you’re reading because it can go so much faster that the eyes and mouth, and what audiobook I’m listening to, figuring out the most doable position in which to read–standing? Sitting on the back counter? “If that works for you,” I allow. I’m able to be chill because we are less than a dozen in all, and no one gets at loose ends in those numbers. We read almost the whole hour and don’t get to the worksheet at all.
Then it’s off to the downstairs sixth grade classroom as the kids roar in, asking to go to the bathroom, running the electric pencil sharpener, scraping chairs, boys joshing each other, girls gathering in clusters, laughing and getting in a last quick visit, and there’s the settle down bell. Call to attention, I explain my pickle–no planning time, put a brain teaser on the screen and ask them to be super quiet while I take attendance and get my lesson organized. They do their hospitable best, best that a short attention span can do, and I accomplish the head count, the reminders, the consultations with those who have requests and problems, and we start in.
On through the day–two math classes, two science, and a nice quiet typing block for a breather. Ups and downs, and I’m hoping my voice will get more durable with this kind of use, but overall we keep the plan flowing. Names are coming easier, I feel less scrambled, and succeed somewhat at interfering with the well-developed habit of sixth graders to look attentive while their minds are far away. Lights on but occupant is on vacation. I will have to seriously work on that habit of attention if I get a classroom of my own. I noticed the same thing in tenth grade. I’m using the seating map I sketched up to call on participants–without that I’d be dead in the water–calling on kids who aren’t expecting it, asking them to stay with me, if I find out they’re on a mental drift. Not to humiliate or embarrass, just to create an expectation that everyone should be ready, during class discussions, to do their best. Which they seem to start to get. Hard to ignore the raised hands of those who want to answer every question, but sometimes what’s needed. Mental note, for when I have a classroom of my own, to use the popsicle stick method sometimes for randomization.
By the time I’m heading out of the house to the coffee shop I think I’ve decided that I definitely won’t try for a position below seventh grade. But after an hour of writing and quiet, I think, maybe. We’ll see what choice I have, anyway, when the jobs start to come up later this spring. Maybe I’ll just keep subbing, tutoring when needed, and start my masters.
Thanks for listening.