Finally, I summed up enough courage to substitute teach at the middle school last week. Actually, I was curious to discover whether or not my flame had been rekindled after sputtering for the previous three years and finally burning out after 29 years of teaching.
Even though I was a former teacher, I was required to attend a training session on how to properly substitute for a teacher. The session mostly consisted of filling out the necessary paper work and included an amusing video depicting the perfect substitute in the perfect class in the perfect school. At the conclusion of the hour-long training, I was officially recognized by the school district as a bona fid substitute teacher.
Upon arriving at the middle school for my first substitute mission, I had my picture taken for my official I.D. tag which I was required to wear around my neck all day. I decided that as long as I followed that tag all day, I wouldn't get lost. Sure enough, I followed that I.D. tag straight to the room that I was supposed to substitute in. Of course my I.D. tag was also following my wife who teaches at the school.
After checking out the room and reading the directions left for me, I was visiting with the teacher next door when a couple of girls began screaming. I asked the teacher if that was normal, and she merely responded with a nonchalant shrug and walked off. My old teaching instincts told me that I better go investigate the cause of the screams. Fortunately, just before I arrived, another teacher had rushed to the scene and began to investigate. She immediately ascertained that the two girls were fighting, neutralized the situation, and marched the two girls to the office. Hmmm, what was I getting myself into?
Fortunately, the teacher whose class I was covering had written five pages of instructions which simplified my task. Unfortunately, it was a math class, and book math isn't one of my strongest areas. I prefer to attempt to solve real problems instead of X's and Y's which always confused me, and which I have been able to survive without for the last 35 years.
After the first class of 29 students arrived, I promptly introduced myself as their substitute teacher, and a girl promptly and very sarcastically replied, "Oh really!" Good grief! Fortunately, I was able to provide her with an appropriate response that sufficiently stifled any additional sarcastic remarks from her. Unfortunately, I discovered that the lesson was over multiplying and dividing fractions which I hadn't delved in since college.
While I was frantically attempting to recall which fraction should be inverted, reduced, or cross-multiplied and in what order, I noticed that the teacher had placed several instructional posters on the wall. Quickly, I scanned the posters and located one which explained everything that I needed to know. What a stroke of luck! I briefly studied the poster and was then able to assist the students who were continually holding their hands up for help. As the day progressed, I became an expert cross-reducer, multiplier, and divider of fractions. Mrs. Forbus would really be proud of me!
When the last bell rang and all of the students had left the class, I experienced the strangest feeling. I had no papers to grade, lesson plans to fill out, meetings to attend, or grades to enter into the computer. As I was leaving the classroom, I wasn't contemplating what activity to prepare for class the next day because somebody else would take care of that for me. I was free of all paperwork. Wow, maybe I would become a professional substitute teacher.