I was a substitute teacher for five years in the elementary ages. I found such joy in this little part time gig. It was like being a grandma. I was able to come in give the day in day out teacher (mom) a break for a day or two while they were sick or on vacation. And while I did try to abide by the rules/traditions of that teacher it was nice to have the freedom to do my own little thing with the kids from time to time.
May I tell you one of my very favorite sub stories?
So I got the call about a week before asking if I could come into a 1st grade class while the teacher would be attending a meeting at the school. I had never subbed for this particular teacher but was willing to give it a try. I can do anything for one day right?
I walked into the office to sign in. The secretary asked what class I would be teaching that day. I told her and she got this funny look on her face. She then sighed and said, "Denise if you need any help today don't hesitate to call the office. You have a real handful with that class, well, actually just one, but little Jimmy (not his real name) is enough for 10 teachers."
Okay I thought, hmmm this could be interesting.
I walked down the hall to the room and as I am walking in one of the teacher across the hall says,
"Hi! Are you subbing for Sally (not her real name) today?
"Yes I am" I say.
"Oh well if Jimmy gives you any trouble just feel free to come get me or call if you feel like you can't leave the room."
Okay, thanks I hesitantly answer.
I walk in the room go to the teacher's desk and on a yellow post it note on top of the lesson plans written in red ink is this message, "Don't let Jimmy get the upper hand, be firm with him from the beginning."
I really did not know what to think so I prayed. "Lord, I asked, I am not sure what is going on with Jimmy but may today be a day of joy for him and for me."
I went on to put my jacket and purse away and settle in for the morning routine of reading the lesson plans, getting out the attendance sheets, and getting ready to greet the students as they arrived.
In the lesson plans as was the usually their were names of students at the top of the page who would make good helper's for the day. Holly and Ben (not their real names) were listed as good helper's.
With the time approaching for the kids to start bustling in with their oversized backpacks, little lunch boxes, coats, mitten's, and hats I began my approach to the door to say Good Morning!
First in the door was an adorable little blonde named you guessed it.. Holly. She was more than willing to "help" me by telling me exactly how the morning should go, and by saying in a very serious tone, "Jimmy will be late, he's always late, because he doesn't have any money and has to eat breakfast here at the school, and he is slow, so he is ALLLLWAYS late!"
So Holly was right, the infamous Jimmy was the very last one in the class that morning. And when he walked in he sized me up with a menacing stare and said, "You aren't my teacher!"
"No Jimmy I'm not your regular teacher I am just your teacher for today, and I gotta tell ya, I'm a little lost and I was wondering if you could be my special helper today?"
At this little Miss Holly stood up out of her seat and said, "OHHHHH NOOOOO! Jimmy can't be a helper he is bad, only good kids get to be helper's!!" All the other kids voiced their agreement. Chaos ensued for about 10 seconds. I went over to the light switch turned it off and then on (the signal that all chatter is to be quieted quickly). Then very calmly I knelt down to little Jimmy's desk and looked into his big brown eyes that were as big as quarters at the thought of anyone asking him to be the helper for the day and said, "Jimmy would you like to be my special helper today?" With some left over syrup on his dirty little face he nodded slowly yes.
We began with story time. Everyone gathers and takes a seat on a round rug with the ABC's on it and I get a big book with lots of pictures and read to them. I had Jimmy be my page turner. He could only turn the page if everyone was sitting nicely and not talking. Miss Holly did not like this one little bit. She said, "Miss Teacher, Jimmy can't be page turner he is bad, he is not a good boy, only the good kids get to be page turner. I should be page turner. I am good." Jimmy gave Holly the stink eye and started to ball up his fists, uh ohh I better jump in quick. So I told Holly, "Today I am the teacher and today Jimmy is page turner and I don't want to hear anymore about it Holly now please sit down." Holly's little lip quivered and she plopped down and crossed her arms. Jimmy looked at me with a big smile. I almost laughed!
By the way, Jimmy was an amazing page turner. He was strictor with turning the page than I would have been. Telling everyone, "Nope I not turning the page till you's is quiet."
On and on the morning went with Jimmy right by my side.
The teacher from across the hall came in before lunch to "check" on things and left with her mouth hanging open.
By the end of the day Jimmy was my new best friend. He would not leave my side or let go of my hand. He came to me and asked, "Can you be my all the time teacher?" No I said, but Jimmy I want you to listen to me, you are not a bad boy. You are a good boy. You can show everyone who thinks you are bad that you aren't. He interrupted and said, "Like HOLLLLLLLLYYYYY." Yes I said, just like Holly.
He started to cry and grabbed a hold of me and said, "This was the best day of my life, I don't want you to go, please don't go."
I bent down and undid his little arms from around my legs and said, "Jimmy you just needed a chance today, now you know who you really are, now you show your teacher when she is here tomorrow that all you needed was a chance."
I didn't know if what I said made any sense to him but he stopped crying and seemed to stand taller.
Everyone needs a chance to be special to not just be pegged as "the athlete, the nerd, the poor bad kid"
Jimmy taught me so much more than I taught him that day.