With my last post fairly serious and political, I thought I’d lighten the mood some with a quick story about probably the greatest subbing ever.
As of now, I have a full year, plus a few months of subbing under my belt. I feel that I have become fairly accomplished as a substitute teacher, being able to read classrooms better and pinpoint personalities that I may need to watch for. I can improvise a lesson with little description fairly easily, and I know what to do to fill time should the issue arise. I'm still improving, of course, but I do think that I'm getting to be a pretty successful teacher.
That wasn't always the case.
You may recall a blog I wrote about the Joys and Also Headaches of Subbing. In it, I share some of the best stories I'd collected from my time substituting around Saskatoon. The first story was of my very first day of subbing ever, where I found myself in a kindergarten classroom for an afternoon, and the only plan was for exploration time. To entertain a few children, I decided to show them how to fold an origami bird.
It went poorly.
When I tell that story to teacher friends, they immediately cringe at the combination of "kindergarten" and "origami." But how was I supposed to know? I was a brand-new teacher, fresh out of internship! Ok, yes, I could have used common sense, but I decided that trial by fire was a much better way to learn.
Thankfully, it didn't hurt my report with the school. After that school year ended and the new one booted up, I found myself subbing at that school a lot. I would be in for one teacher or another a couple times every month, and I got got to know a lot of the staff and students. Generally, I taught upper elementary and junior high, but there would be the odd time I'd be in a younger grade for a period during my spare period. That continued into the following year, where I found myself teaching a grade 7 class nearly once a week. I liked bumping into students I'd taught last year, who would then bug me, asking if I remembered teaching them in so-and-so's class (usually I did) or if I remembered their names (usually I didn't). Because I had been almost entirely with the older kids, I kind of forgot that this was the school I had subbed in a kindergarten class two school-years ago.
Well, during one of the days I was teaching grade 7, I was placed in a grade 2 classroom for a period, so that the regular teacher could get a little extra work done with some students one-on-one. This was nothing new, and I'd been in grade 2 rooms before, so I quickly adjusted and tried my best to get to know the kids in the short time I'd have. I wandered around, supervising their writing worksheets, checking work and asking questions. They were seated in table groups, so I would usually crouch down beside one student and ask how they were doing and answer any questions they had. Of course, few of them had to do with school.
"How old are you?"
"What's your first name?"
"Are you married?"
"Do you know how to fold an origami bird?"
I looked down at the small child that had handed me his completed worksheet. I was taken aback by such a specific question. It's like...he knew me. No, that couldn't be it. I'd never taught this class before. Maybe it was just a hobby of his?
"Um, yes, I do...do you?"
"Yup, I do, because you showed me how to fold it two years ago!"
I couldn't believe it. This kid had remembered my train-wreck of a lesson on folding origami, and now was trying to show his grade 2 teacher how to do it every chance he got.
And I can't even remember kid's names from a week ago.
I left that day in the best mood I'd been in in a long time. It was amazing to see the impact I had - even as a very inexperienced first year teacher - on a student. And as a sub, no less! I'm sure once I get a classroom of my own, I'll be able to see these kinds of things more often. That's the perks of the job. But I got to experience this as a substitute teacher, which feels like blind luck. And I'm pretty sure that I will never experience something that awesome in the teaching world.