I spent the last four years substitute teaching, and let me tell you, that is definitely not a thankless job. School secretaries thanked me for just showing up! When was the last time you got to work and someone thanked you?
The students thanked me in abundance. They thanked me because they liked me more than they liked their regular teacher. I was nicer. I was more fun. If the students were old enough to hear the truth, I told them they were idiots.
I’m not nicer, I would say. I’m not more fun. It’s because I don’t really care, I have no ultimate responsibility. I’m like the crazy uncle who shows up and gives piggyback rides and tells funny stories and smells a little of gin and then leaves. Everybody loves that guy (except maybe the parents). Same goes for me. Everybody loves me (except maybe the parents).
And no, I didn’t teach smelling of gin. But the students thought I was great because when I went home at the end of the day I didn’t give them a moment’s thought. I was on to the next gig, a different grade, a different school.
While I was there I did care. You bet I did. I think I was a good substitute teacher. I actually tried to teach. My worst days were when the teacher’s plan for the day was dumbed down to videos, word searches, or extra P.E. time (not that those chubby little people couldn’t have used a little extra P.E., and maybe a calorie counter with their lunch). I much preferred a lesson plan and lots for me to do on the white board (formerly the chalkboard, but those went out of style when the teacher’s union voiced some objection to rampant chalk-induced lung disease).
I liked being a substitute teacher. It offered a very flexible schedule and a variety of opportunities. Kindergarten one day, eighth grade science the next . . . and yes, eighth graders act a lot like kindergartners. But only in the bad ways.
When students messed with me because I was the sub, I laughed. “Are you kidding me?” I would say. “I was messing with substitute teachers before your parents were born. Sit down and shut up!” Ha ha.
Despite the joys of the job, however, I gave it up. This fall I wasn’t a substitute teacher anymore, and I am loving my free time. I got the third and final kid off to college, there is a lot to keep organized at home and a lot of books to read, and I am helping the wife transition from full time to part time work. I have a lot of experience with that one, let me tell you. Working less than full time is my avocation.
And a thought formed: hey, I used to write once in a while. So here I go again.