Saturday, November 22, 2014

Teacher Appreciation

Since I've started substitute teaching, I've been given several trinkets and tokens from students. A girl gave me a Rainbow Loom bracelet, another girl gave me flowers she picked from a bush during recess, and a little boy gave me a stone. I was touched when a student mentioned me in her "Being Thankful" journal entry yesterday, too. However, my friend Kathy passed on this note to me from one of her sixth grade band students, and I may keep it forever.

Sixth grade boys are troublemakers with guilty consciences, I guess.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Good Night, Ladies

It's been a long, fun week, but my body is still not used to this pace. I probably should have worked up to this schedule more gradually; it's a bit like going out and running a marathon cold. What? I must be delirious. It's nothing like a marathon! (Oh, most horrible day, how you haunt me.) Regardless, I'm tired, achy, and my throat hurts. Hope the teacher for whom I'm subbing on Monday doesn't have to find a sub for his sub, because I like him and his class. I just need to relax and take it easy this weekend. Starting now. Good night.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Baby!

This evening I went to an informational meeting for parents at a junior high we're considering for Elizabeth. It's a small school in the district that offers a rigorous, accelerated program. I think she could do well there, so we'll take a tour and she'll spend a day shadowing a student soon. We'll see how it goes and decide whether or not she will apply.

Last year I took her to the junior high we are zoned for when they had an open house, and Brian took her last week for this year's. I wasn't impressed last year, and he wasn't impressed this year. I've heard it's a good school, but I didn't feel like they did a good job telling us that. The "showcase" didn't tell us much of anything, and I left with more unanswered questions than when I'd arrived. We'll watch for more information on how things work over there with "houses, "blocks," and whatever else we don't even know we don't know.

Tonight, though, I started to feel like this other school might be a better fit for Elizabeth. It's small. The classes would challenge her, but I think she could handle the work. They wear uniforms, but she's fine with that. However, the biggest difference I can see is that the students who attend this school like to learn and like to go to school. Like Elizabeth.

Just yesterday, a teacher said to me, "I'm tired of teaching. It's the same kids doing the same bad things. I'm grateful for kids like your daughter who do what they're supposed to do and you don't have to worry that they'll do something stupid when you turn your back." Well now that I'm subbing and in lots of classrooms, I completely get that. Teachers are forced to spend far too much time disciplining, redirecting, and scolding kids who just don't want to work or be at school. It's frustrating and annoying to teachers, but the hardworking kids are the ones who suffer the most. Why should they lose out on instructional time because their teacher has to deal with the doofus over there? For that reason alone I think Elizabeth would love going to a school with kids who share her ideals.

Unless she gets there and she's the doofus. Well, it could happen. I'm not sure what kind of kids go there, so the best thing to do is check it out and see. I don't listen to hearsay or we might not have ended up at our elementary school. I'm into seeing things for myself, and so is Elizabeth. I came home and told her about it, and she's looking forward to a tour and spending a day there.

On the way home, I had an ugly cry when the realization that my baby girl is headed to junior high soon. Really. I probably should have pulled over. I've known it for a long time, but tonight it really hit me. Hard. She's going to junior high. But she's still so little! How can this be?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bono Who?

One of my favorite musicians (who isn't even considered a musician by most) covered one of my favorite U2 songs the other night with the help of the Legendary Roots Crew. If you missed it, you shouldn't have.

Jimmy can sub for Bono anytime. He's so money, money, money, money, money, money.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Parental Advisory

I'm a member of our school district's parent advisory panel/committee/board. I can't recall the official name, and it really is nothing impressive. Every school in the district is represented by one parent who attends four meetings facilitated by the superintendent. It's essentially a public relations move for the district because they tell us what's coming up as far as bond elections, overrides, website changes, and more and expect us to pass on the information. I believe for one of the meetings we take a tour of the central kitchen, the site that makes all the meals for all the schools. I'm looking forward to that one because the two meetings so far haven't been very exciting.

This afternoon, the assistant superintendent who is responsible for every single building and parking lot in the school district performed a dog and pony show on all the reasons why an upcoming bond election (in the next year or two) should be passed. None of us was going to argue that roofs, floors, running tracks, air conditioners and more should be replaced at schools that are over twenty years old, but after sitting in that room (in the dark, right after lunch) watching a slideshow presentation on everything from asbestos to asphalt, people, please vote yes on the next bond election. Just do it.

The real entertainment in these meetings are the other attendees. As I sit down, I scan the room and predict who's going to make sure everyone knows they are there. There are always a few. Anyone who's ever been in any meeting knows what I mean. They are the people who are not only more important than you, but they know more about everything than anyone else in the room and their concerns or questions (no matter how specific and/or self-centered they are) should be addressed in front of fifty people rather than discussed one-on-one or through an email. Yes, there was some of that but, thankfully(?), his presentation ran too long for too many questions. Though as soon as he mentioned the word "asbestos" the tension rose and, naturally, one mom practically shouted, "Where? At which schools? What's wrong?" Cases like that prove that it's good the district opts to educate parents as well as children.

