Finally. It finally happened.
I really hope that everyone reading this knows what I'm talking about: If you have a job that you like, it will have good days and bad days. The bad days (in a job that you like) are the ones that just go by with nothing to mark them. They don't hurt, but there's not much there. The good days are the ones that really keep you coming back to work. Of course the paycheck is also an incentive, but those good days would be worth working even if you got paid half as much for them. You could even see doing them as a hobby. And I finally got one.
It was my half-day with third-graders at Quail Run Elementary yesterday. I wouldn't have gotten out of bed and gone to do it if not for the $46 paycheck that it brought in, but I would have still done it if I had been paid Wal-Mart wages instead. I was actually sad that it was only a half-day, instead of a full day. It was even more depressing that they also had a sub for the afternoon. The principal looked into allowing me to take the other sub's place, but the other sub had been arranged some time in advance, while I had been called in that morning.
The regular teacher had previously planned to be out in the afternoon for an organizational meeting of her team at the school, but she had to stay home in the morning because her daughter had broken her leg more recently. (The afternoon sub had been covering for another class whose teacher had been out for a similar meeting in the morning, so couldn't do the whole day.)
Now as to why the class was so much fun to work with, I can attribute it to a few things:
1. Good plans left for me. To be good students, most elementary students need to have a well-defined task on which to be. The teacher had left a great set of plans, with all the necessary materials right there where I could find them.
2. A settled morning routine. Instructions were left on the board for standard exercises that the students worked on every day. All that I needed to do was point them out, and give them a reminder or two that this was independent work.
3. My own experience. The last few weeks I've relearned what it takes to succeed in an elementary school classroom.
4. The first three points put together make the kids comfortable. They follow the regular rules, they do the work, and they talk to me like they would their regular teacher. By lunch time some of them were hugging me and asking if I would come back again. One little boy said that I was funny and weird. I think someone said I was a screwball. And once I saw them interact with their regular teacher, it all made sense. She joked around with them, let them hang on her like baby monkeys, and kept up the family-like banter that early-elementary teachers do without even thinking about it.
I guess the only low point of the day was recess duty, and that was only low because it was so frickin' cold outside and I didn't have a whistle. I really need to get myself a whistle if I'm going to continue substituting, because nothing gets their attention like a few sharp blasts on a referee whistle.
I skipped the other potential low point: elementary school cafeteria lunches. The smells and appearances bring back a wave of nostalgia that can almost be mistaken for the anticipation of a good meal. This mistake is quickly corrected with the first bit into a hamburger, or chicken nugget. The mashed potatoes are still good, I think. Or maybe the conditioning has still not worn off to this day. The price is good, at less than $3, as long as you get only one entree. Which is not a bad idea, because that way the food may not be good, but at least there isn't much of it.
Tomorrow is my first day back as a student for the spring semester at KU, so no subbing. The classes I am taking are on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10 a.m., leaving only Mondays and Fridays for subbing. I almost always work on Saturdays and Sundays, so that gives me something to do every day. Should keep me out of trouble.