Once upon a time, yours truly was a substitute teacher. It lasted one week before I officially graduated from college and became a regular education instructor the following Monday. Often, teachers call upon overlooked substitutes for a mental health day. Sometimes a substitute is called upon for a week or even for semi-permanent positions. But why be a substitute teacher? Why assign yourself to seven hours of torture, not knowing the children’s names, watching a group of students conspire in the back of the classroom, hatching an evil scheme to make your life a veritable nightmare?
It is not my mess after the day is over
Well, of course, substitute teaching is not all sunshine and lollipops. When I needed a day off last year to attend meetings, I received a note back from a substitute that said (and I quote) “I will pray for you.” This notation preceded a list of students’ names that made my substitute teacher pull out her whitening strands of hair in clumps. I often wish I kept that note, framed it, and hung it in my bedroom as a badge of honor. And perhaps this is one reason substitute teaching is not all bad. Once my substitute left for the day, she went home with the satisfaction of a job done. Period. I would return to my nightmare class, but she would probably pop open the cork of a Sutter Home wine and drink up, knowing that she would not have to return anytime soon. Once the workday is over, a substitute can file away their atrocious days in the “try to forget” category of their consciousness. Because tomorrow they may well be a first grade teacher for soft-hearted children.
Lesson Plans go Bye-Bye
Last weekend, I spent catching up on lesson plans. Each week takes approximately 45 minutes of typing, writing, correcting, and proofreading. Before that, I need at least three hours of procrastination time thinking about the chore ahead. Yup, when you are a substitute teacher, lesson plans are usually left for you at the teacher’s desk or picked up at the main office before going to the classroom. If the general education teacher is kind, (like mine was when I subbed) they will leave you something easy that the kids can do quietly on their own. There exists little teaching involved; a substituted teacher in most cases, is there to maintain the peace. And the paperwork? It goes by the wayside.
What Days would you like to work?
Before continuing, perhaps you should read once again the subtitle headline. Now take a deep breath and imagine the possibilities. Yes, in many cases, being a substitute teacher, you are allowed to request certain days you are available and certain days you are not. This is why substituting is so popular with both senior citizens that are retired and college students who need a couple of extra dollars. Now imagine being beach-side with the sun beating down on you on an early Monday afternoon. Everybody else part of the “normal work-a-day world” is still slaving in cubicles, their Right Guard deodorant giving out as their boss gives them the third degree.
Convinced yet? Even as I type this, I am pondering life during retirement. Perhaps I can settle into life after teaching slowly, like an old man into a hot bath of Epsom salts. Maybe my substitute teacher hat will once again be placed on my balding head. After the retirement cake has been passed out and the Pepsi sodas have been toasted to my final going away ceremony, I will pick up the chalk (or dry erase marker…or whatever else the future holds as a writing implement). I will write my name “Mr. Kreusch,” and inform the class “I am your substitute for the day. Do not try anything on me; I have been doing this since before your parents were born.” And when these new age students give me a nightmarish seven hour battle, I will wearily exit the classroom at the end of the day, mumbling under my breath, “I will pray for you, Mr. Full-Time Educator…”