These meetings aren't all bad. In fact, I do enjoy going if only to be in the presence of greatness. Our superintendent is one of the most respected women in our state, and as long as she's in charge I wouldn't send my children to any other schools. She knows what she's doing, and she does it well. She's a visionary who's led the district through unprecedented growth over the past twenty years, and before that she spent another twenty years as a teacher, principal, and administrator. She's brilliant in education, business, and diplomacy, and I don't think there's another district in our state in which the school board, administrators, teachers, parents, and students work so well together. They're usually all on the same page, but when they're not they respectfully hash it out to find the best solution. She is one strong leader.

She's also quite a classy lady. I'm not sure how close to retirement she is, but she obviously takes care of herself. She has a sense of humor, and I've heard higher-ups in these meetings joke about "all the vitamins she takes." Her suits are pressed, her hair is smooth, her nails are polished, and today she was wearing the same boots I purchased last week. I rejoiced and was validated.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Our school is still Home. With tonight's last-minute sub line call, I now have three assignments there this week. Tomorrow is my first time as a sixth grade teacher, and I'm going to have Elizabeth for math. I haven't had one of my own kids in class yet, either. Yikes. At least it's just a morning. And I can do it! If I didn't think I could, I would have hit the decline button.

It's a day of firsts. This morning I was a band teacher! It wasn't a big deal. I simply passed out quizzes and worksheets, but it was still a pretty sweet gig and I got to travel to a couple different schools. Plus, the worksheets had everything to do with music, I was able to help a few kids, and that felt good. It was a fun morning.

Sara's growing up.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Second Home

The two schools at which I sub the most are my kids' school and another elementary school about three miles away. These are, without a doubt, my favorite places to spend a day. When I see open assignments online at either school, I snatch them up right away. Unless it's kindergarten. Then I hem and haw and wait until the sub line calls me to see if it's meant to be.

At our school, I'm very familiar with the site so I have no problem finding my way. That's a plus. Another advantage is that teachers sometimes give me the lesson plans ahead of time so that I have as few surprises as possible before I go in. However, there are some disadvantages to subbing at our school.

For one, I don't feel as confident there. That probably sounds strange; out of all the places I go, shouldn't I be most confident at the school my kids have attended for the past seven years? Maybe, but there are genuine reasons why I'm sometimes more nervous walking in there as a substitute than another school that I've never set foot in before. Here, the teachers know me, I know them, and I'm afraid of letting them down. I want to show I am able to keep order in their class and get their students to be as productive as they can be. Outside the classroom, I feel like a spotlight is on our line to lunch or specials. The line-walking part is stressful and difficult everywhere, but I'm particularly self-conscious here about whether the line is straight and if the kids are walking calmly and quietly, because if it's not, well then everyone might think Sara (not just that random lady subbing for ____) is a terrible sub. Another challenge at our school is that I don't feel as respected by the students. They've seen me around a lot, and it's true that I haven't looked very scary; I look like a friendly mom to them more than a strict substitute teacher. Or maybe they're picking up on a she's-scared-too vibe I might be putting off. Who knows? What I do know is that at no other school do everyday teachers scold kids in my line or come into my classroom to tell them to be quiet and listen to me. And both of those situations have occurred at our school. When the teacher next door came into my classroom and shouted at the students, "She counted down! Why are you not sitting quietly yet?," I seriously wanted to kick off my heels and run home. Maybe the teachers are trying to help me out because they know me and they like me. Do they try to help all substitutes in those ways? I wonder. But when those kinds of things happen, it doesn't feel like help. It feels like failure. And I'm not failing at this. I'm finding I'm pretty good at it, and I want people to see that. It's frustrating to think that people I've known for a long time might believe that I can't do this on my own. Then again, they've been doing this for years and years and I've been doing this for six weeks, so I should gratefully accept every bit of assistance they offer for what it probably is--compassion.

So why do I keep going back to our school? Because, most importantly, it's convenient with our family's schedule. Also, I want to have as many chances as I can to prove myself. I figure the more I do it, the more comfortable I will get, and the students will get used to seeing me more as a teacher than as Elizabeth's and Matthew's mom.

Now the other school I like to go to is starting to feel like a second home to me. I'm meeting quite a few people over there, and they are all very friendly and kind. I've found that the staff members at some schools treat subs as second-class citizens, while other schools' staff go out of their way to make subs feel welcome. Which kind of school would you rather go to? It's a no-brainer. Teachers and staff there call me by my first name, invite me to join them at lunch, request me, and recommend me to other teachers. Even staff members I don't know ask me how my day is going while I'm walking through the halls. I feel appreciated by the teachers and respected by the students at that school. I'm more comfortable there than anywhere. I'm glad I found that place. Second home? Maybe I should call it my first home.