The Wonderful World of Subbing

I am a “Classified Substitute” with the Shoreline School District, which basically means that I am qualified to oversee some “nonteaching” positions in a classroom and I am a registered Paraeducator. It also means that I get about 20 phone calls between the hours of 5 and 7 a.m from an automated service called Subfinder. No, I’m serious. 20 calls. I must be the worst substitute ever because I have gotten into the habit of turning my phone on silent before I go to bed. The whole point of subs is that they are available in the mornings to substitute for sick teachers and paraeds, yet, as it seems, I would rather get my beauty sleep than be disturbed by that ghastly ring at 5 in the morning.

This morning when my alarm went off at 7:30 a.m., I shifted in bed to find my phone, making sure that I exuded the least amount of energy possible, I grabbed my phone off my nightstand and turned off the alarm. As I slowly got out of bed (and I mean really slowly) I noticed that this morning I had seventeen missed calls from Subfinder (even the name makes me jump as I undoubtedly do each morning that awful ring wakes me up). Seventeen people sick or unavailable to come to work that morning. Seventeen people relying on me, the biggest lazyhead around, to come through for them and get out bed and report to their job that morning. But, no no, not this morning. No, this morning I have a job of my own to report to.

I’ve been subbing on a semi-regular basis for this wonderful woman named Dee* who teaches at a high school in Shoreline (the school will remain nameless for the sake of google being such a darned good search engine). Her students absolutely love her, and no matter how great I may be (pretty great, if you were wondering), I am still not “Ms. Dee,” and her students are shocked and appalled that she could leave them for such a long period of time (2 weeks). I think it’s pretty endearing though, how much of a difference Dee has made in their lives. These are high school kids, they are rough and dirty, crude and harsh, yet something Dee has done has really made a difference. During Dee’s lunch hour, she graciously opens her doors to students that need a place to eat. And boy do they flock here. I have at least 30 people eating lunch in my classroom everyday. And Dee certainly doesn’t have to do that. She could lock her door and take the precious half hour as a chance to enjoy some peace and quiet, but instead she embraces the loudness, the craziness, and definitely the weirdness. I’m sure there are a boatload of blogs out there about inspirational teachers, but I definitely think Dee deserve a chance to join the ranks of those.

A telling story that occurred while filling in for Dee shows her kindess and gentleness: Although Dee’s main job at this high school is to oversee the students who are doing “credit recovery” or taking online courses, Dee also goes into a different class during one of her open periods and helps out in a math class. So, as I am filling in for Dee for the time being, I also go to this class. The first day I walk in only to hear the class roaring with complaints of, “where’s Dee?!” Finally they get used to me, and I attempt to keep the class flowing with minimal disruptions. This one kid, let’s call him Isaac, is being incredibly distracting, laughing and making a ruckus with a couple other guys. So, I move closer to where they’re sitting, hoping that my mere presence will be enough to stave off their bad behavior. I know, I know, of course it’s not. So, I put on my best intimidating face and direct my attention towards Isaac. “Quit talking,” I snarl, waiting for him to wince back, his tail between his legs like a punished puppy. “But look, check this out!” he concentrates hard and begins balancing his pencil on his desk with the eraser standing flush against the flat surface. The kids around him begin to laugh, causing even more of a disruption. I grab the pencil, and tell him to listen up, that the teacher is trying to give a lesson on graphing. He looks upset, and he stares up at me as I walk away, and coyly says, “Dee would’ve at least said ‘cool…'”

And that was it! Although my pride wouldn’t let me see it at first, I had just learned an important lesson from my first deliquent student, Isaac. These kids don’t need to be babied. They don’t need a person to point a finger at them or to tell them how it is. What they need is affirmation, someone to show them that they are important enough that it makes a difference whether they succeed or not. What would have happened if I had simply said “cool,” and then kindly asked him to redirect his attention to the teacher? Maybe nothing would have changed. Maybe he would have continued distracting students. But maybe, just maybe he would have seen that I had cared enough to affirm his person, to give him the okay on his quirky personality. Yes, I have a feeling I’m going to learn a lot from these kids.

*Names and faces may have been changed for my protection and yours.

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3 Responses

  1. cool

  2. you learned an invaluable lesson, Sarah; I can really identify with that kid… I was the attention seeker, and if I wasn’t shooting spitwads at my teachers, I was passing notes across the room on paper airplanes. most of my teachers handled me with kid gloves (metaphorically speaking).

  3. Dee sounds like an awesome person. I’m glad that you can get a picture of her personality and teaching methods even when she’s gone! I hope that you continue to learn from her and that you will be the next “Dee”.

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