Note: The events in this series took place between September of 2013 and September of 2014.
I took my first substitute teaching job at a high school in a wealthy suburb. In many ways, it was very similar to my high school. The day when without any significant problems, but I was relieved to survive the day. I remember very little about that day, but I do remember when a high school student commented how much she loved The Scarlet Letter. (Really?)
I also substituted as a gym teacher for a morning, which also went well. Shortly after that, I substituted at a charter school.
Not Cleveland had many charter schools. (I am still calling it Not Cleveland because I don’t want to say specifically where I was.) That day I was substitute teaching in a second grade classroom. When I got there, I realized that this classroom did not have a full time teacher. Their teacher from the beginning of the year had left. Then their long term substitute teacher had left.
As I settled in for the morning, the special education teacher rushed into the classroom and hurriedly outlined the lessons for the morning. She promised to come back during lunch to outline their plans for the rest of the day. I was nervous.
The day, as I remember it, was very frustrating. One girl melted down and had to be removed from the classroom. From the comments from the other teacher, I gathered that she had behavioral problems before. At that moment, a part of me felt, “I am done.” I knew that I had lost all desire to teach. From that moment on, I was simply in survival mode. All I wanted was to get through the day.
That was an exceptionally painful moment. In retrospect, I should be gentler with myself. I was in a very difficult situation, and so were the students. They had no stability in school, and many of the children had little stability at home. This heightened their anxiety and made them more likely to act out.
The charter school had almost no resources. The students had gym, but as far as I know, they had no music or art classes.
This would set a pattern for the rest of my substitute teaching year. Time spent at charter schools was always stressful, though I substituted at charter schools a number of times throughout that school year. The schools had few resources and the teachers seemed drained. As someone once said, “Teachers at charter schools are expected to do more with less.”
I was supposed to sub at the school for the entire week. However, I discovered that a more permanent teacher had been hired and was beginning on Thursday, so I was not needed. I survived the rest of the week, although I had no enthusiasm for the task. The poor special education teacher came into the classroom in the morning and at lunch to plan the rest of the lessons. I wonder what happened to the teacher who took over the classroom.
Feeling gun shy, I did not seek a job that Thursday and Friday.