Mrs. Wray Enters the Classroom
When I started searching the job openings in January, I was excited to learn that you don't need a degree in education to become a guest (emergency) substitute teacher. So I got fingerprinted and immunized, and entered the world of education.
I've never been addressed formally in my life, so I was torn about what my moniker should be. Ms. Wray expresses my feminism, but sounds like I have a rod up my butt. Mrs. Wray doesn't seem right, because it's not my husband's name. Mrs. Reed would not be true because that's not my name. Oh dear! I finally settled on Mrs. Wray.
There's a reason people study for 4 years and do student teaching before calling themselves an educator. I was ill-prepared after a 1-day class.
Starting any new job is nerve-racking, but being a sub is really disconcerting. You don't know when the call will come, where you'll be going, or what you'll be teaching.
Here are some glimpses into my brief career as a substitute teacher:
- My first day was at a school I call "Hootscow Prep" where a couple of older students got right in my face with violent and profane language. Fortunately my first marriage had prepared me for such behavior.
- I was a band director once and music teacher 3 times! Yeah!
- Ignoring warnings about the "bad kids" in class, I expected them to be good, and usually found they behaved about as well as anyone else.
- Every primary class has a self-appointed sheriff who makes it his duty to report every infraction of the other students.
- I overheard a 7th grader telling another kid that he had just "ended a 3-year relationship" with a girl. Then they were distracted by my snickering.
- I noticed a 6th grader who seemed hopelessly lost in math. When the students partnered up, everyone ignored her. I asked to be her partner and was surprised how quickly she caught on. Then she smiled for the first time.
- A 2nd-grader gave me a drawing that included the words "I love you Mrs. Wray."
- First graders may look cute, but they can bring you to the brink of a nervous breakdown.
- If I never hear the sound of a pencil sharpener again, it will be too soon.
- High school students don't like it if you point out how you are related to them or know their grandparents.
- I've been a gym teacher for 4 days in 3 schools. Funny, huh? I enjoyed kickball, and I'm not real good with the rules, but I'm pretty sure there is no such thing as a 2nd-base coach and there is no crying in kickball.
- Forgetting to wear a watch, I tend to check the time on my insulin pump tucked in my cleavage. One little boy in the cafeteria noticed this and asked me how it stays there, pointing to his chest. I sucked my lips between my teeth embarrassed, and he figured it out - "Oh, it's in your bra."
- When you find yourself repeating the words, "in my day...", you know you are officially an old codger.
- When an angel-faced 4th-grader says he can't help threatening to stab another child because he has "anger issues," he may have talked to too many psychologists.
- I love when I return to a school and the kids remember me, calling "Mrs. Wray! Mrs. Wray!"
- It takes more stamina to be an elementary music teacher than a gym teacher if you are leading them in the hokey-pokey and YMCA.
- Substitute instructions can be lengthy and complicated and often lead to my feeling like the Lucy Ricardo of subbing.
- Kids are germy, and when you travel to many schools over 2 counties, you are bound to get sick frequently.
- I was blown away by the fine quality of the bands and choruses I encountered. What a shame if they have to end the programs due to state budget cuts.
- There appear to be more boys than girls in every class, yet the birth statistics are about equal. Where are all the girls?
- Going to each new school presents the challenge of finding where to park and enter the building. I once covered the whole perimeter trying 8 doors before hitting paydirt.
- It's tough being a stranger wherever I go. Some of the "real" teachers give me the cold shoulder, but thank heavens others are sweet and helpful.
- Home Ec was still alive and well, and they have the best classroom of any I've seen! Shangri La!
- One of my bravest acts was waking a sleeping high school senior while those around her motioned and whispered "don't do it - it's not worth it!"
- I have witnessed many teaching styles, and always try to learn from them:
- The ideal - firm but kind, soft-spoken and fair. She keeps an eagle eye on the class and quickly corrects any infraction of the rules, but not in a mean way.
- The curmudgeons who appear to actually hate the students and take every opportunity to dress them down. Some of the older ones have a permanent scowl etched on their faces.
- I have new respect for the disciplinarians of the school - the vice-principals and hall monitors who can straighten out the rottenest kid with his steely gaze and a sharp word.
- Then there are the well-meaning incompetents such as myself who can't control the classroom. I witnessed one of my peers almost give herself a stroke while begging the students to listen to her. Heaven help us!
All-in-all, I loved teaching and had a fantastic adventure! It gave me many great stories to tell and helped me feel like I was doing something worthwhile.
One final highlight - a senior lingered behind her peers after English class to tell me I was the best substitute she ever had! I asked her to repeat it just to be sure I heard right.