To tell you about my first time subbing for real

I left teaching to pursue a Master's with the high hopes of an amazing career doing something really neat, like changing the world. Currently, I'm a few steps behind on that venture, I'm sure it's coming but for the time I am cultivating patience.

I returned to teaching in a different (and some days a grossly underpaid... you'll agree with me by the end of this, I promise) capacity. I started substitute teaching. I wasn't getting any calls outside of my old school so I put myself out there to the broader school board and I got a call almost immediately. I was sent in as an Arts Ed teacher in the core of the city. I was excited and nervous.

I was excited to meet new people and have a different experience and perspective presented to me. Having worked only with my previous staff I was interested to see how other schools functioned. I was nervous because a friend of mine had been locked in the basement office of this school by grade two's a year before my gig there. I did my best to hide this nervousness.

Thankfully, the morning was spent co-teaching. I hung out with the senior level elementary teachers helping the kids with math, except I wasn't helping them with math, I was being sworn at and ignored. But I didn't panic since their classroom teacher was in the room and was being treated exactly the same. I was glad to get the same treatment (that is sarcasm, obviously, and if you didn't get that I'm worried about your thoughts of the future of our society).

As an Arts Ed teacher for the day, my job was to rotate around the school relieving the teachers of their duty, and covering their class. I gave a teacher a quick run-down of my day, and she said, 'ooh, you have the grade three's? Go buy a treat, the only way to get through to those kids is with food.' At this point I started to sweat a little. I can easily handle grade seven and eights, I understand them, and for some reason they are intimidated by me and they respect me. Grade three's are a different creature, they respond only to bells, routines, and some external motivator that I haven't quite nailed down yet. I panicked and called for backup. My (then boyfriend) husband dropped off a bag of nibs for me to bait these grade three's with.

I was not prepared.

I walked in and the teacher was yelling at the top of her lungs at these eight year olds. I immediately judged her, I thought how awful that she would treat kids this way, how disrespectful and hurtful. I see how I was naive now, hindsight is 20/20 yadda yadda yadda...

Right before the teacher left, and took her pre-service teacher helper with her, she 'took a desk away' from a chubby boy, not because he was chubby, because he had done something disrespectful. I don't think that taking a desk away is a consequence that matches the crime, but I think she had had it. The rest of the kids started making fun of him immediately, and she just waltzed out the door.

I went up to the front and attempted to change the subject by explaining how we were going to do this Valentine's Day craft, a heart with accordion arms and legs, how hard could that be, really? Turns out, in this instance, next to impossible.

The chubby boy with no desk privileges started throwing pencils, then ran out of the classroom, I followed him to see if he was ok. I felt for the kid. As I was on my way out, one ran out ahead of me. Then five more. Once out in the hallway they went in separate directions like rats escaping a flood. I yelled, but who was I to these kids? They knew me for all of five minutes, I had no authority, they knew it and they capitalized on it. I looked across the way to see a chivalrous teacher that I had helped in the morning. He was on the other side of a glass wall, and I threw up my hands and dramatically mouthed the word HELP!

In the meantime I started working on the chubby boy, he didn't run, he just sat in an alcove. I tried coaxing him toward the classroom and out of nowhere a grade 8 student that swore at me in the morning showed up. She was encouraging him to go with her, it was this odd seduction onto the dark side, and she was winning, hands down. If we were the little angel and devil on this kid's shoulder, the devil had candy and video games, and I had a stupid construction paper Valentine's heart.

The chivalrous teacher strutted over with his hair all slicked back. He quickly told the devilish grade 8 to go back to the library. Then he turned to me smiling and said, 'you keep the ones you have in the class, and I'll corral these ones, and make sure you keep the door closed'. I sighed, thankful for the help, and I went back to attempting to teach the accordion heart project.

I had a few kids cutting their paper hearts but the unrest was growing. The kids could see my mounting frustration in my red face. The door opened and the chivalrous teacher was bear hugging the chubby kid back into the classroom, his hair a complete mess and his face beet red. That's when it turned. They realized that I had absolutely nothing under control, and pandemonium broke out. No one would sit, a few were trying to finish their crafts in mid-air, things began flying, and the whole class gravitated toward the door like a giant vacuum was pulling them toward the hall. I ended up standing in front of the door in order to not let anyone out. I was holding the door closed, wishing it locked on the inside too. A knock came from the outside, and I was certain that it was the hallway hooligans wanting in. I believe it was at this point I started praying that mob mentality wouldn't take over, I saw a kid with scissors out of the corner of my eye and prayed I would make it out with all of my hair.

Then the door started to come open. I had lost all sense that a kid wouldn't have a key and it flashed through my mind, 'they're coming in, oh Lord!', I pushed on the door. Then I heard her voice yelling, the classroom teacher was back. And I let her in. I was so angry with her for not leaving me her pre-service teacher, and for sending the chubby boy into a rage right before she left the room. She turned to me and matter-of-factly stated that, 'the kids are a little crazy when they have a sub'.

Really?!? Do you think so lady? It was all I could do to not tear into her right there. Instead I grabbed my things and didn't leave my name anywhere in the school. I turned down every call from them until the dust settled and I heard a few things had changed in the operations of that school.

That class was thirty minutes long. And I ate the entire bag of nibs that night.

That's all.


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