A Substitute Life


Early Tuesday morning last week I stood staring at the calendar posted on the front of the fridge and was almost giddy about the complete blankness of my day. My husband asked me what I was doing and I explained, “I have absolutely nothing I have to do today.” Now that’s saying something for the month of December! As soon as that one glorious sentence left my mouth, my phone began to ring. . .

It seemed that the school district was really hurting for substitute teachers and although I wasn’t suppose to start until after the new year, they wanted to know if I could work. Well now, how could I turn them down without feeling completely guilty (since I obviously had nothing else planned for my day). I said yes, and thus my new stint as substitute teacher began. I know, what was I thinking?!?

As it turned out, it wasn’t the smoothest day of substituting I had ever encountered, but since it was first grade (the same school and grade, not class, as my son) I got through the day without incident or catastrophe. Of course one girl did tell my son I was fat, to which I wanted to respond with, “Oh yeah, well her mom is too skinny,” but that wouldn’t have been at all nice. Plus, I try not to mold my self-image after the opinion of a snot-nosed first grader (I don’t really know if she needed to blow her nose or not).

I then encountered a sweet little girl who said she knew my son and asked if I was his mom. After I answered in the affirmative, she proceeded to tell me I actually looked like a grandma. What? “She’s a first-grader, a first-grader, just a first-grader. . .” This might be my new mantra.

I signed up for a second-grade, afternoon-only gig on day two but I was “guilted” into subbing for a paraprofessional in the morning with a personal call from the secretary. I told her I was on the way to drop off my son and wearing jeans and a sweater but if she really needed me I could do it. She said, “You can wear pajamas for all I care, I just really need someone to sub.” So sub, I did. Let me tell you, those paras are some hardworking folks.

By the time I got to my second grade room after lunch, it felt like a vacation. Plus, I’m here to tell you that second grade is the bomb! Do people still use that word? This particular group of students was attentive, polite and drew all sorts of pictures of me dressed as a cheerleader, sporting beautiful hair or wearing a “Best Teacher” t-shirt. Now that was more like it!

On day three, I stuck to my guns (although the principal himself called) and declined to work. Somehow I started out the week ahead and now I was quickly falling behind on all the Christmasing and basic living I was supposed to get done.

Day four was a full-day assignment for another second grade classroom. Yay! Boo! When I walked in that morning, the teacher next door was blanketing my entire room with a fine mist of Lysol spray. Apparently the teacher I was subbing for left the previous afternoon vomiting and then four of her students also went home, two of which showed up bright and early this day. Huh? After I located the Clorox wipes, sanitizer and the hand-washing station, I managed to get through the day with some extra-dry hands but amazingly germ free. Did I mention second grade is the bomb!

If my family and I make it to Christmas without a fever, upset stomach or diarrhea (I sound like a Pepto commercial), it will truly be a miracle!

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