I taught high school math today, which I was NOT looking forward to. The kids usually mistake me for a new student. One senior even insisted he was older than me, which he wasn’t.
So, in the name of desperately needing money, I ate my breakfast in the dark of morning, warmed up my pickup and mentally prepared myself for a day of instructing people taller than me.
The school building was constructed from cinderblocks, similar to those found in military barracks and American prisons. There was – no joke – a gate made of cyclone fencing in the teachers’ lounge. The classroom felt friendlier; I could lock the door from the inside.
The biggest problem with subbing is that the kids collectively think they have the edge over me, since I don’t know their names, bell schedule, or regular routine. I started introducing myself with “Good morning. I’m your sub today. My name is Miss Laubacher. I realize I’m brand-new to this school and I don’t know anyone’s names or the regular schedule, but I still expect the same level of respect you would show your regular teacher or any other subs. That means no talking while I’m talking, no cussing, no throwing things. If you do these things, I’ll just kick you out of class. Fair enough?”
The students nodded agreement and got out their notebooks. I felt like a genius.
I learned that I don’t need to be Super In Control Sub Who Knows Everything. I don’t even know where the bathroom is! Acknowledging my ignorance, an underlying truth that everyone in the room already knows, seems to diffuse any potential power struggles. Sometimes I can’t help them like their real teacher would; I have never taken calculus or organic chemistry. I still insist they show me the universal respect of keeping their mouths shut while I stand at the front of the room trying to decipher lesson plans written by someone I’ve never met.
The kids were quiet and worked studiously today. The classroom had a little portable heater under her desk, so my feet were toasty. Even the cinderblocks seemed softer by the final bell. Funny how using my brain to overcome my fears makes the day that much brighter.