Substitute

Thursday morning, not really having any idea what I was doing, I logged on to the Fresno Unified subfinder system.  I clicked on “jobs available.”  One job appeared.  It said the teacher’s name, and the name of the school.  Was it a special education classroom?  I didn’t know.  I hoped so.  I clicked “accept.”  I wasn’t sure if, because I had requested special education jobs, it would only show me the special education jobs.  Really, I wasn’t sure about anything.

So I got the rest of the family taken care of, convinced Joseph that he’d be fine walking to the bus stop without me, woke Peter up enough to take his medicine, made sure the dog had gone outside to do her business, and then headed out to the car.  One thing at a time.  That was the key.  Just don’t think about it all too much.

I managed to find Hamilton Elementary.  I saw a teacher-looking person walking out of the parking lot and asked for directions to the office.  I walked oh so boldly into the office and said I was a substitute for the day.  I was handed a key.  Room 20, the secretary said.  Down that hall through the double doors.

I found room 20, unlocked it, and walked in.  General education classroom.  It was definitely a general education classroom, fourth/fifth grade combination.

Now, in order to understand how I was feeling at that moment, you have to understand that I have never been a general education teacher.  Ever.  I’m used to being in a classroom with children whose intellectual abilities are like those of 2 or 3 years olds.  I’m used to having at least two or three other adults in the room with me.  But there I was, alone in that classroom, with about 20 minutes before the students would be arriving.  Come to think of it, would they be arriving, or was I supposed to go get them somewhere?  I didn’t know.  That was one of the many, many things I didn’t know.

I pushed the panic down.  One thing at a time.  There were notes from the teacher on the desk.  I started reading them.  It was all a blur.  Collect spelling homework, grade it, recess, math assessment . . .

I decided that writing my name on the board would probably be a good idea.  Mrs.  Langley.  And then, for some reason, I decided to write “Mystery Question:  I play 5 instruments.  What do you think they are?”  Thinking about instruments helped me feel calmer.  I wished I had brought my guitar or something.

And then I peeked out the door.  There were students beginning to line up along the wall.  Well, that sort of answered that.

Anyway, obviously I lived through the day.  I was lucky, apparently.  The substitute in the classroom next door to mine had to call the vice principal before morning recess to deal with misbehaving boys.  I seemed to have gotten a fairly peaceful classroom.  And they really liked guessing what instruments I play.

Now the only problem is, I’ll have to do this again, and again.  I can’t be lucky every time.  I’m definitely bringing the guitar from now on.

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