Observations from a Substitute Teacher

In spring of 2012, while living on a farm in Plant City, I took up subbing at the charter school my children were attending in Temple Terrace. I figured if I was going to be at the school all day, every day, I might as well get paid 62 cents an hour to be there. When the P.E. Coach got married and took a short honeymoon, I agreed to fill in for him and wrote down a few of my observations in a journal.

Lessons from a Substitute on the Sidelines:

  1. I am not as cool or as funny as I thought I was. Or maybe I am and you have to be 20 to get me. Or maybe you have to be at least 20 and sort of “off.” But probably I’m just not as funny or as cool as I thought. Lesson learned.
  2. Subbing is not as easy as I thought it would be. It should come with a massage. It doesn’t.
  3. Laundry does not do itself. Disappointing.
  4. Third graders are the perfect balance of skilled, intelligent, and innocent. All except one. And I had her sent away to a place where she’ll have to earn her shoes and a right to eat. That girl was a bad seed.
  5. I did not actually do #4. Wanting to is not a crime. Don’t call the county offices.
  6. First graders are really, really bad at P.E. They only know how to run willy nilly and that is not a sport. No matter how hard I’ve tried, I can’t make that a sport. It IS however what we mostly did.
  7. First graders definitely cannot play kickball. Do not attempt this. You will need a strong drink of something afterward. I went with Diet Mtn. Dew.
  8. Insane people cannot play kickball.
  9. I’m beginning to wonder if anyone can play kickball.
  10. . First graders cry during Duck Duck Goose. Always. Every time. Multiple people crying. Big, salty, why-does-the-world-hate-me tears. This surprised me. I made it through 3 rounds, each time. During those three rounds, all 20 tiny people clung to hope that they would be picked next. Next time, SURELY, it would be them. After three rounds, they all lost hope. And I couldn’t revive it even with systems and processes and blue prints and bar graphs and a whistle. From then on, it was ground-flop crying. Come on, man.
  11. . If, for some reason, a person wearing a woodchuck costume decides to walk the car line at the end of the day to promote school spirit, you can pretty much quit whatever it was you were trying to do on the field and just sit down. Even if there’s bleeding or vomiting or wads of cash, they won’t come back to you. It’s all Woodchuck at that point.

At one point, while still under the impression that I would be able to do something with these sad-sack, uncoordinated, uncooperative, depressed and hopeless first graders, I had them warming up against the fence. And I attempted to teach them a cheer. That sounded like an easy slam dunk. Everyone likes to cheer.

“I’m going to cheer something and then you are going to repeat it back to me,” I bellowed enthusiastically. “I’ll say ‘I’ve got skills (SKILZ), yes I do, I’ve got skilz, how ‘bout you?’ And then you will cheer back to me, ‘We’ve got skilz, yes we do, we’ve got skilz, how ‘bout you?! OK? Ready?”

They said they were ready. They nodded their heads enthusiastically. So I began.

“I’ve got skilz, yes I do, I’ve got skilz, how ‘bout you?” And then I pointed to them for them to say their part.

“YES!” They all yelled in unison.

“No, no, no,” I said. “Remember? When I finish my part, youare supposed to say it back to me? Repeat what I say. OK?” Again, they nodded.

“I’ve got skilz, yes I do, I’ve got skilz, how ‘bout you?” I pointed to them again, almost dislocating a shoulder in the enthusiasm of the moment.

“YES!” They all shouted again.

They did not have skilz.

Then the woodchuck came out.

You know the rest of the story.

But I got a paycheck for that mess, so it’s all good.