Fifth graders are planting flowers (left) and designing a trellis with string and wooden stakes in a small container garden outside my friend’s classroom. My volunteer time in her garden has been curtailed (again) by a long-term sub assignment. Across campus this time, I’ve taken over a classroom of fourth graders after a teacher was fired. It’s a first for me. The fired part, that is. It’s my fourth time as a long-term substitute in elementary school.
Whether a teacher quits or is released from her job, the kids ask the same question: Hey, where’s our teacher? My job (should I choose to accept it) is to keep the students’ academic progress on track until a permanent replacement can be found. Eight weeks is my limit. Being in the classroom watching kids learn and grow is a joy, yes. But it’s also stressful, fast-paced, unrelenting, and a lot of work. I’m a retired teacher. I’d like to spend most weeks writing or working in the yard.
FOUR WEEKS PASS
It’s been very exciting being back in the classroom. *screams and pulls out hair*
We’re on Thanksgiving Break now. I’m counting the days till Christmas. Fifteen days can’t be that hard. *Seriously?*
Every time I do this I am reminded how hard teachers work. It’s unbelievable. I always wonder: How did I do this? I have it easy now. My fourth grade team shares everything with me: plans, materials, assessments, worksheets, teaching tips, and more. I don’t stay after school for meetings, though I do enter grades and data from home. I don’t receive phone calls from parents at all hours; don’t get texts from them at the grocery check-out either.
Even though I’m counting down the days, I’ll miss the kids. I worry about them while I’m their teacher and spend a lot of time reflecting on ways to improve my teaching to help them achieve. Yes, I get attached. But that’s what being a teacher is all about. Making connections. And so many different characters! A short story writer’s dream.