My Delightful Day as a Substitute Teacher
I got the call the night before when I was in the middle of a women’s Bible Study.
“Can you substitute teach tomorrow and arrive at school at 7:00 am?”
“Sure,” I said, looking at the ladies gathered around and the piles of food, yet uneaten on my dining room table.
We got through the evening which was a tear-jerker reading and discussing Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazarro. We are on the segment of the book about facing those painful places in our lives, waiting as long as it takes then go forward.
Morning came and I was in school on time. It helps that I am a five minute drive from the school. Being new to the classes I love to start out with a get to know you. I told them five things about me and asked them five things about them. You really cannot tell whom you are looking at in a classroom of teenagers. I like to get right up to them and look them in the face. With me standing and them sitting it’s a good position.
After we finished someone said something that made me say, “That reminds me of a book I’m reading.” I pulled out Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and read a random paragraph. I literally just opened the book anywhere. Then I told them the story of a little girl who was hurt emotionally and she lived years, hard, not caring. But then the day came that a new hurt struck her that gouged out that first hurt and it was as if it came flying back all over again. It is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The teens who had been some combination of bored, mocking, ‘prove me that you can teach me anything’ hiding their phones as they jabbed in numbers to rapt silence. It isn’t an exaggeration to say it was holy silence. I heard a quiet conversation between two young men and realized they were talking about Hope Church. I gave them a smile. We went on with the lesson on cells and the class was over.
In the next class was a girl who sat in the back and didn’t talk at all. I walked up to her and asked where her papers were. Come to find out this was day two of her time in the school. That is always a red flag to me when a student shows up in another district. What? Fight? Family move? Usually not. My next class was going to a nursing home while the students would learn to take instructions and do simple tasks. The ‘new girl’ was on the bus when I got on.
“Would you hide me please?” she asked. “I don’t want kids to look at me. They hate me.” She continued to tell me about everyone who hates her, everyone who ‘made’ her fight. As we drove she showed me her street. I told her that I lived really close, too. “Can I come over! Can I come over and sit with you? Can I please? Please?” I didn’t answer that and changed the subject. We went to the nursing home and she did a wonderful job. We got back on the bus. “You said I can come over. Didn’t you? Didn’t you?” Oh my heart. Not at all appropriate or legal. “Maybe I will be back again soon. I hope.”
From there I went to a co-taught class where a general education teacher teaches the content and the special educator helps with understanding and attention to task using techniques that make comprehension a little easier. The teacher was great. The content was difficult with endless vocabulary words. A couple of guys were talking to each other. Not whispering-talking to each other continually. I asked the general education teacher if I could just talk to them outside. No. OK They never stopped talking. Later a male student decided class was over and got up to mar
ch out of the room. Behavior was hideous. I looked at the teacher to see if I could talk to him. No. Then came note taking. You wouldn’t believe how much text was on the overhead. They were supposed to take notes. There were groans because there was so much text.
“Paraphrase,” the teacher said. It’s difficult sometimes for college students to paraphrase. I asked if I could take of few of the kids to an area of the room and help them with paraphrasing. No.
I stayed after a little while. I knew he was frustrated. “You did a great job,” I told him. “It’s rough with behaviors.” I went on to tell him I was a retired teacher, had taught 30 years and I didn’t just come out of Kroger as a checker. I could have helped. Smiling. ‘
The day was over. I went back up to the teachers ‘office. There was a friendly woman there who is a speech pathologist. Her last name sounded super Jewish to me, so in my conversation I added phrases that were clues to her that I was Jewish too. Instant joy. Wow! Her father taught Yiddish all over even at age 90. Amazing amazing amazing. “I didn’t know Jews live in Florissant,” She said. “They don’t. Just me.” She was so friendly in her conversation, and suddenly she asked if I had been to Israel. I told her that I was there during the Six Day War. She was just over the top excited.
“I long to go to Israel,” She sighed.
“Actually,” I said, “I wrote a book about that year. I have a copy in the car. I’ll loan you one if you like.” She was excited. “Yes! Well can I keep it?”
“Sure if you like it, “thinking, ‘Oy vey-what about the rest of the book?’ So out we went to my car, I picked up the book and handed it to her.
“It’s big she said.” I smiled. “It’s a book.” I handed it to her. She was smiling so broadly. I drove away. I watched her reading and reading and reading. I drove down the long driveway out to the street and looked back. There she stood on the side of the driveway reading the back of my book. Still